“My poor hurt squirrel drains my empathy battery.”

Written By: brain lady blog - Dec• 02•14

“My poor hurt squirrel drains my empathy battery.”

After surviving Thanksgiving Dinner at her in-laws, and then making a trip to a friends house on the coast (and finding friend into drinking and drugs), she sat on my couch and was wiped out. Her batteries to process life were again worn down.

While describing the events to me, she was able to see she had been more present at the events, without the fright and fade parts of her reactivity systems taking her from the earth as much as it has been.

Yet, dark memories were flooding.  We had been anticipating this after several weeks of working together. It is one of the side effects of being more present: the memory system wants to process years worth of stuff.  And she has lots of big stuff.

So, we talked through some of the new memories, and how amazing it was that for what she has been through, she is a very kind and empathetic person!  She realized the empathy for her dear friend drinking and doing drugs this weekend had taken its toll.

That is when she said “my poor hurt squirrel drains my empathy battery.”

And we laughed, as we had talked many times about the gerbil wheel in her mind, which had morphed into a squirrel.  She is understanding more about the part of the brain the was wounded in all of her trauma. The Cingulate Gyrus, the balancer between the reactive centers deep inside the brain and the best planning brain at the top from of the brain in the frontal lobes.

In his book “Your Brain On Joy,” Dr. Henslin describes the Cingulate Gyrus as the Circular Gerbil Wheel, because people with problems in that area are compulsive, dwell on the negative, and tend to store hurts. In other words, they can’t “get off the wheel.”

It works like this: a thought becomes negative, and starts an emotional response in the limbic system deep inside the brain (amygdala, hippocampus), often because of habit, and then the cingulate gyrus does its work of getting oxygen and chemicals to the frontal lobe, and their is a balance in the thought, a calm, a sense of planning the situation out. But, the negative thought comes quickly back, and there goes the wheel. Can you hear it in your head?

So, her batteries are drained as she actively processes old memory and trauma. As she learns to stay present on the earth, rather than just checking out.

Got a squeaky wheel? Come in and learn more about your brain and you can retrain it.

You can also order my book “Brain Prayers: Explore Your Brain, Expand Your Prayers” to learn more about these brain systems. Order at brainprayers.com or amazon.com




This is what the squeaking wheel can sound like!

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