It made troubling viewing, that’s for sure. The image of ex Liverpool footballer and Sky pundit Jamie Carragher spitting through his open car window at a 14 year old girl was caught on camera and beamed to the nation this week.
The immediate reaction was shock and disgust. Carragher was suspended from his job at Sky and sent several apologetic messages via social media:
‘Totally out of order & I’ve apologised personally to all the family this evening. I was goaded 3/4 times along the motorway while being filmed & lost my rag. No excuse apologies’
So what happened? Why would a fully grown rational human being; a sports professional at that, risk his reputation and possibly his career in such a way?
The answer lies in how our brains function.
The divided brain
Children spit, out of frustration, anger or sheer aggression, but most grow out of it as they mature into their adult selves and find other ways of self-expression and resolution. They learn to respond to triggers rather than simply react. But responding takes longer and needs good internal communication between the brain hemispheres.
A bit like a game of football, we have a brain of two halves and, like two opposing teams; these hemispheres are often locked into a competition for dominance.
A simplistic view is that the left hemisphere is largely rational and the right is emotional. The picture is, in fact, far more complicated, but it’s true to say that most incoming information arrives at the emotional brain first as a necessary part of our survival mechanism. From here, the fight or flight button can be quickly pressed.
And, if the button is pressed without reference to the rational brain, instinctive, adrenaline-fuelled reactions occur. This is called ’emotional hijacking’ and there are plenty of evolutionary reasons why the emotional brain must retain the ability to switch off rational thought.
Truth is however, that anything football related is not a fight or flight situation, even though Bill Shankley famously observed ‘Football is not a matter of life and death. It’s more serious than that!’
How to calm the emotional brain
So how might Jamie Carragher (or anyone else for that matter) avoid this kind of overreaction with all its nightmarish consequences? Here’s how:
1 Knowledge is power. Practical information about fight or flight and emotional hijacking would be a good starting point.
2 Regular practice of mindfulness based breathing techniques can help lower back ground stress levels, resulting in ‘spare capacity’, buying more time between reacting and responding, which is at the heart of emotional intelligence.
3 Learning and using the Fusion S.T.O.P System®, scaling and counting levels of emotional arousal, would help improve the control centres of the prefrontal cortex. This would buy more time to ‘step back’ from the trigger situation and play the consequences film forward to make an intelligent choice.
4 Finally, positive mental rehearsal would help establish more appropriate behaviours for the future..
There’s a lot of truth in what Thomas Jefferson said: ‘When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred’
There’s also a different conversation to be had about why the other fully grown man in the film would risk the life of his daughter and others by chasing, filming and shouting insults at a fellow road user.
On the recording you can hear her saying ‘stop’ to her father several times…..
…which seems a very sensible piece of advice to me!
Mindfulness Based Mind Management (advanced MBSR), Post natal depression, solution focus, guided visualisation, addiction, epigenetics, mapping the connectome, polyvagal theory, the reticular activating system (RAS), secondary gain, trauma resolution, coaching for kids, treating depression, worrying well, working SMART, therapeutic stories, insight, psycho education, suicide prevention, affirmations, positive mental rehearsal, imagery, dissociation, goal setting, new paradigms, reframes, fast track learning, perception shifting, self actualisation, positive psychology, reframing, metaphor, personal empowerment, motivational thinking, lifting depression, the happiness principle, resilience and resourcefulness, human flourishing, anchoring, rewiring your brain, the STOP System, the SAFE SPACE happiness recipe, holistic coaching and working on the continuum of wellbeing plus many other professional theories, tools and techniques underpin the content of the fast paced, fast track, Fusion training programmes.