WHAT IS GOING ON?
We are living in a NEW NORMAL.
Our lives, our families, our jobs, our expectations of the future — all of these dependable anchors of our lives have all changed, as if overnight. Consequently, we are each responding in ways that sometimes make sense and other times create chaos, anxiety, and nonsense.
Change that comes so quickly and without warning creates feelings of loss, grief, fear, and insecurity. Disorientation, disorganization, and loss of control fill the space that was once filled with schedules and order.
We are not yet used to this NEW NORMAL.
It feels unfamiliar, unknown and uncertain. That is because it IS unfamiliar, unknown and uncertain. How do we go about our days? How do we stay in contact with those we love? How do we stay present to what is actually happening in our present moment and stay present to those around us?
This is what I invite you to explore with me.
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WE ARE LIVING IN A TRIGGERED STATE
A TRIGGER is when your current experience in the NOW of your life connects with painful, past learning. In the past, we have all had life experiences where we felt unsafe or endangered. The cells of our brains and bodies remember these experiences. When something makes us feel that way again, we begin feeling AS IF we are IN DANGER. When this happens, we go into HYPERVIGILANCE creating:
Ongoing biological and neurological impacts of PERCEIVED DANGER.
Preparation for FIGHT, FLIGHT OR FREEZE — which is called survival.
Loss of empathy, compassion, intentionality and integrity.
Inability to discern REAL DANGER from PERCEIVED DANGER.
Intrusive thoughts and feelings create chemicals that flood the body. Muscles tense. Breathing becomes shallow. Thinking becomes disorganized. In a TRIGGER, we are reliving a PAST, PERCEIVED DANGER in the present moment wherein NO DANGER exists.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Depending on who you are, you will probably find yourself having one of two different responses, and you might even find that you vacillate between the two responses.
AVOIDANCE — This is the FLIGHT response. In this response, you feel like you need to isolate, numb, withdraw, distract, blame, or shut down. In this response, you feel like a victim. To AVOID the TRIGGER, you might find yourself using drugs, alcohol, social media, gaming, or other forms of disconnection.
AROUSAL — This is the FIGHT response. In this response, you feel like you need to fight, convince, be “right,” demand, or fix. In this response, you can create victims of others. To CONTROL the TRIGGER, you might become destructive, reckless, irritable, frustrated, or angry. These behaviors are also forms of disconnection.
DISTORTION OF REALITY — When you find yourself vacillating between these two responses, thinking and mood become disrupted. You can feel defeated that your responses have not addressed the TRIGGER. When you get to this point, you often feel inadequate, out of control, and stuck. FROZEN. I call this FROZEN IN FEAR.
TIME TO BE IN THE PAUSE
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” - Victor Frankl
There is a “window of opportunity” for each of us to respond, instead of reacting, to the TRIGGERS around us. It requires a PAUSE. It demands that each of us stops and becomes aware of what is actually happening in the present moment.
Look for “bears.” Now, I know that sounds pretty ridiculous, but if, in fact, there were an actual bear in your presence, you are equipped to FIGHT and to FLEE. You are equipped to survive! So, if you were in a situation of danger, what would it look like?
It would be an ACTUAL danger. It would NOT be a thought about danger.
Someone would be bleeding. Someone would need an ambulance due to a heart attack. There would be a tornado that you could see from your front window. There would be an actual bear. These things are dangerous.
If there are no actual dangers, you are safe. You may feel fear. You may feel uncomfortable, scared, frustrated, uncertain, and many other anxiety-producing feelings. And it is OK to feel that way. Even though you feel those feelings, YOU ARE SAFE.
As you come to the safety of your present moment, you can notice where you are holding tightness and tension in your body. Is it in your belly? How about your throat? Do you feel light-headed and tingly? Noticing these feelings is called INTEROCEPTION. It is a way to notice what is actually occurring within you, in the present moment.
When you feel those feelings in your body, it is time to RELAX and SELF-REGULATE.
TAKE A BREATH. Slowly, exhale and then slowly inhale. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
As you come back in touch with your relaxed body, your awareness comes back. Your compassion and empathy come back. Your thinking and judgment comes back. You are able to have the intentionality and integrity that you desire.
You then are able to recognize the difference between FEELING unsafe and BEING unsafe. You are no longer caught in the FROZEN IN FEAR cycle.
You can choose your RESPONSE, and find your way to growth and freedom.
PAUSE AND READ
WE ARE HERE TO HELP
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PAUSE AND REFLECT
When you feel those feelings in your body, it is time to RELAX and SELF-REGULATE. TAKE A BREATH. Slowly, exhale and then slowly inhale. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
There is a “window of opportunity” for each of us to respond, instead of reacting, to the TRIGGERS around us. It requires a PAUSE.
Change that comes so quickly and without warning creates feelings of loss, grief, fear, and insecurity.
You then are able to recognize the difference between FEELING unsafe and BEING unsafe. You are no longer caught in the FROZEN IN FEAR cycle. You can choose your RESPONSE, and find your way to growth and freedom.