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Mental Fatigue and Emotional Responses
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | September 14, 2019
Our minds get tired. A prolonged flow of strong emotion exhausts our brains and we break, saying and doing things we would otherwise prevent. We must accept this biological given, avoid circumstances where exhaustion is probable, and repair hurt feelings when we respond harshly to those who we love.
When exhausted from heavy demand, our brains slow. These are critical moments in relationships; successful navigation of heavy social demands requires a well-functioning brain. We stumble when normal mental skills are unavailable. We say and do things that ordinarily we could easily suppress or avoid. We should prepare for these taxing engagements by developing a deeper awareness. However, we can’t perfectly predict. Sometimes in tiredness we must approach difficulties.
We are subjected to limitations by our humanness, harshly expecting more than biology allows damages self-confidence and damages relationships. We must have compassion, peacefully accepting weakness, and moving forward by repairing damage, and rebuilding closeness.
Over the last two months, I spent three weeks at my parent’s house, moving them from their small southern desert town to a much larger city. My dad has Alzheimer’s, and the resources in this small town were insufficient. Moving is stressful—for everybody. But for people in their eighties, the stress is almost inconceivable, sorting through a lifetime of memories, deciding what to keep and what to discard is stressful and impairs normal functioning.
We must have compassion, peacefully accepting weakness, and moving forward by repairing damage, and rebuilding closeness.
Life is beautiful; but also, cruel. I watched in sorrow as my loving mother lost full command of her reactions. I only partially avoided the minefields of the explosive emotions. I could spit meanness back to protect my ego or soothe the hurt in a more productive manner, allowing for her emotional expressions, and then seek healthy reconciliation at a later time. Logic clearly points to the latter solution; emotional sensitivities prefers the tactic of defensive protections.
When blind to underlying contributors, we respond harshly to stress. However, compassion is a better choice. During trying moments, our energy to calmly suppress reactive protections isn’t always available. We can guard against trying moments by predicting incoming waves of intense emotion. With advance notice, we can step back to limit a devastating impact, giving time to objectively observe underlying forces, and mindfully reflect on the totality of circumstances. This is the mindful approach. This is emotional intelligence. This is maturity. This is not always possible.
Without a mindful approach, we get sucked into the drama, becoming part of the destructive cycle, adding to the stress. We can do better. We can bring calmness to these storms and healing to burdened souls.
As partners, parents, children and friends, we must bring wisdom to intense interactions. With appreciation for the biological functions of beautiful minds, we can organize the chaos and respond effectively, building emotional stability and bonding hearts. We can sing the redeeming tune of safety, bringing security instead of fear. And when we fail, we can repair with sorrow for the hurt.
Slow down and step away. By escaping the direct impact of emotion, we can navigate an approaching melt-down, and objectively observe the wondrous powers flowing through both body and mind. We then stand on firm ground to move forward with wisdom, protecting valuable relationships by responding with tenderness.