When the stress continues cortisol is released. Physically, we move into the “freeze” and “faint” response. This is those times when we didn’t act or say something because our minds ‘froze.’ It is the on-going release of cortisol that diminishes our memory and we find ourselves being forgetful. It is also cortisol that causes us to not remember periods of time in our childhood and even adulthood.
As the stressor is removed hormones decrease allowing us to return to a new state. Where we have felt traumatised by the event our mind has to find a way to normalise and minimalize the impact. Freud’s defence mechanisms like denial, intellectualisation, rationalisation, suppression and regression kick in. These coping mechanisms aim to decrease anxiety, the emotion that continues to trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol.
As time passes we normalise our experiences. This is when the fifth “F” word influences our lives – “Fun-making.” To distance ourselves from the anxiety, trauma, shock, terror or fear we focus on fun. We love to laugh. We love to socialise with friends and family. We love to party. We love to fool around and have as much fun as we possibly can.
Too often we look at someone and form opinions or make judgements on the outer appearance or behaviours. We forget what might lie beneath the surface. My experiences of Jordan were fun. The people were fun. They loved to laugh. They were spontaneous in their fun-making. It would be easy to return to Australia and tell everyone how much FUN Jordanians are. And they are. But put in the context that the majority of people living in Jordan are refugees, it is disrespectful and dismissive to focus only on the surface.
Sure, we can all sleep better at night if we can convince ourselves that the trauma of war has no long term effects. Just like we minimised the impact of child abuse, rape, heartbreak, death and every other tragedy humans have experienced at some point in our history. I’m all for celebrating the resiliency and tenacity of the human spirit but not at the cost of acknowledging the pain of terror, shock, violence, war and torture. If this decade is to be about anything then it is my hope that it will be about embracing reality and being empowered by it, not debilitated.
We might not be able to fix all the world’s problems. We may not be able to stop hidden political agendas. It might feel overwhelming to know the truth behind the militarisation of the Taliban or Islamic State. It could even make our lives a little uncomfortable to accept that people just like US do evil things.
But, what we can do is what is within our personal power. We can change our judgements. We can change our willingness to dismiss others pain. We can stop accepting the surface level of life and delve into the depths of reality. We can acknowledge what is wrong in the world and make choices to enhance what is good. We can cast our votes for humanity, dignity, respect and compassion.
Think about your own times of pain, sorrow, hurt and disappointment. Apart from wishing it had never happened, what we usually want most is someone to acknowledge our pain and validate it and us. We want someone to see us, hear us, consider us, know us and what this experience has done to us or meant to us. A good hug is nice. A kind expression on a friendly face is appreciated. Even a reassuring nod of acknowledgement is cherished. Words of compassion and empathy assist the healing process.
What was so rewarding in Jordan was that we were there offering a real solution to dissolving the refugees trauma. Talking about bad events doesn’t eliminate them. It normalises them. Mind-body techniques like Emotional Freedom Technique and Trauma Buster Technique change the release of the hormone cortisol in the body. Simply tapping on the meridian points decreases stress levels. The solution truly lies at our finger tips!
Understanding how the mind wires itself in times of stress and trauma enables mind-body therapists to use effective techniques to unwire and rewire our neural pathways. It wasn’t that long ago that the scientific medical world thought the brain was inflexible; that once it was wired a certain way it couldn’t be changed. Neuroplasticity is the new buzz word. We now know we can change our neural networks and de-charge previously stressful memories.
This changes everything. We can venture into embracing reality and feel empowered because we have the tools and remedies to heal our fears, our perceptions and our pain.
If you were to become empowered by realism what first step would you need to take, today?