Monday, August 18, 2014

Acting On Stimuli For Trauma

Harmless enough phone calls - even a pleasant transactional 20-second interaction - can evoke a fear response if we are sensitive to our own complexities for previous trauma. Receiving a business call from a friend and mentor came to remind me of the power of a relatively recent punitive experience, where some few years ago now I was more than casually affected by a passive aggressive manager (in the secular work environment).

The particular manager was always hard to read and difficult to get to know. He was distant and always seemed to communicate the harder truths by email. He isolated me and gave me work that was unimportant. 
He never expressed empathy that I was able to see. I grew depressed by the situation, though it took me eighteen months to finally realize why I was regularly sad, fearful and irritable. Amazingly, it was the very same day that I finally acknowledged this manager's effect on me - and my unhealthy responses to his management style - my wife was thinking the same thing ("My husband needs help."). I sought help and the rest is history.

One of the side effects of being bullied is we get ingrained in a pattern of trauma - our brains begin to detect we are in danger and the flight, fight and freeze responses are regularly enabled ready for action or inaction.

These patterns of learned behavior tend to stick, and then we cannot help but revisit them - even unconsciously.

During this above mentioned phone call it was suggested that a change to the plan for a business meeting take place - that another party be added. The change to the plan, I believed, at least initially, was a positive change that worked in my and our favor. But within seconds I could detect resistance - "what if it's a trick?" - within me. The logical part of me, thankfully, was one-hundred-and-ten percent trusting and, seconds later, I was able to acknowledge the fear response for what it was.

The fear response is a learned response.

The fear response, however, is not always identified. Sadly, we can find ourselves reacting in fear, when the better response would be to check the thought with a logical plumb line.
But that assumes the thought is brought to conscious awareness.

We can only do something with negative and fearful thoughts if they come to our awareness. Most of the time, however, we can be brought to the cusp of a panic attack when our awareness is heightened around an instance of trauma.

1 comment:

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