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  • Writer's pictureGavin Conochie

Kicking the Can Further Down the Road

Many of our trauma responses are, in effect, the actions of the nervous system kicking the impact of a traumatic event further down the road for us to deal with later.

In the face of an overwhelming life event or situation, highly effective defensive strategies kick in, pulling on resources available to us in our physiology - like freeze and dorsal collapse - to bind the high-intensity charge of feelings like terror, overwhelm, shame, and helplessness - and keep them contained, so that the rest of us can carry on functioning without being continually compromised.

While this serves very well to help us survive what could otherwise be a disabling experience, what it also means, psychologically, is that we are projecting a sense of threat into the future. We are expecting, often unconsciously, to come face to face with the original trauma at some point, so we keep kicking the can further down the road in order to avoid a confrontation we fear will be beyond our capacity to cope with.

The irony, of course, is that the more we do this, the more a sense of apprehension grows. And the more apprehensive we feel, the deeper the system goes into freeze in order to try and manage our anxiety. We become caught in a self-perpetuating loop.

Increasingly, the future comes to feel like a place of foreboding, something that we would rather avoid or not think about too much... or something we can only contemplate in terms of escapist and unrealistic fantasies.

Resolution comes through slowly bringing ourselves out of freeze and into contact with the underlying feelings. Through this process, we also begin to reconnect with our essential life force - which has been suppressed alongside with everything else through the process of freeze - and this, in turn, supports us in building capacity to keep meeting the deeper layers of charge and activation in the system.

By working with the cognitive distortions that are projecting a sense of danger into the future, we come to realise over time that the thing we fear most has in fact already happened, and that - whilst events may have had a profound impact on us - we have survived.

At last, we come to a place where we can start to make peace with what the future holds for us. In letting go of some of the doom-mongering we have previously been driven by, we also come to recognise that the compensatory fantasies we have been harbouring - which may include rather ungrounded imaginings of future success, acclaim, or safety - need to be released in favour of something more realistic and more in line with the person we are now.

© The Art Of Embodiment 2022

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