A Message About Human Response To This Pandemic.
Each of us is a unique individual; each with an entirely unique history which combines with a unique personality and belief system to create our individuality. We learn from our past how to understand and react to our present.
When we have had painful experiences in the past we have learnt from that, and we use the knowledge gained then to keep us safe now. We can call that an adaptation, a protective behaviour or belief, a defense.
But we could also consider them super powers. It was our way of keeping ourselves safe, even when we didn’t know that’s what we were doing. What a gift from ourselves to ourselves!
These adaptations that we make, in response to our painful learning, keep us safe. Often we carry on clinging to these adaptations, relying on them, long after the danger that they are protecting us from has faded away. Because they work. We are safe now, and maybe it is this adaptation, or protective behaviour or belief, that is keeping us safe. Why let go of it now, why risk it? Although we are safe, we remain vigilant, and when we perceive a threat our adaptation springs into action. To keep us safe.
And, remember, that every unique individual’s adaptation is a complex mixture of their learned experiences, personality, and beliefs. So everyone’s protective super power looks slightly different.
In this current period of fear and uncertainty of course we are perceiving a threat. Many threats. All the time, everywhere. And there are very few places we can go without being reminded of those threats, nowhere feels really and truly safe. We, and the people around us, have all been stuck in this position for a very long time. We are hypervigilant and perceiving threats.
So our adaptations are triggering all over the place. We are all just doing what we can to keep ourselves safe using our superpowers. And because of our individual complex mixture of learned experiences, personalities and beliefs we are all doing that in different ways. Maybe some make more sense to you than others, and that’s ok. Maybe some seem more effective to you, and that’s partly because what looks and feels safe is different for everybody.
There is also a lot of common ground, when it comes to utilising our protective mechanisms. When we, human beings, perceive a threat, we ALL have some responses the same. We do not consciously control these. They are hardwired into our biology, and then filtered through our individualities, so they come out slightly different each time.
Some of the threat responses we might notice, in ourselves and in others, may be raised heart rate, taking quicker shallower breaths, and tense muscles. Perhaps you recognise this combination of feelings as anxiety? If we are in this threat response for a sustained period of time, without taking action (eg fight or flight), then we exhaust ourselves and can become overwhelmed and unable to take action (eg frozen).
You may also notice that you find it harder to think as logically and speak as eloquently as you are used to, and maybe concentrating is harder than before. Perhaps you are finding it easier to fall into obsessive and/or compulsive thought and behaviour patterns? Feeling really tired and struggling to feel motivated at all? These are all normal ways to respond to a perceived threat. Congratulations on your humanness and your ability to keep yourself safe.
Whilst we are all employing our unique super powers to help us to feel safe and to survive this confusing and frightening time we are all coping in different ways. It is likely that we don’t always understand the way that other people are behaving or thinking. We may not have the right words to express our own thoughts and actions.
That’s ok, it’s normal. Just, maybe, try to give yourselves and everyone else a break.
I'd love to know, if you'd like to share, how you're doing at the moment? Are you noticing your protective super power working overtime? what does that look like for you?