A few months ago,
I was crossing the street just a block from my apartment. It was a busy intersection with a four-way stop. In San Francisco, everyone is always in a hurry. Always. You can feel drivers ready to pounce on their gas pedals before you, a pedestrian in a crosswalk, ever get across the street. Oftentimes, they don’t wait. Sometimes, they drive right through the crosswalk with you in it. In these circumstances, as someone with early trauma, I’ve tended to jump and startle very easily if a car suddenly pulls toward me and I am unprotected in the crosswalk.
So on this afternoon as I entered into the crosswalk and got about a quarter of the way across, a driver pulled out and immediately began turning toward the crosswalk to make a left turn through it and she did so by punching the gas, meaning she came toward me suddenly. I am always very aware crossing the street, but I did not expect this and I startled so much that I froze in the crosswalk, which led to her lurching to a stop. I just stood there trying to take in what was happening. Freezing is one way of coping with something currently happening that is traumatic, as well as an ingrained pattern from old trauma in the body.
As I stood there with a look of fear on my face,
the woman driving the car got very impatient with me and proceeded to shake her head at me trying to get me to move so she could go through. I was standing there for five seconds at the most and then I started walking again heading to the other side of the road as the driver accelerated through the crosswalk shouting something at me as she drove by.
When I got to the other side of the street and onto the sidewalk, I stopped and noticed my heart was racing and tears were forming in my eyes. My body was responding to this moment as if it was back in the earlier trauma decades ago. I had to ‘unfreeze’ before I could continue walking.
I recently read a quote that spoke to how traumatizing our current culture is. I don’t think we have to look far to see this, especially for those of us living where I live in the U.S. And in this climate if we’ve had any previous trauma at all and haven’t processed that trauma all the way through, we are going to be triggered over and over again. They don’t have to be big triggers. They come out of the blue, which is why they often remind us of the initial trauma. And the way we respond is the way our inner protector responded when the initial trauma happened. This trauma response is our own protection mechanism.
I used to get frustrated with myself.
Now, I no longer do. That all changed one day as I was walking to yoga and I realized (not coming out of the blue really, but rather coming out of an earlier meditation session) that the fierce protection my psyche established was a deep form of love, perhaps the deepest love one’s being can have for itself. I could ‘see’ that my psyche protected itself from fully experiencing the traumatic event(s) by freezing – by doing what I did in that crosswalk. This was an incredible response of love. When I saw this, I could feel love flood my body. Realizing how much you’ve loved yourself is an incredible thing to witness and feel.
When trauma stays stuck in the body, the inner protector of the psyche continues to use the same method(s). And even if we outgrow them (I didn’t really need to freeze in the crosswalk), the protector still uses them until we do whatever work it takes to heal the trauma and allow the trauma cycle to complete.
When trauma is alive in the body, the inner protector is providing a huge loving service to one’s being. If you know this is happening within your being, turn to your protector and give it love and gratitude for how it is working so hard to keep you ‘safe’. Just this will shift things. Not because you are trying to shift them, but because you are actively loving the way you set yourself up to navigate the world while also stuck in a trauma cycle.
When we love things fully and wholly as they are within us – without trying to fix, change, or get rid of them – love moves and heals what is within us.
I have since moved much of that trauma out and I am different. I’m not as jumpy and I have a lot of energy freed up. But I am who I am because I have been through certain traumas, just as you are who you are because of the experiences you have had.
The reason I am sharing this story is to highlight the incredible power of love and what happens when we meet everything we discover within us with love. Pure love that pushes nothing away, that doesn’t try to fix or get rid of, that simply welcomes, holds, and lovingly embraces.
What if you were to have unconditional love for the way your own consciousness responded to what you experienced during the years of your psyche’s formation? Consciousness does what it needs to do to protect itself.
Sometimes we get so frustrated with how we get in our own way, but what if that getting in your own way is actually your protector trying to keep you safe? What if you love it fiercely and thank it for what it has done for you? Do it and watch what unfolds.
Our psyches really do know how to return to love and wholeness.