In January 2021, shortly after the January 6th attacks on the US Capital, I was looking for solace in the only place I thought to look: the bookstore. You know, books really do have a way of finding you when you need them most. A bright blue cover stood out to me, and I was drawn like a moth to light. The book was titled, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk. My oh my, how my world was about to be turned inside out, upside down and drained free from false security.
My biggest takeaway, amongst many others, was this: When we experience collective trauma – like, a pandemic….social uprising….political uprising – we often find ourselves in a constant state of fight or flight. The natural ability to sense danger and whether we need to react or run. There is another component to this sensation, that often goes overlooked. Freeze.
Being glued to the news for hours upon hours while they replay footage of shootings, police brutality and rage over the vaccine or masks; this only allows our brain to access this reptilian notion of safety. The message we receive from these outlets emits a singular message to all of humanity: we are not safe. We become frozen. Paralyzed by fear. Emotionally numb to the world around us.
If we do not feel safe in our surroundings, we tend to act out in a way that let’s our environment know how we are feeling. We will either outwardly place our rage into the space around us; or we freeze and are paralyzed by fear, depression, hopelessness and grief. Every single person in my life was effected by the events of 2020-2021. People who had never previously reported symptoms of anxiety or depression were now paralyzed in it’s grip. Families cut ties with one another over disagreements over safety. The fear of loss and abandonment was very real in all of our minds.
We walk around tense, uptight, overwhelmed and consumed – wondering why our country is the WORST when it comes to wellness and overall health. How are we supposed to heal in an environment that is telling us it’s impossible? I will tell you what was helpful to me. I began unplugging and disconnecting. I treated myself as if I were my iPhone, in need of a factory reset. Social media was deactivated. Phone was placed on do not disturb. I started speaking up and using my voice; saying NO instead of what my disease to please whispers into my ear “just say yes, don’t be a disappointment.”
The very fear of being a disappointment was preventing me from reaching my full potential. I was so tired of feeling so rigid and depleted, angry and heartbroken, that I decided I had enough. Eventually, I directed my rage towards the right places. The very people who had put those conditioned thoughts into my mind, “You’ll never be good enough. You won’t succeed. You’re crazy.” These thoughts did not belong to me, but they clouded my judgement so much that I didn’t even know who I was. We just learn to fall into line, adapt and adjust – without a second to stop and say, wait a minute? I encourage you to ask that same question to yourself; what is your body holding onto?