I hope that your holidays thus far have delivered more blessing than pain. Now let’s all get the heck out of 2020! I hear there’s a new place opening up down the street called “2021.” I – for one – am going to go down there and check it out.
Thanks so much to those of you who came to my webinar this month, to those who signed up but didn’t manage to come, and to those who thought about it but couldn’t make it work this time. I had a great time, and we had some good insights and learning.
I have two exciting pieces of personal news to share!
In this season of celebration and also of retreat and renewal, I’m still hoping you might be able to squeeze one of my webinars on Sense of Self into your schedule this week and weekend. The sign up link and dates are below.
And in case you are interested in the exploration of your Sense of Self, but can’t fit in a 90 minute deep dive this week, I’m sharing with all of you the homework that I created for the webinar participants, which is also useful as a standalone exercise. When I created this homework yesterday, I worked through the exercise with one of my personal roles. Today I went through the process, looking at myself in the role of Wounded Healer and Trail Guide.
I met my vulnerability, my fear “that I am less than I am”, my “grief and shame for not having more or better to offer.”
Some of us only notice our emotions when we find ourselves “being emotional”, that is when we can no longer maintain “normal” neutral behaviors. Maybe we get so excited that we shriek out loud, or maybe we get so angry that we shout or growl or slam doors.
The reality is that emotions – or feelings, which may be a broader term – are with us and influencing each of us in every moment.
I believe that we have a program going on in the background, in our unconscious, that is constantly asking the following questions:
What is the most important aspect of this situation?
What am I supposed to be feeling in this situation?
What am I actually feeling?
Are there any feelings here that I’m not supposed to have?
I hope that you are safe and well as we head into the pandemic winter, and in the US, into the pending transition of power in government.
Winter is not my best season. In the past, I felt stressed and pressured to give my kids satisfying holidays, which always felt inexplicably difficult. I also have frequently gotten sick with colds and coughs that would last for weeks or months. This past week or so, I have been wondering if some of the vague dread that has been showing up is not just emotional weather, but perhaps an old emotional pattern of winter stress.
This year I got sick in the summer with COVID. Hopefully I paid my dues and can make it through the winter in better shape. And I am feeling quite a bit better, if not fully back to my normal. Last weekend, for the first time in more than 3 months, John and I headed out to the park for a bit of a hike.
Firstly, my COVID update. My antibody test came back negative but I’m still clear that it’s COVID – there are 8% false negatives and my IgG levels are way low which means I would be one of those negatives. I’m still recovering – this week I am trying to have a semi-normal schedule, and I will see how that goes.
Now, about wanting ice cream and not getting it…
Those of us living with the effects of developmental trauma sometimes have emotional experiences that don’t fit what is actually happening. Depending on the scope of our developmental trauma patterns, this might happen often, even several times a day.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.