Trauma and Fight

This week I was interviewed for a film project on healing with plant-based medicines. I was asked to lend my voice and knowledge to the impact of trauma on the nervous system. I started by emphasizing that trauma is not the event that happens to us; trauma is the impact the event had (and still has) on our internal system. It changes how we perceive and move through the world.

So, Impatience wants to sit back today in order to introduce you to another part of me, Fight.

*****

Human beings are the only mammals that can’t crawl to our own food or comfort source. We must be cared for by others; therefore, we must survive and adapt to others. The body and nervous system will choose strategies for care getting and keeping us safe, instinctively enacting these strategies when needed.

If we keep using these strategies repeatedly, they become conditioned. They become part of our personality, the way we move through the world.
There are several strategies to choose from. Many of you are familiar with some of them, like fight and flight. There is also freeze (shut down), fragment (denial/dissociation/psychosis), flow (substance use) and fawn (appease/please/pacify).

For me, my internal system chose Fight. It saw this vulnerable child and said:

“I will make you distrustful of everything. I will make sure you second guess everyone’s motives and rely only on yourself, the one thing you can count on.” Fight said, “I will make sure you challenge everything. Then I will clear a path that is tested and true, that is safe. You have to show that you’re the smartest in the room, no one will try to trick or manipulate you into danger.”

Fight was very successful at protecting me throughout my childhood and young adulthood. It did such a good job, it stayed full time. Fight became part of my personality, the part of me I led with every time I walked into a room. No one messed with me. Fight didn’t care that people gossiped about me, that people called me difficult, that some thought I was an arrogant jerk. I was safe; that’s all Fight cared about.

But as got older, I cared about so much more than Fight did. I knew I was safe, but Fight didn’t buy it. It kept doing its thing.

I know now Fight isn’t a sustainable way of being. I lost everything. I learned that you can’t be in a relationship and express love when your body is pulsing with mistrust, anger and fear.

The divorce and the destruction of my family life as I knew it plunged me into my healing journey and I had to go back and see where I had picked up Fight as my automatic way of being. I was forced to get to know it. To sit with it. To listen.

It had so much to tell me.

Along the healing path, I came to thank Fight for what it did for me. I forgave it for staying too long and working too hard when it didn’t need to and for hurting people, for hurting me. I can honor Fight for the protection it gives me when I need it. I can call on it, but it doesn’t erupt out of me.

Fight and I now have a relationship, a partnership. It lets me lead more often with different strategies, like wisdom, courage, discernment and intuition.

It’s better that way for me.

It’s better that way for those in my life.

*****

I am often reminded of the people who saw beyond my Fight, who knew that I was in pain and didn’t feel safe.

I try to pay that forward and look past the bravado of the person talking at me; I see that they are trying to protect the vulnerable kid still hurting inside. I see how exhausted the people pleaser is, how they give themselves away not risking rocking the boat. I feel for the quiet person standing in the group who doesn’t want to add their voice for fear of saying the wrong thing and revisiting past humiliations that haven’t been healed. My heart breaks for the person who drinks too much at a social event, seeking oblivion from whatever pain they still hold.

I remind myself that everyone is doing the best they can with the internal strategies they’ve got until they feel safe in time and space, in their own bodies, just as they are.

Take what works, leave the rest.

The Impatient Therapist

In Truth

I said something to a circle of people at a dog park that you’re not supposed to say to a circle of people at a

Read More »

Serving Each Other

I had plans to talk about the Hero’s Journey—I even had references. The Universe had other plans. Impatience was very busy with me this week.

Read More »

Year End

I’ve been reflecting on what to share with you this week and each time I check in with myself, it’s quiet. I’ve been checking in

Read More »

Don’t Miss a Note from Natasha