Imagine a video that shows a sandy beach, a blue sky with birds flying and crystal clear water. The background music is a soft and calming piano tune. That sounds lovely, right?! Now imagine the same video with the beautiful beach but the background music is dark and menacing, the kind that is played in a horror movie right before a ghost or demon appears. Even though the video showed something scenic, most people might feel threatened or might feel like something bad or wrong could happen. The exact same video makes us respond in different ways due to different music playing – one leads to a peaceful feeling while another leaves you with the feeling of dread.
The same happens when we are responding to different situations in our life. We have to pay attention to this background music when we are responding to different events in our lives. This shark music sometimes possesses the ability to drag us out of the present and into our fears. When shark music is playing we usually end up reacting (instead of responding) in either a fight, flight or freeze mode. This hampers our ability to react appropriately and solve the problem at hand.
Our shark music generally gets the most activated in an emotionally charged situation. For example, a child throwing a tantrum, being told that you got fired from your job or anticipating bad news from your partner. In those situations, because of the background music (or experiences and stories we’ve heard), and because of the fear activated by the shark music, we might think of the worst outcome of the situation!
For example, the situation in which we think that a sweet 5 year old child throwing a tantrum might be the worst thing ever! Our minds might then go to past experiences or situations you’ve heard of. Like, thinking of a cousin who is now an alcoholic, and had a bad temper as a kid. When this happens we are struggling to think rationally and respond thoughtfully to the situation. We might end up reacting with unnecessary force or anger as compared to when our shark music wasn’t playing in that situation. We might end up punishing the child. However, if there was calm music in the background (i.e. we were thinking or something more calming or were in a calm state) – or reaction would’ve been more lenient – possibly requesting the child to lower their voice or engaging them in different activity! The various ways we understand situations therefore makes a huge difference in how we respond to the present.
So how do we continue to respond in a way that doesn’t give power to our fears? The first thing we can do is become aware of our shark music by recognising and understanding our own emotions, limitations, biases and triggers and becoming self aware. Next practice pausing before reacting to an emotionally charged situation and becoming aware of the music playing in the background. Being mindful of whether it’s calming or shark music. Knowing that you have the power to choose your own response. Responding rather than reacting in various situations is the goal!