Ten years ago, I had the unexpected delight of teaching Biology & Health to at-risk high school students, kids & young adults to whom stress was as natural as breathing. Their attention wandered more times than I’d like to admit, but they were all attention when our studies turned to how the human body responds to high stress situations, the different physiological systems that kick in to help us deal with the immediate challenge, even danger. They leaned forward, hearing how this response is meant to be short-term, over in seconds or minutes – at the most, within hours. Even the rowdiest seemed interested in learning about the impact of stress, that the longer it lingers, the more difficult it is for our physical, mental & emotional states to be restored to a sense of balance. They’d never considered the power of balance, never seen stress as a real life, real time disadvantage.
Unresolved stress becomes compounded. Relive a difficult time in the head & the body doesn’t know it’s not experiencing the original event – or a version of it – over & over. It sends the same messages to the body as the ONE time it happened & the body responds in kind, on an endless loop, with the same survival mode chemical responses – over & over & over, not just several times a week or a day, but within each hour, constantly anchoring the brain & body to a damaged & continually damaging past.
The great challenge in moving past trauma – layers of traumas – is that we think the memory is simply in our brain. If only! Whatever the event, its memory becomes paired with emotion. When we suffer from unresolved, too often unrecognized, stress & trauma, we stop responding to the actual memory & start reacting to the feelings left in its wake.
Left to go its own way, memory attached to emotion brands itself into the brain. Unrecognized, unresolved, the experience is seared into our neural circuitry, with the corresponding feeling taking up residence in our body. Working together, thinking they’re acting to protect rather than harm, our brain & body unintentionally do us dirt, biologically anchoring us to a messed up past.
My family – the oldest siblings & my parents – were each & all, individually & as a group, anchored to a messed up past. It left them most comfortable being in an never spoken of, unreconciled past.
It feels FANTASTIC to acknowledge the terrible damage that was done to them & (through osmosis) a clueless me, and just let it go. My sails are set, the wind fills them & – like Moana – am all about Away! Away!
Not being anchored, even slightly, to a messed up whatever is glorious. Not my past, never was.