When it feels like the threat is everywhere

In a conversation with my mother-in-law this evening we laughed about how sometimes it feels like you can't even safely go into the backyard (for those who have a backyard). It's like the mind subconsciously views the entire "outside" as potentially dangerous.

We laughed about it because her "backyard" is about a quarter acre, with people nowhere nearby. It was evident that her fear was perceived and not actual. And yet I can relate, and I think so many of us can. I remember at the start of the pandemic recognizing that fear of "outside" - as if the air itself was poisoned with the virus. And I had to remind myself that it wasn't. Still sometimes I find that unconscious fear resurfacing when I'm outside or in my nearby park, even when there is nobody around.

It's the job of the brain to keep the body alive. Not happy. Alive. And so it looks for danger around every corner. And when the threat is microscopic, it seems the mind searches for it everywhere. We have to get clear on where the threat is actual, and where it is perceived and sometimes those lines are blurry. But living in a constant state of threat response isn't sustainable. It can damage our health and leave us even more susceptible to the very threat we are trying to avoid.

Of course also be careful and aware. Wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, wash your hands, keep physical distance. But also look for moments of safety, and opportunities to settle where you can, even if they're fleeting.

After you wash your hands for 20 seconds, take a moment to feel the cleanliness of your hands. If your home is a safe place to be, pay attention to that and notice how your body responds to that acknowledgment - what is the experience of safety? If you're healthy right now, notice & allow that to be true. Feel your good health in your breath and your vitality.

Moments of risk and moments of safety are likely all happening in the same day. Your mind is going to be orienting toward threat, it's up to you to notice when you're safe too.

The Trauma Brain Project

I recently had the honor of being on a panel of body-centered therapists following the reading of a play by Dayle Ann Hunt titled The Trauma Brain Project.

This play is powerful, moving, intense. It is the story of a woman’s journey to heal from the repressed memories of early childhood sexual abuse. Dayle takes us on this journey of her own life experience as someone who was diagnosed with Epilepsy as a child, who was also experiencing paralyzing migraines, unexplained nausea, psoriasis, sinus growths¬†and a string of inexplicable conditions that followed her throughout her life; all of which led her (in her 50s) to shadowed memories of what had happened¬†and to eventual healing with somatic therapy.

The cast is amazing. The direction is expert. We the audience were riveted for the duration of the piece.

This play is a must-see for anyone who works with diagnosing illness. Dayle Ann is passionate about medical professionals, therapists, and trauma survivors knowing that their symptoms may be trauma-related. The body and mind do actually influence each other.

 

If you’re interested in this topic and have any ideas on how this play can be more widely disseminated, please contact D
ayle Ann at www.thetraumabrainproject.com

After the play I led the audience through a few basic exercises to help with regulation since watching anything traumatic can have an impact on our bodies. And it struck home to me again tonight that we are being inundated daily with news of traumatic events. This doesn’t mean we are all traumatized by this, but we are more than likely affected. So I thought I’d quickly share one of the techniques that I shared with the audience in the hopes that you might be able to use it in your day-to-day. It’s called 3-2-1

  1. Look around and notice and briefly describe (e.g. “orange mouse pad”) three (3) things you see
  2. Now listen and name two (2) sounds you hear
  3. And now notice one (1) thing you’re feeling with your sense of touch.

How are you feeling now? You can repeat that sequence one more time if you’re feeling a little more focused or settled than you were before you started.

Namaste.