Realizing that other people can think and feel differently from us is a huge developmental step for two- and three-year olds.
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Without flexible, active frontal lobes people become creatures of habit, and their relationships become superficial and routine.
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The more intense the visceral, sensory input from the emotional brain, the less capacity the rational brain has to put a damper on it.The Body Keeps the Score, Chapter: Running for Your Life: The Anatomy of Survival, Page 59-60
When I was three, I had an attack that left me paralyzed for days. When that memory returned to me as an adult, it almost paralyzed me again. My emotional brain overtook my rational brain.
That’s where the boxing match began.
As the sensory memory returned to me, my mind was being forced to remember that I had been trapped under the weight of my mother’s body. I’d already been raped by my father and it was now her turn. The memory of having no breathe and no ability to fight back made my brain and body believe I was going to end up dead.
As that memory played out as an adult, I found myself wanting to become a prisoner to it. I felt like I had to surrender to the fear in that moment.
During this time, my husband and I booked a trip to raft down the Deschutes River. I’d been dealing with this memory for about a year and wanted a momentary escape. What a grand time of exploration and new experience this rafting trip would bring – I thought.
When we arrived they loaded us into vans. I was one of the first that jumped in the van. As people were filling in the spaces around me, I was caught up in a spell of the past. The wind of panic gripped me and I no longer saw the real people around me. My mind’s eye replaced them with images of my father, mom and their friend. I could only see those three lunging at me and I could feel the overwhelming suffocation of the room grabbing at me.
I seriously thought I was going to lose my shit!
I grabbed my husband’s arm and told him I was not okay. There was no way I was getting out of that van without a huge disturbance to everyone and making myself look the fool. Internally, I started screaming out to God for help. Then, I used my rational mind and created a fake bubble around myself. I pretended that I had more space around me then I did. I got through that moment but it weighted the day with darkness and I was up all that night.
Multiple times through the breaking down of that memory, the terror of being trapped tried to find an anchor in my soul. I could not give into it. I knew if I gave in, it would stay with me my entire life. Forever it would curse, if I let it win.
I should be forever wrapped in claustrophobic fear, but I am not.
When I drove to work and had to park under the building, I felt fear encroaching, telling me I would be buried alive. When I got out of my car and walked to the elevator, panic gripped me and told me if I got in that elevator I would suffocate. Time and time again fear called to me. Time and time again, I resisted.
Each time fear tried to conqueror me, I had to fight it. Even if that meant passing out until I won, I got into the elevator. When I heard the building was going to fall around me, I continued on.
I was beginning to understand that important developmental steps in my little three-year-old mind had not yet been fully formed. That progress was thwarted until I picked up and continued the process as an adult. I had to train myself with God’s strength and guidance, a great counselor and wonderful self-help books.
I am not the creature of the habits my parents instilled in me. My relationships are far from superficial. I have learned to enjoy boxing with my fears because it is the only way I can overcome them.