Behind the HALT rule

Remember the HALT rule I shared with you in my previous post?

I promised that I was going to take you behind the scenes and show you what's hiding behind this rule.

This is going to be a long one! Grab a cup of coffee, perhaps a tea or your favourite drink and let's hang out together for the next 10 minutes...

So, why is it that you shouldn't make a decision when you're either Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?

Here’s the thing, in any of those scenarios, there is an invisible Auto Pilot Mode that drives your decisions. And if you don't pay attention to how it operates, it will put you in a situation that you'll most probably end up regretting.

Have you been there before? 

Now here's the other thing. This invisible Auto Pilot is not YOU it's actually your EGO!

A while ago, I started asking people at random what they thought the word 'EGO' meant. And I had such an interesting collection of reactions to my question (Just imagine for a second the face people made as I was asking the question:)). 

But you know what I found even more interesting? It's that all the answers almost sounded the same. Something along the lines of: 'Someone who thinks that they are the centre of the world'.

Did you think that too? What I'm about to share with you is something so powerful that you might not know yet about your EGO.

(By the way, 'Someone who thinks that they are the centre of the world', is called an egocentric person, which is why most people tend to define the word EGO that way).

When you look up the meaning of the word EGO, you'll probably find a myriad of definitions. My favourite is super simple and so easy to remember: 'Everyone's Got One'.

What I love about this definition is that it's a great reminder that since we've all got one, there is no escape, and we'd better learn how to manage our EGO unless we're happy for it to control us!

The way our EGO operates is a lot more complex than you might think. Let me first walk you through one of the aspects that shows up in a very obvious way.

You see, your EGO is like a defence mechanism that gets triggered every time it senses a danger or a threat. This threat can be physical or emotional. The different reactions your EGO has in its repertoire are also known as the 4Fs: Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn.

Fight = You become aggressive

Flight = You run away

Freeze = You stop moving

Fawn= You try to please or court favour

Now, let's pretend that you're hungry or tired. To your EGO, that's a physical threat. If you don't bring your awareness to it and choose how you want to respond to this 'physical threat', guess who's making the decision for you then? Yup, you got this right: Your EGO! 

When I say 'who's going to make the decision for you?' it's pretty much one of the 4Fs that will show up. When your EGO senses a physical or emotional threat fear comes up and you become reactive. When you come to think about it, it's pretty limiting, isn't it?

It goes back to when we used to be in tribes and out there in the wild away from our safe space (comfort zone) hunting for food for example, our EGO has developed to protect us, so we could stay alive and react appropriately to physical threats. Because we had to sense if the grass moved in an unusual way to be alert and check if it was just the wind, a dangerous animal or someone from another tribe, it was essential for us to react to it, so we could stay alive in case of danger.

For example, if it was a sabertooth tiger we had to either fight back (FIGHT), run away before it's too late (FLIGHT) or hide (FREEZE) until they were gone.

The FAWN reaction was more geared towards the possibility of meeting for example with a group of 10 men from an enemy's tribe. That's one person (YOU) against 10 men (THEM)! In this case, your EGO, if it chose to do so, would court favour to maximise your chances of staying alive. Imagine if it chose to fight back? Bad idea!...right?

If you don't bring your awareness to what's going on, when your EGO reacts it will do so with a 'default setting' the one it's used to the most and usually you might have noticed that it's not the best one available on the menu! The other thing is that our EGO cannot differentiate between a legitimate threat (physical threat) and an emotional threat, which if you look closely is most of the time an imagined threat.

For example, let's pretend  that your manager walks into your office and gets angry with you because one of the projects you're working on hasn't been delivered on time. Your EGO feels threatened emotionally, let’s pretend that you allow your EGO to drive.

Here's what's going to happen… It will have a look at the 4Fs menu and choose the one it's the most used to and you will react just like a puppet. Let's pretend for a second that it's the FIGHT reaction, so you turn into the Green Hulk and throw a mega swear word straight to your manager's face!

Guess what? First mess to clean...

Let's now pretend that a few minutes later you receive a call from your loved one to share with you how they are upset with you because you forgot to turn ON the washing machine before you left this morning. Your EGO feels threatened emotionally again and you get even more upset or angry. It's going to automatically choose one of the 4Fs and again the most popular one could be the FIGHT one for you! You turn now into the Red Hulk and BOOM! you explode with a whole bunch of non-sense and hurtful words! Again, your Auto pilot mode, defence mechanism in action and you hang up in their face. 

Guess what again? Second mess to clean...

You day just start to get worse and worse! Imagine the impact this will have not only on you but also on the people around you.

Sometimes it might be a completely different Auto Pilot reaction, like when someone bursts in tears in a completely unexpected way, and you find yourself speechless only to regret afterwards that you froze and felt helpless.

It's almost like you get caught up in this downward spiral of unpleasant situations where you cumulate one bad emotion after the other and you feel like there is this wild horse inside that is untameable.

There is no point thinking if it's wrong or right, good or bad to be that way. It just doesn't work and it's not sustainable. Don't you think so?

So what to do about it?

It's simpler than you think. It all starts by choosing to do something about it and bringing your awareness to situations that triggered your EGO in the past. Have a look at those situations that didn't drive the best outcome for you and for other people around you and ask yourself this: 'Now that I know what I know, what is the best way I could have responded with?', and moving forward, start enriching the options in your response menu instead of just reacting.

The beauty in this is that next time you find yourself in a similar scenario, and you feel that your Auto pilot mode is about to get triggered, bring your awareness to it and choose instead a new item on the updated menu that you now know will drive the best outcome.

At first, it might feel like you've moved a mountain or a mind workout. And as you start training yourself to do this over and over again, you will find it easier and easier to do.

You might be asking yourself now, but in the HALT rule why did Gary suggest to do a physical activity or write or talk to someone?

Well, that's because doing a physical activity changes the focus and gives a boost of oxygen to your brain, and talking or writing to someone brings clarity to your mind so you can create new alternatives to respond to an event as opposed to reacting to it. It allows you to step back from the heat of the reaction and move your EGO aside from the decision you’re about to make.

I'd like to invite you today to start enriching the response items on your internal menu. As you do this, I’d love to hear what you discover.