Most of us have certain feelings that arise again and again.
The same old fear. The same old frozen feeling. The same old anger. The same old feeling invisible. The same old confusion and bewilderment.
So we try to get over our fear... or control our temper... or find our voice... or make a huge effort to get ourselves together in some way.
Each time one of these familiar feelings arrives - it is real and intense and strong. We can't will it away...
There's a reason why this happens - and it happens to all of us in one way or the other.
It has to do with what happens in our minds and nervous systems when something that scares us or hurts us happens - and we don't have the support we need to integrate the experience.
When we have this kind of traumatic experience, particular feelings arise... confusion, fear, rage... feeling trapped, invisible, alone...the natural and particular feelings that come up in response to a scary or hurtful experience.
We humans are very resilient. If we have a caring person to be with us, we can integrate a lot.
But if we don't have that caring person... especially when we are very young...the feelings can overwhelm us and make it hard for us to function.
So our minds do something quite brilliant. The embodied, implicit memories of these traumas and overwhelming feelings get isolated and separated from the rest of our nervous systems. This means we can go on and not have these feelings overwhelming us all the time. This is called an isolated neural net. It's a brilliant way to get us through...
But these isolated neural nets can be opened up...often when something happens that seems somehow similar to the original trauma...and when this happens, the original feelings take us over and we once again feel the fear, anger, confusion, trapped or invisible or whatever feeling was there - with the full intensity of the original trauma. And the feeling is here NOW. It doesn''t feel like a memory. And in that moment it is all there is... we've lost access to the rest of our mind - literally.
Some people call this being triggered. I prefer to recognize that this is a trauma being touched and awoken. It's a difficult and confusing and sometimes embarrassing experience. But it is also a precious opportunity to heal and integrate (more on this in the coming weeks).
Next week, I'll be writing about how our minds respond over time to these isolated neural nets and develop ways of coping with it and protecting them. I find this information super helpful in understanding why we do the things we do...