No Threat, But Thank You
“No threat, but thank you” is a coping skill that may seem a bit silly, but it works for many people. But first, a quick review of some of the misophonia neurology.
At the top we have our cerebrum, our thinking brain. In the middle we have our emotional brain, the limbic system. Down at the bottom of our brain is the brainstem – the autonomic nervous system, our lizard brain. It’s that lizard brain reflex that controls the misophonia.
Now, your lizard brain may cause you to have a misophonic response, but it’s also your best friend. Your lizard brain controls all the automatic processes in your body. It keeps you alive. It does your automatic breathing, blinking, adjusting your body temperature, sweating or shivering, and other blood flow changes that adjust your body temperature. It does all your food processing, even swallowing; without your lizard brain you would swallow and food would stop at the top of your esophagus because the lizard brain does the reflex that massages the esophagus and pushes the food down into the stomach. One of your lizard brain reflexes that’s a lot like a misophonia reflex is the startle response. You pop a balloon behind someone and they will jump – that startle response is coming from their lizard brain.
Now, your lizard brain helps you adapt to the world around you. It really balances things out by predicting how the body should respond based on its past experience. So, for example, if a waiter puts a large plate of pasta in front of you, before you ever start eating your lizard brain says, “I have seen this situation before and I know it this is going to require a lot of insulin to handle this pasta load so I am going to start producing the insulin now.” This happens before you ever start eating based on the stimulus of having the pasta in front of you. Your lizard brain puts together sights and sounds in the environment and physical responses.
Think of your misophonic response to triggers as your lizard brain trying to warn you of a threat or some danger on your life. You hear this crunch and the lizard brain jerks your body (like a small startle reflex). It says, “Hey look out, danger, there’s a threat.”
Well, the trick is to have a conversation with your lizard brain. The long version sounds like this, “Lizard brain, I know you’re trying to protect me. What you just heard was not a threat to my life, but thank you for trying to protect me.”
You need to do that in a short version, something more like a factual statement, “not a threat” or “no threat” and then energetically, “but thank you!” Simply say, “No threat, thank you!” You may think it, but you need to think it with gusto. That “thank you” needs to be a strong “thank you” because what I think is happening is that “thank you” is a positive trigger. It triggers a lizard brain reflex.
Many times you’ve been exposed to a situation where something has happened that has been very positive and you said, “thank you.” Your lizard brain heard the thank you and observed the positive physical conditions that you were experiencing at the moment, and it put the two together. So when you say, “thank you,” it triggers a positive physical reflex like those previously paired with those words. I call it a gratitude reflex. So let’s try this: say a nice strong “thank you,” and then pause and see what you feel in your body. Ready? “Thank you.” From that you may get a calm, peaceful feeling in your body that is quite the opposite of anger. And so this “thank you” reflex will overlay and squash the anger reflex.
A woman on Facebook wrote the following.
“I must say, Tom Dozier, after watching your video from your conference that you shared [this was from the 2014 Misophonia Association Conference], I was shaking my head thinking, ‘well, this is nonsense.’ After being violent most of my sixty-one years, and feeling that isolation and loud televisions and earplugs were going to follow me all the way to the crematorium, I had an opportunity to use your lizard brain suggestion of telling myself that there is no threat, that it’s okay. I was stuck in the car, next to my husband, on the way to the coast, facing three long hours of sniffling and crunching potato chips. I thought, ‘What the heck, I will give ole Tom’s advice a whirl.’
“Guess what? I suppose the old dog, new trick scenario works here. Much to my surprise I didn’t feel like jumping from the car onto the freeway. I also had a chance to use it while my husband was snoring in the hotel. I did get up after an hour and get the earplugs, but I didn’t feel as angry. Good for you, Tom! I advise anyone who suffers to just give this a try. It won’t take the problem away, but then again, you probably won’t be featured on America’s Most Wanted.”
So give it a try. Many say that they like this trick, while some don’t. But what do you have to lose by trying? So when you are triggered, think quickly, “No threat, but thank you!” and see if it doesn’t help that anger melt away.