On fear and flight and the importance of working through trauma

I am having a powerful time of healing re-connection with my Mum lately.   And these feelings of love and compassion flowing forward are making me reflect a great deal on the paralysing part fear has played in my life.

I read a wonderful reading by one of my favourite authors and therapists on healing from trauma Tian Dayton this morning which spoke of how, when we suffer from unresolved trauma we get stuck in one of three responses, flight, fight or freeze.  All three come out of fear and from being totally overwhelmed by trauma or another person’s traumatising or triggering energy.  As I consider the acronym for fear : Fuck Everything And Run : reflecting on Tian’s reading which I will quote below makes sense of what ended up (for me) being counter productive responses that did not lead to any form or working through or resolution of my own trauma.    That said those responses were natural ones and kept me safe for as long as that was needed.

It is so apparent to me that healing only comes when we find the courage to face and feel everything and heal, digging deep for recognition of how often flight, fight or freeze responses keep us stuck, but often this feels too challenging to do alone.   As humans we thrive on connection and when healing from trauma we need others there who will stay with us and hold our hand through the process or can mirror to us how such a healing and recognition process can take place.

Trauma from the past needs to be metabolised and processed.  We need the courage to dig deep, to pause and hold our selves still enough to be with the body and the sensations which in arising often retrigger us and cause us great fear but still need for their resolution our absolute commitment, connection and attention.   But sadly what we learn to do when we suffer from unresolved trauma is either to hide away, fight back or just freeze, getting stuck or locked deep inside with trauma imprints running over and over and over again in our bodies and minds.

My experience is that facing up to trauma is not easy, it is painful, but it can be done.   We can find the courage to be with our pounding heart when we are triggered, we can find the fortitude to be with ourselves in states of anguish, sadness, powerlessness and fear.  We can open up to these things and own them while in some way helping ourselves to surrender the hold or reactivity of our powerful defences which lead us to run, fight or paralyse ourselves in the midst of replayed trauma.  We can make sense of and connections between present responses and past trauma that still lives on.

By finding the courage to work our trauma through we can find release.  We can realise that even though trauma had a massive debilitating affect on our lives we can re live and realise the powerful impact of its hold and allow that to loosen in time as we allow for and surrender to the necessary discharges, for trapped energy can go nowhere but releasing of repressed trauma imprints and charge means we find new energy for rebirth and positive action.

In order to do this we have to face trauma head on.  We have to make the commitment to be our own best friend in the midst of this working through and take all the steps we can to find the support of others who encourage us to face and heal what can be faced and healed and processed of past trauma so that we are no longer running, hiding, fighting invisible demons or getting paralysed by the powerful hold of unresolved trauma.

After doing some mediation this morning on my own body and trauma I came across a reading in my Al Anon recovery book which spoke to me.

Al Anon taught me to think before I run away from a person, a conflict, or an opportunity to share from the heart.  When I react in fear,  I give power to the unhealthy part of myself that tells me its not safe to be myself and that I’ll never be able to change.  Today my search for new solutions to old problems begins with either self acceptance or change.

(And the serenity prayer reminds me I can always count on my Higher Power for help when I make an effort to face my fears)

Reflecting on this reading it became apparent to me how often my own refusal to face up had led to problems.  My own defensive strategy has been often to clam up or hide away from things that needed to be faced and in the end running and hiding kept me in a prison of locked up and embittered paralysis but all of those feelings and reactions were part of my path.     Today I am so grateful to say that I don’t have to hide away as much.  I can front up and speak my truth or face the fear that may be running me and with the courage I find from meditation and prayer feel empowered to take that step forward which though fraught with fear is so necessary for my own healing.

When life experiences are not ‘lived through’ they are stored in an unfinished state. absent of adequate closure.  It is as if they are stored in suspension without the context that accompanies normal experience.  When events are stored by the brain in this manner, they become part of a storehouse of ‘unfinished business’.  They form what comes to be the root of a hunger that cries out for action or completion.  Today, if I see myself acting out impulsively, I will ask myself what wound is trying to be heard and seen.  Rather than continue to act out , I will quiet down and listen.

I am willing to know

God gives, but man must open his hand.

German proverb

2 thoughts on “On fear and flight and the importance of working through trauma

  1. This is so good! Perfect timing for me to come across this. I was triggered last week and almost ran away. I came through it, in all the ways you just described. This whole crazy healing process ebbs and flows, but the flow is always just a bit longer💕

    1. I am so glad you could do that. I was at a meeting this week and someone was sharing about pausing for a moment before the instinct for reaction was acted on. That can be and is a very powerful pause. ❤

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