Helplessness or Hope? I choose Hope!

Hi, Friends and Co-conspirators in Seeking a Better World,

It’s Rosalie checking in. I was so proud of myself for sending out my inaugural “welcome to my email list!” email on August 11. I was all rocking and rolling and ready to come up with friendly, inspiring, affirming, interesting, uplifting messages every week for months at least. Yay for me, woot, woot!

My next door neighbor’s tree!

That was a Tuesday. Wednesday morning at 6 am I woke up with chills and then a mild fever. It was COVID. Lucky for me, throughout the 18 days of being sick, I never felt horrible, I just had an inconvenient set of symptoms like severe fatigue and foggy thinking. My sense of taste did take a hit last week, but it is fully back on board now. My energy level is not yet fully on board, but is coming back day by day.

I’m not sure if we caught COVID from grocery delivery or restaurant delivery or package delivery or mail delivery or pharmacy pickup. Those are the only choices unless someone came onto our front porch and deliberately sneezed on our doorknob.

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My friend Yange aka “You Are Not Good Enough”

Hello, Beloveds!

I’m thinking about my friends, family, colleagues and clients, as I look at the tree in my neighbor’s yard that I can see out my window, and at the basil that is growing in a can on the windowsill.

I’m thinking that the pandemic hasn’t affected my day to day life that much but then thinking about the trips I can’t take to visit my children and grandchildren. And how much the pandemic HAS affected them, Mom, Dad and kids all at home all the time. And thinking of the people I know who have been sick with COVID and who have died from it.

And then I’m thinking about the social justice protests that are so necessary because Black lives HAVE to matter more than they have mattered until now. And Native American lives HAVE to start mattering more. And the lives of Trans people HAVE to start mattering. And the lives of migrant children and adults fleeing war and violence HAVE to start mattering. And the health and well-being of low-income people HAVE to start mattering.

I want to write something about being good enough, but I don’t know if I’m good enough to say what I want to say.

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The Birthright of Protest

I have been reclaiming protest as a birthright. Let me explain. I wrote most of this post on July 4, and there is an update at the bottom from today, July 9.

Think about an infant who has loving, attentive parents. If the infant is hungry, she will call to her parents, asking for attention. “Hey, I’m here and I need some milk!” What happens if no one comes right away? Then she will protest, she will cry out loudly and forcefully, “HEY!!! HEY, I CALLED FOR YOU! DIDN’T YOU HERE ME? GET IN HERE, I’M HUNGRY!” OK, she won’t use those words, she won’t use any words! But the message is clear nonetheless.

At this point our infant is not angry. If no one comes, eventually she will get angry. But right now, she is just being very loud and very direct in asserting her need. She’s not necessarily even unhappy. She’s full of hope and life, she’s well taken care of. And in this particular moment she has a need, and she knows that her need is important. So she’s making that need known.

That’s what protest is, loudly and clearly making a need known so that the need can be appropriately addressed.

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How Trauma/Freeze/Nervous System Dysregulation causes Syndromal symptoms

 This explanation is based on the Polyvagal theory which says that there are 3 branches of the nervous system:
Dorsal Vagal, which is responsible for sleep and freeze. The way this system responds to threat is to freeze – “play dead” more or less – slow everything way down.
Sympathetic, which is responsible for activity, getting things done. The way this system responds to thread is to fight or flee – ramp everything up.
“Social Engagement nervous system”, which includes the Ventral Vagal system plus several muscle groups in the head and neck, is responsible for pleasant, authentic and collaborative interactions between humans (all mammals actually). 

And this explanation is also based on the understanding of how traumatic memories or programs get implanted into our body systems:
When there’s a threat, and we can’t negotiate out of it using our social engagement system, then we go into fight or flight mode. But if for whatever reason or set of reasons, we can’t successfully fight or flee (we might not even try because we are so outgunned, as if I am a young child under threat by a caregiver) then at some point our system engages the Freeze response. However, since the threat is still real, our sympathetic fight/flight system is still running full tilt. This would allow us to quickly respond in an act of attack or escape if an opportunity presented itself. So the Sympathetic system is running full tilt and the Freeze is also running full tilt.

Now, if there is never a satisfactory and comprehensive enough resolution to this traumatic experience, wherein I am seen and heard and can feel and release all of the fear, helplessness, terror, anger, and overwhelm that showed up in me, if that safe resolution does not happen, then we get the ingredients for PTSD, or generally for unresolved trauma. In this case, the reality of the threat continues to live in the body even when the threat is far away geographically and/or far gone in the past. That means that inside my system, my flight/flight system continues to run full tilt and my freeze system also continues to run full tilt.

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Don’t Go Faster, Go Slower

One of the ways that my trauma pattern shows up is that I feel a constant nagging pressure to “Do something, get things done!” If I am sitting still, there is a voice, perhaps even a chorus of voices, shouting at me, “You are failing! You are letting yourself and everyone else down!”


And part of what makes things tricky is that there is definitely truth in that self-accusation. There are many things that need to be done, with real world consequences when they are not done.


But the pattern of pushing myself to work, work, work, do, do, do – that pattern is not actually effective. I can push, work, and do to some extent but frequently I just stop. Or I push myself to get moving but then I can’t even get started because I am overwhelmed by all of it.

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The Light and Dark Poetry Process

One of the goals of trauma healing is to allow what is hidden in our bodies to be felt, expressed, and released, as safely and gently as possible. We have hidden feelings, emotions and impulses leftover from past traumas and stresses. We also hide some or many of our current feelings, emotions and impulses from ourselves, out of a self-protective habit.

This Poetry Process is one way that I have found to incrementally surface hidden experiences. The process is simple. I give myself the assignment to create a Dark Poem, and then to create a Light Poem. [or vice versa, either can come first.] “Create” is not exactly the right word. My intention is to allow some of my uncomfortable – or pleasant – feelings or experiences to surface. So in a way I am allowing the poem, more than creating it. “Poem” in this context does not mean structured verse – it simply means free-flowing non-structured language that expresses an inner experience, often in metaphor.
At the time, I may be feeling neutral – neither joyful nor upset. I may not be aware that I am feeling anything at all. When the poetry comes out, it can sometimes be surprising, enlivening, or tender.

Here are examples of a Light and Dark Poem that have arisen in response to this process over the past months.

LIGHT:

There are little light energy beings
Inside of me or around me.
Perhaps they are me.
But no matter what
They scurry about playfully 

Little Skittle Scurry Furry Feet


DARK:

Gravity is too much
Entropy is too much
Gravity
Entropy
Falling down a long flight of stairs into a dark dank basement
It’s like that.

Polyvagal Theory and Emotional Amnesia

What is Emotional Amnesia?

I have noticed in myself and others a tendency to forget.
When I feel really good, I think – or at least feel – that my life has taken a turn for the better, and that it will continue to be good indefinitely. Whatever it is that happened has changed me, or changed the course of my life somehow. When I feel really bad, I know that I felt good sometime before, but I don’t see any path to that good feeling now, and I feel helpless to get back there.

Neither of these are accurate emotional conclusions, of course. Even when I have a truly life-altering experience – and I have personally had many – still, it is a guarantee that there will be a time in the future when I will feel lost, alone, discouraged, confused, helpless and overwhelmed. And whenever I am in that place of helplessness and overwhelm, there will be a time in the future when I feel good again, as good as my baseline for feeling good, which varies from person to person.

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Turtle Day

Two days ago I used the bluebird energy to enliven and empower my day, but yesterday it didn’t work.

Is it possible, every day, to find a new organic inspiration?

I’m going to try today.

I am scanning my body, looking for and inviting anything that seems like a spark or current of hope, excitement, eagerness, or some other similar sort of energy.

But what is showing up is more like a sweet melancholy; a tender feeling of love. It is rising from my belly to my throat.

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When Clutter Attacks!!

This is interesting.
I need some id and password information. I just lost my job, so now my husband needs to apply for Medicare and to do that he needs to open a social security account. I froze our credit reporting accounts after the Equifax breach in September. Creating a Social Security account online requires an unfrozen Experian account. Now, we could just drive to the Social Security office. But we prefer just doing things online. So I need the id and password information that will allow me to unfreeze our Experian accounts. But I don’t remember where I put it, since I did this three months ago.

That is the opening scene in today’s blog. Middle-aged post-traumatic woman who just lost her job sits in the recliner in her living room shouting “Where are those papers!?”

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Bluebird Day

I let myself sleep in this morning. It wasn’t my intention to actually sleep. I wanted to use my semi-awake state to do some healing work with myself. Whenever I woke up, I iterated through my new BEST CARING acronym, test driving that resource.

B = Body/Breath. Let the body lead, don’t let the freaked out nervous system or the obsessive thoughts lead. And breathe.

E = Environment. Be aware of what is safe, supportive, unsafe, un-supportive in the physical environment.

S = Support. Create images of the support from people and communities who care about me, call on those images even if I can’t palpably feel the support. Also includes the support of Divine beings and of objects, like a roof and a locked door and a bank account.

T = Thoughts. Coach my thoughts. Intentionally think supportive and reassuring thoughts: “You can do this.”

C = Contact. Touch my own body, my arm, leg, or heart. Or make contact with another person or animal who is safe and supportive. 

A = Allow the expression of anything that is organically arising from inside myself (but not from the freak-out, from deeper in the system.) The Dark and Light poetry process can also fit here

R = Respiration. Breathe. Notice my breath.

I = Image. Bring up images of things that are pleasing and comforting. For me: flowers, bunnies, waterfalls.

N = Nice. Image is a subset of this. Think of things that are pleasing. Look around and find things in my visual field that are pleasing to look at. Do things that are pleasant (drink tea, walk outside, take a bath, play music, stroke my own hair…)

G = Gratitude. Give Thanks. 

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