Recently I was rear-ended. Fortunately, my trusty Subaru absorbed most of the impact, so the physical damage to my body wasn’t too bad. Two weeks later a series of earthquakes shook southern CA. What I rely on as solid ground rolled as if I was on a ship at sea.
These events have forced me to confront once again how fragile we are. Those of us encased in big cars, and larger houses, fortified by all kinds of insurance, may think of ourselves as somehow invincible, perhaps more protected than those living on the street. When it comes to life events, like natural disasters – or aging – none of us escape. In the end, we are all simply human.
My initial response to the accident was shock. Numb enough to not feel any pain and take care of the logistical details, I gathered information from the other driver, contacted my insurance company, and drove my car to my auto repair shop. I also took remedies for my body and called my acupuncturist and my coach.
As the shock wore off, I hit the next layer – trauma and pain. My mind kept replaying the sight of the Chevy truck bearing down on me, and my back started to seize up. At first, I didn’t want to leave my home, let alone drive a rental car. With the support of my team of healers, and using some of the skills I teach my clients, I was able to release the immediate trauma and go back into the world.
Just as I was beginning to regain my ground and drive without tightening my neck and back, the earthquake hit. Even though I was miles from the epicenter and safe, it shook my fragile sense of stability. Now I find I’m super sensitive to sound and movement, and my balance is off. Writing this while sitting in a café, I feel bombarded by people’s voices and the swoosh of cars passing by.
This increased sensitivity to sound recently triggered a memory of myself as an infant in my crib. I remember the sound of yelling through the walls and crying myself to sleep. When someone finally comes in to wake me and change my diaper, their touch is harsh, and they nearly drop me. In the present time I can recognize how this early memory, which became ingrained in my nervous system, has been reactivated by these recent events.
Apparently, it’s time for me to heal another level of this early childhood wound. Drawing on my internal support, and awareness tools I’ve cultivated over decades, I allow myself to re-experience the terror that was too much for my infant self to feel, invite the feelings to pass through, and release the trauma. There is a sense of relief and I feel more solid.
I wonder, how do people with PTSD manage? What is it like to live in a war zone, surrounded by the sound of gunfire, or in a tent underneath the 405 freeway? Why do some children who are emotionally abused grow up to become emotionally healthy adults, while others turn to addiction and self-harm?
I think one key is resiliency. When we can cultivate that, we have the capacity to recover, heal and thrive – even from the most unspeakable trauma. And how do we cultivate that? With guidance. Guidance can come in many ways: Through a connection to God or Higher Power, a relationship with a trusted therapist, healer, teacher or coach, or perhaps a tool like Human Design. Sometimes it emerges through writing, song, dancing, or sitting still.
For me, even as a small child, I found that source of guidance in nature. When I was climbing trees or lying in the grass with my dog, I connected with a loving Being that was bigger than myself and my circumstances. I believe that Being held me until I had the resources to seek help from others. And Being continues to hold me steady when the world shakes me up.
How do you cultivate resiliency? What do you do to reconnect with the truth of who you are, so you can be vibrantly alive? How do you embrace your humanity and thrive as the fullest expression of your authentic self?