We all know how dramatically this virus is affecting our lives, some more than others. But we’re all facing circumstances and challenges we’ve never had before. I’m thinking today about the effects of confinement, stay at home quarantine, and what the Life Model wisdom and practices have to offer us.
Dr. Wilder and Marcus Warner wrote a book called Rare Leadership, using the acronym RARE, a very powerful and useful summary of what the Life Model has to offer.
R – Remain relational
A – Act like your connected self
R – Return to relational joy when you’ve lost it
E – Endure hardship well
These are all skills that originate from a well-trained R prefrontal cortex, the relational control center of the brain. The Life Model in a nutshell is about training and maintaining these skills. This virus is presenting all of us with hardship of one sort or another. Let’s look at how these 4 skills can be worked into our quarantined condition and beyond
Remaining relational has to do with becoming aware of our relational brain circuitry and recognizing when we are in relational mode and when we’re not. There is much that can be learned about relational circuits, but a summary is that when they are on, we are in harmony with those around us. It can be high energy or peaceful energy, but we are synchronizing well and glad to be together. Circuits off usually results in misunderstandings, discord, and strife. If we can keep our Relational Circuits on, we are more likely to act like our relationally connected self.
What can we do in our confinement to keep our relational circuits on and increase harmony and relational joy? Here are some practical suggestions:
1) Express a lot of gratitude and appreciation for everyone in the household. Gratitude is like food for the relational brain. Children and adults alike will thrive on it. Parents can model it for the children, encouraging them to thank each other, to tell each other what they like about the others and about good things that they do. Focus more on good behavior than on bad. Create a specific time each day for expressing appreciation to each other.
2) During that connecting time each day, acknowledge whatever struggles family members are having and gather around that person to pray for them. Teach the children to pray for each other, each child praying for another family member, especially those who may not have acted like their connected self. Practice connecting with Jesus by expressing gratitude to him and listening to his responses of love and encouragement. The booklet Joyful Journey offers a very practical template for interacting with Jesus and can be practiced in the group or individual devotional time.
3) When frustrations erupt, come closer together to help each other rather than pulling apart. Whoever is not frustrated has the opportunity to help the group practice being glad to be with someone who is frustrated and help them return to relational joy. Gather around physically, use positive touch if possible, acknowledge the negative emotion, communicate that you are with them and for them. If you are able to do this is some form or fashion, it invites the person whose relational circuits are off and who is feeling disconnected back into harmony with the family. There is more likely to be repentance and forgiveness in an environment of love and acceptance rather than condemnation.
4) It isn’t a good idea to isolate a child who is acting out, because they need a more mature person to invite them back into relational joy. But sometimes as adults we need to put ourselves in timeout if we are not handling our frustration well, and we need to go connect with Jesus to get it back together. The temptation however is to nurse our grievances and come out worse than before. Humble yourself before Jesus and invite him to be with you in your messy state. His presence will make a difference as you synchronize your perspective with his and receive his loving care.
5) It’s important, especially for parents and spouses, to learn to recognize the symptoms of overwhelm in ourselves and each other. Overwhelm results in disconnection and an escalation of miscommunication, triggering, fight or flight, and no good outcome. Symptoms like raised voices, tense body language, rapid fire interactions without listening to each other, or shutting down with no eye contact, slumped posture, and no words. This skill involves recognizing the overwhelm and being able to take a break to rest, deescalate, breathe, reestablish positive touch, pray together, or just let it go until you can come back and deal with it in relational mode.
Dr Wilder is focusing in this time of crisis on how we can avoid enemy mode and protect others from ourselves when we need to. Enduring hardship well means that when we live in relational mode and return to it quickly when we lose it, we will be able to care about those around us, to recognize what they’re going through, offer help where we can, and avoid subjecting them to our unconnected self. Don’t forget that Jesus is our very best model of how to live in loving connection with ourselves and others. It transforms our ability to love when we experience him loving, guiding, correcting, and affirming us. Learn about the Immanuel Approach process at immanuelapproach.com and alivewell.org. Go to lifemodelworks.org to find the books Rare Leadership and Joyful Journey.
May you and your loved ones experience JOY in these troubled times.