The Last Nerve

As seen in the HEARTbeat and the Village Voice

“The Last Nerve”


            We all have one, don’t we?  And when we get down to that last nerve, we wonder what happened to all the rest!  Why do we let ourselves get so wound up we begin to get overwrought with emotions?  There is a reason for it, I assure you.

            In his book Emotional Intelligence, Dr. Daniel Goleman has a contributor by the name of Christine Casper who speaks about a phenomenon that occurs when we are down to that last nerve.  It is called being “Amygdala hijacked.”  The part of the brain that handles reason is the cerebrum.  We use that portion for decision making more than any other function of the brain.  But when we get in a heightened state of emotion, the area of the brain called the amygdala takes over.  It is the source of our emotions.  When it becomes so active, it overrides the logic center of the brain.  Therefore, decisions made when the amygdala is going a hundred miles an hour are not good ones.  As Ms. Casper says, “We cannot reason well.  We cannot make logical decisions.”

            When you have that person who delights in finding your last nerve, and then does the hokey pokey on it, what area of the brain is engaged?  Yes, the amygdala.  In our responses to this person, we say things we otherwise wouldn’t, and we act in ways that are out of character.  People wonder when they see and hear us, just exactly who this person is!

            Counselors everywhere have studied ways to curtail the effects of the amygdala during times of stress.  There are several exercises we can do to re-engage the neocortex area of the brain, or better said to use the critical thinking skills we learned to use around the age of ten.  When we move the power source to the logic or critical thinking area of the brain, the amygdala’s power wanes, and we can control our emotional outbursts more effectively.

            What does the Bible say about our last nerves?  In a nutshell, it tells us we should never get down to just one nerve left!  Our outbursts toward others are not scriptural, as Jesus said in the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbors as yourself.”  Love overcomes hate, bitterness, strife, and yes, even your last nerve.  Alone, we cannot get to this place easily when we are emotionally hijacked.  We just don’t have the power needed to do so on our own.

            In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Phillipi, he wrote, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  The peace we should be striving for is not a peace this world can give.  Nothing can fully and permanently get us there.  But the peace God can give is a type of complete peace that we cannot understand; it surpasses our human understanding.

            Remember, no one can jump on your last nerve unless you allow them to do so.  When you get down to that number, don’t use your brain, but use your heart to call on the Holy Spirit to give you the peace that is priceless!  Your day will be better because of it!

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