One thing that you can count of when you’re transitioning is that it won’t be one of your best hours. Things will just flat out unravel before our eyes. And no matter how much you plan, no matter how much you think you’ll be okay with the fact that things will go terribly, terribly wrong, it’ll get worse than you thought.
It’s the personal growth version of being caught with your pants down. Of meeting your high school boyfriend with your hair in a greasy ponytail after an unprecedented acne attack.
It just ain’t pretty. It takes whatever part of your ego you’ve previously been able to hold on to, and your dignity, and mushes it like a fly. It breaks you down.
What psychologists call the assumptive world- how we thought “things should be,” just disappears and suddenly everything we’ve taken for granted or as a fact is gone. Sometimes it happens all at once.
This is the point that our friend the amygdala goes into action. It loves fun and it’s convinced that it’s surrounded by danger. And any change to what you and your amygdala thought was real is one of the biggest danger the poor guy could face.
So if you’ve gotten to the point that you’ve made a change and you can’t figure out why you’re jumpy, irritable, and hyperventilating on a regular basis, know that it’s due to the amygdala’s panic attack. It jumped into action before you were consciously aware that it was even awake.
All Play and no fun
One of the amygdala’s favorite methods of operating is to play your emotions like they’re a harpsichord. You may be euphoric one day, worried the next, devastated next week, and happier than you’ve ever been ten minutes later. It’s kind of like scanning the tv looking for a channel to land on. Neither of you know what gives you meaning, so it’s hard to figure out what feeling or emotion has a legitimate meaning. And without having any “truth” to hold onto, the amygdala holds onto panic. It has to have a reliable, orderly meaning in order to feel safe. Change things around for it and it can’t stop worrying.
But the nature of a change means that you’re making major updates to the rules of your life. What constituted home, work or leisure are radically different. If you used to unwind from a day of hard work by reading a novel, sitting down to write one of your own feels more like playtime. Without the structure of what the amygdala knew as work gone, it’s experiencing a loss of it’s own meaning.
How do you manage the amygdala?
- Make things fun. It’s disracted by fun. If it doesn’t find anything fun, it switches to panic. Find something fun to do, work related or not.
- Put some structure into you life. Make part of your new creative endeavor feel like you old work. Try to do it for eight hours, drink coffee before you start writing a song. Fire up Excel and make a time sheet for yourself. (I’m half kidding about that- if you have clients, at some point you’ll have to track hours to know what you’re taking in).