Did you know that your brain reacts to stimuli in 50 milliseconds, but that it may take up to 500 milliseconds for conscious awareness to occur? It’s fascinating, we have this myth that we are in conscious control of so many things that we simply are not.
In any given situation, it is quite possible that you may both feel safe, and in danger. We are complex and multi-faceted beings, we are not consistent, we can often hold contradictory experiences within in. Ana Gomez calls these parts story-tellers, and reflects that they tell the story of another time and place, and that that story is lived out again and again, because it is not as yet integrated and complete. Stephen Porges similarly reflects that in a situation while some parts of us can connect, others must protect.
It’s a common experience for people who have been traumatized by events to feel they are going a little crazy. What is actually happening is that our system has adapted and self-organised at some point to meet an environment which was hostile or impoverished, and this adaptive self-protection is still alive and running in our system.
We may even defend against our own truth. We may not remember, or insist that we had a good childhood, or that the upsetting events didn’t affect us. We disown our pain and hurt, and instead believe we are defective, abnormal or bad. We are deeply shamed, and that disconnects us from ourselves and from other people.
When this is the case we may unknowingly re-enact the same kinds of relationship dynamics again and again. Each incidence is our system setting up a situation for us to do something different, to heal, and yet if we are not ready then the wheels spin and we are again traumatised by events, and confused and confounded by how we could again end up here.
If this resonates for you, help is at hand. It does not have to be this way. Neuro-science and therapeutic understanding are beginning to understand and unravel how we can support integration of our many internal story-tellers, and how we can move forwards feeling more whole and consistent having moved past what we suffered. We now know this calls for more than just talking and thinking about it. It calls for engagement of the whole bodymind, our physical being, our right brain ways of knowing and expressing, and our logical left brain cognition and insight.
If you have behaviours, thoughts and feelings that are causing you distress, and want to move past them, look out for a psychotherapist who has a good understanding of trauma, and can offer flexibility in their way of working. You are unique, and your moment to moment experience matters.