In this world in crisis, our trauma responses are running rampant. The approaches we use are as diverse as the human race. We all have our survival strategies and coping mechanism that came from our specific environments. While the methods might be different, there are some similarities in the way we process the present moment after trauma. And I can guarantee that the world has far more trauma than we think. So let’s take a look at what many of us are doing right now to survive this crisis at the expense of any peace we have managed to muster through our adult years.
We are numb. I get this is not new for most trauma survivors. We often spend time in this numb state and a crisis is not needed to put us there. But right now, we might be struggling to feel anything at all. To some, this might feel like progress. If you were used to feeling suicidal or angry all the time, numb could feel like a welcomed change. But believe it or not, feeling our emotions is a step up from numb. I know. I know. I can hear the collective resistance to that statement. Hear me out though. When we are numb, we are invalidating our inner parts who want to share how they feel. We are shutting them down. In the long run, that’s not healthy. But this may be our reality right now.
We are distracted. Distractions are harder to find in isolation, but not impossible. Our defenses can be highly creative. With a vast virtual world and a virus to make the mind spin, we can find so many distractions from how we are feeling. I know that my tendency to peruse social media has jumped through the roof. And I am definitely spending more time in front of the TV watching movies. I am also finding it easier to get caught up in the hysteria about the virus, reading far too many articles than I know I should. The tendency to be distracted right now is very high.
We aren’t sleeping well. Many people are living a different schedule than they were before the crisis. But even if they aren’t, sleep patterns might be shifting and changing. When we sleep, we connect with our unconscious. Our unconscious mind expresses fears in the form of dreams and nightmares. Our triggers show up in our sleep if they are being blocked when we are awake. So we might find ourselves struggling to rest at night even if we are feeling fine during the day.
The mind is telling stories. The mind is made to tell stories. Even in the least traumatized people, the mind is prone to stories that stretch the truth. We created stories to make it through a childhood with a truth that was too devastating to face. And those stories have a tendency to stand the test of time. They become critical to survival. But there is another way we use stories. We use them to explain our past emotions. We create stories for why we feel the way we feel. Our emotions are flashbacks, but we can’t face that truth. So we tell ourselves our emotions are about right now. In this current reality, this is very easy to do. We can relate all our traumatic emotions to this crisis. It has never been easier. And this keeps us in a loop of story-telling that is hard to break.
So please go easy on yourself right now. Show yourself some compassion for your defenses. We are experiencing them on a global level right now. Observe your defenses. Ground as often as you can remember. And allow yourself some space to be less productive, more exhausted and less mindful than normal. There isn’t anything wrong with you. You are reacting to a traumatic experience with a traumatic response you used to survive a traumatic childhood. Despite what you might be reading from others, you are having a normal response. And becoming aware of that normal response is as much a part of our recovery journey as any other step.
Come join us this month in Survivor’s Guide for Life as we explore healing trauma through difficult times.