Even if we have not faced outright trauma of growing in a turbulent/abusive family or facing wars, our bodies have gotten used to entering fight, flight, freeze and fawn states of nervous system. Evolution created these states of our nervous system to protect us from snakes/tigers. The problem is that without active ways to release stress stored in our body & mind, we get stuck in these modes. We can respond to everything as if we are under attack and we can become increasingly anxious or panicky, especially as we become older. And we are in panic or anxious, we can’t offer skillful response to crisis in our personal, social or political lives.
Ongoing ecological, social & political traumas also keep us hyper-activated. Our primal helplessness, grief or anger kicks in when we hear new around coronavirus rates, police violence or climate crisis. Or experience vicarious trauma of watching refugee kids face dehumanizing experiences. Our bodies get consumed in fight and flight and we can forget our ancestral resilience.
Personal, family, social & ecological traumas interact with and reinforce each other. We all carry these subconscious burdens in our muscles and neurological systems which blocks our creativity. We keep acting as if there is a tiger in front of us and our body remains activated to run as fast as possible and/or to become a frozen camouflaged chameleon.
When in fight/flight/freeze or fawn, left & right parts of our brains aren’t integrated. Simplistically, left brain thinks/executes whereas right brain feels and connects. In these states of mind, our responses to personal & political situations are not integrated. Either rationality or basic need to connect with other beings go missing. We can’t hear or take apt action. The way to calm our neuro-biology & integrate two parts of our brain is to relax and activate right parts of our vagus nerve (also called “soul nerve”).
Integration and healing starts with being in an emphatic atmosphere, slowing down, breathing deep, giving body a chance to face and then release grief/anger/anxiety. We feel safe in the moment when we feel heard and when we feel we can belong. When this sense of emotional safety is combined with ways to directly activate soul nerve, amazing unburdening of body can occur. Soul nerve is activated by taking long breaths (especially exhalations) from our abdomen, making primal sounds together (including but not limited to singing), moving our bodies and eyes in ways that release stress and by somatically realizing that we are safe.
Even when some of us attend/lead regular meditation retreats to reorient our nervous systems, there is something extremely healing about grieving and angering as a community. It helps to know we’re not alone in our personal, social or ecological grief.
External triggers won’t go away easily but our reaction to what is happening can & must change. Whenever we get to embrace and release grief and anger stuck in our bodies, we can unearth love and our creative resilience! It takes courage to allow vulnerability but vulnerability unlocks even more courage!