Familiar Feelings Create Familiar Experiences
Part I – Trauma and the Subconscious
How Trauma is Created in the Body
As mammals, we have a built-in survival mechanism called the nervous system. The mechanisms for fear live in the brainstem, or the reptilian brain. Originally, if we were being threatened by our environment, a chemical reaction would occur to allow our bodies to focus solely on finding safety. Our body is flooded with adrenaline, creating an immense amount of energy that produces accelerated speed, processing, and awareness. This is most commonly known as fight or flight. An animal in the wild uses the adrenaline, finds safety, and then shakes off the excess chemicals returning the nervous system to neutral.
In present times, the reptilian brain is still highly active, only we aren’t in life-threatening situations that benefit from fight or flight responses. Instead, we are in situations that cause trauma responses. However, the same stress hormones are created by this trigger, but we don’t complete the fight or flight process because we’re uncomfortable with the emotional responses and reactions that occur. Instead, we stay in a heightened state, perpetually in fight or flight, always waiting for that trigger to come back.
This is what trauma is, the uncompleted process in the nervous system. Whenever you go into a heightened state, the body feels the energy with the intention of releasing it. It wants to be released. But our fear of that discomfort and our lack of knowing how to handle such big feelings prevents us from staying present with what is coming up, often re-traumatizing ourselves or having intense traumatic memories. This leads to reactionary behaviors that can cause more stress and upset. And there are many negative side effects of emotional trauma on the body and mind.
In this video, Rajeshwari Maa talks about the energetic component of the trauma response.
Being in the Trigger Zone
The trigger zone is where we are no longer thinking straight or have the ability to stay in the present moment. This happens when the trauma response is stimulated. This state has us unable to stop our thoughts, which keeps us from feeling what’s happening in our bodies. The trigger zone fuels our feelings, which in turn fuels our thoughts. We get stuck in a cycle of an inner narrative that is illogical and often emotionally volatile. We are not in our prefrontal cortex, the front part of the brain where conscious thought comes from. Therefore we are not inside the world of reason. All of this leads to potentially destructive behavior and we are at a much higher risk of making unhealthy choices. This is not a good time to interact with another person or try to solve any big problems. The narration and the stories we tell ourselves in this state are damaging.
- When I am triggered, I’m illogical.
- If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.
Being Hijacked and the Four Automated Stress Responses
In the trigger zone, you are at risk of being hijacked by past traumatic events, their resulting beliefs, and subconscious programs that have been created. And we have reactions that are bigger than the present experience elicits. We’re looking now through the lens of the past. You are no longer able to be in your high-functioning, adult self, and make practical choices. When this happens, we disconnect from the body and tend to do things like:
– Constructing rage narratives
– Compulsive behaviors
All of the above negative coping skills come from one or more of the automated responses to stress and the effects of trauma. These stress responses take us out of the present moment and limit our ability to make clear decisions or act according to our higher mental faculties.
- Fight – Your body’s way of facing any perceived threat aggressively.
- Flight – Your body urges you to run from danger.
- Freeze – Your body’s inability to move or act against a threat.
- Fawn – Your body’s stress response to try to please someone to avoid conflict.
Part II- Tools to Heal Trauma and Calm the Nervous System
Feel It to Heal It
The number one thing we do to start working with these big emotions is to move into our body consciousness and get present with the body. When you begin to get present with these emotions by feeling them, the process of healing can begin. And in order to “feel it to heal it” we need to unpack body intelligence or body awareness. In our functioning, the thing to come first is the feeling, not the thought. This means if we can access the feeling and transmute it with specific tools, we can heal the whole stress response in the body; ultimately changing our behaviors, how we respond, and how we communicate and take action. This is an entirely different way to think about our human functioning. This is not about telling ourselves that things are okay. This is about accessing through our bodies a form of influence that fundamentally shifts our way of being. Once we begin to create space for those deeper feelings, we can:
- Be more aware of what we’re feeling
- Be able to self-regulate what we’re feeling or manage it in a mature/ healthy way
- Be able to articulate what we’re feeling and communicate it to others if needed
Tools for Calming the Nervous System
Her Holiness Sai Maa developed a process to transmute energy in any form (emotions, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, memories, etc.). It is a simple healing practice that can provide insight and relief from some of our biggest fears and emotions. In her “How To Human” course, Oakley Ogden breaks down and expands the process.
- Ask yourself – Is what I am feeling love or fear-based?
- Acknowledge – Right now, I acknowledge I feel… xxx.
- Accept – And I fully recognize and accept its presence.
- Welcome – I am responsible for this energy and I place it in my heart.
Breathwork to Calm the Nervous System
Breathing exercises help calm the nervous system and build more body presence. When we can be present in the body, we stay present with our feelings. And the fastest way to get into our bodies is through the breath. It activates our parasympathetic nervous system creating a state of rest. That peaceful state sends a signal to the anxious part of our brain that we are safe and okay.
Box Breath is a form of breathwork that is calibrated to rebalance that rhythm in the brain, sending the message to central control and our entire bodies that we are safe. You don’t need to run, fight, freeze, or please. You can just be you, which allows you to just let the feeling move through. This is a deep space of healing. Healing from trauma takes time and repetition. Be patient with yourself as you implement these tools and develop healthy coping skills.
Watch as Oakley leads us in the Box Breath:
Sai Maa shares that it is essential to calm the nervous system in order to activate our highest potential, greatest health, and optimal life. Healing unresolved trauma in the body is a major part of that recovery process. Traumas come up in our bodies so that they may be healed and so that we may learn how to live in higher states of consciousness. As we do these practices, our connection with ourselves strengthens and evolves. From there, our connection with others expands as well. Deeper connections bring joy to our human experience. And joy in any form allows us to actualize more divine states in our everyday life.
Read these other blogs to develop a deeper connection with yourself and calm the nervous system.
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