Adapting after Trauma

Fear is a choice :: Faith is a lifestyle

No matter what comes to pass, trust that you will know what to do and how to handle things. As situations arise that call for your attention, your past experiences will serve as a data bank that informs your decisions and movements.

There is a fine line between being prepared and being preoccupied. Mercury retrograde is Virgo highlights this delineation.

Adaptive and Maladaptive Trauma Respones

As human beings, we learn about our world through the things we experience. When something traumatic has occurred, our brain goes the extra mile to remind us of the importance of the experience. We can feel haunted or caught in a loop (PTSD). This is a mechanism that helps keep us alive in the moment, but over time degrades our overall quality of life.

The collective memory of humanity knows (for the most part) that snakes, heights, spiders, and deep dark spaces are dangerous. In some ways that’s evolution. Another memory in the human condition considers those who look different as a potential threat. Tribal thinking, associating with only those who look like you, many hundreds of years ago, this was likely a healthy habit.

The fear of snakes and heights is still adaptive, even in our modern world.
The fear of those who are different, the xenophobia, is maladaptive in our modern world.

A Healing Journey begins with a Trauma

With events that have occurred in the 2020’s, there are certainly some adaptive and maladaptive responses to the traumas.

As 2020 began and Saturn and Pluto came together in Capricorn, a deep level of the collective unconscious (Pluto) took form (Saturn). The events struck deep fear into humanity about their ability to survive and thrive. Whether someone was scared about being sick, losing a loved one, losing their ability to travel freely, losing their ability to keep their job, their house. People were scared that they would have to take part in a medical experiment… a fate, for many, far worse than getting sick. People worldwide began understanding that they could not trust their elected or appointed officials. Many began to understand that they could not trust their doctors or even their neighbors.

This was a major turning point in human history, one that we are still recovering from.

There was simply no escaping this collective transit. Even if you tried to live in the woods and never got sick at all, it touched you.

The virus infected our minds as much as our lungs.

A Snake and a Virus

In early May of 2023, I was bitten by a rattlesnake while backpacking in the Grand Canyon (See the highlights HERE). Luckily for me, it caused no serious damage to my body. It was a really scary time and I was concerned I could lose a leg or worse. Since then, I really haven’t been hiking so much. I felt timid to walk near grasses and was apprehensive about what would lurk under a rock or behind a tree. Just recently, I have been getting back out and doing the things I love, and it has felt both exhilrating and exhausting.

Is there a chance that a rattlesnake could bite me again? Of course! However, in my life I have covered thousands of miles and never been bit before. In addition, on that trip, I was moving very fast in an area highly populated with rattlers, wasn’t paying close attention because the scenery was so beautiful, and was hiking during rattler peak season.

My adaptive response to this event is that I am paying very close attention to all of these factors. I am watching even more closely for signs of snakes as I walk. I now know what to do if I or anyone around me were ever bit.

My maladaptive response is to appropriate the same level of fear and anxiety I experienced when I was bit, to every hike I take. To think that snakes are at every step. To consider the outdoors a place that is literally just waiting to kill me (to some extent this true, but ya know what I mean).

When I was bit by the snake, I didn’t have time or space to process what had just happened, I was 15+ miles and 4000′ of elevation from the rim of the canyon, I had to focus on surviving. For the few months after returning, I had a hard time with my daily life. I didn’t talk about it too much, but it really effected me. My nervous system was ‘jacked up’ and focus was very hard to come by. As a writer, healer, teacher and astrologer, this was not good for my business. I slept a lot more and did what I can, but wow did I struggle.

I hope that the parallels between the collective response to the Covid and my experience with mister snakey snake are helpful. These were both experiences that had us surviving as opposed to thriving. As humanity got on with activities, healing is piecemeal and many are still living in that traumatized state.

We were scared. On many levels, we are still in that fight / flight / freeze / fawn response. It is easy to see the ‘same thing’ developing again. That is not negotiable, it was traumatic for all of us, even if not in the same fashion. Regardless of what you fear in the future or remember from the past, try to parse out the adaptive and maladaptive responses to the situation. All the while, recognize when your nervous system is reactively charging you with adrenaline, and take control as much as you can. It can be as easy as taking a deep breath or might require you to make a phone call to a trusted friend.

Just because I am no longer being bitten by a snake, doesn’t mean that my body has stopped responding to that life threatening event. Just because there isn’t an all out war on freedom of movement and bodily autonomy, doesn’t mean that people aren’t still feeling attacked. Just because the various ‘strains’ of a virus are less intense, doesn’t mean that people are feeling calm and as if things have gotten better. Ya just never know.

Find what is adaptive, and feel pride that you have learned to be safer for yourself. Find what is maladaptive and DO SOMETHING about the way it effects YOU and OTHERS.

A helpful hint :: maladaptive stress responses are the ones that have us asking other people to help US feel safe. Adaptive ones are those that have us taking better care of OURSELVES.

A final note for balance :: no matter where you stand on the spectrum of response to these events, everyone has a right to their experience, honor that and feel the power of being able to take care of your own needs.

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