We close when our nervous system becomes unregulated and it is difficult to stay open and present. There are so many reasons that we are likely to close these days. David Rock, of the NeuroLeadership Institute, identifies ways our nervous system universally reacts using the acronym SCARF. Research shows that we naturally react, judge and become closed when any of these areas is challenged. S is for status. We easily react when someone jumps in front of us in line. This can be when a colleague gets a promotion that we expected, when someone does not respect our role or someone literally jumps in front of us in line at the bus stop. C is our need for certainty. Of course, with the pandemic and other current disruptions of polarization, rise in crime and climate challenges, we naturally close to protect ourselves as we feel groundless and a lack of certainty. A is for autonomy. When we feel our choices are limited, even when a familiar road is closed we easily react. R is for relationships. If we feel thwarted or left out is it easy to become judgmental and closed. Finally F is for fairness. We naturally notice when we sense an unfair call either on the field, at work or in our family and naturally react, becoming closed and judgmental.
It is useful to understand that reacting, judging and closing is a natural human response. We react to protect ourselves. However, we then limit access to our prefrontal cortex and our ability to see options and possibilities. Our decision-making ability is limited. We are likely to cut people off and say things that impact relationships and that we may regret later. With this understanding, we can learn to be aware of our reactions and to calm ourselves and build the muscle of shifting to being open. We then can be more at choice in how we communicate and the decisions we make. It is a healthier and more joyful way to live.
We can choose to be more aware of our human reactions and also to be more compassionate and empathetic with others when they naturally contract and react. Can you envision a world where we catch ourselves, have compassion for others and engage in positive and productive conversations? We can each make a difference in our spheres of influence
Notice patterns of closing in yourself and others and practice shifting to being open.