In Defense of Defenses

We know through therapies such as Somatic Experience that our brains work to help our nervous system rev up or slow down based on what is happening in our environment.  The problem is that sometimes our brains (more specifically our brain stems) can’t always differentiate between real or perceived threat.  So whether you are running from a bear or simply running late for work, your brain may not know the difference and will instead simply assume your very survival is at risk.

Through trauma (and not just our biology) parts of our brain can go offline and leave us feeling as if we have to be on constant alert.  These parts (think fight, flight, freeze, or fawn here) can actually stay offline a lot of the time…even after the danger has passed.  We can become angry and want to fight, we may have anxiety attacks because we are worried about what happens next, or we can become highly dissociative.  The only reason these defenses are not working any longer (and actually can make things really difficult for that matter) is because we don’t actually need them the way we once did.

Think about it.  There may have been a time where you had to fight to stay safe, or a time where your anxiety kept you constantly looking for the escape route you so desperately needed.  And for many of us, dissociation actually helped us flee unthinkable abuse or assault.  These parts, once adaptive, are only now maladaptive because we did such an amazing job changing our environment.

Stop beating yourself up for still having offline defenses and remember that trauma is a brain injury.  Your brain is healing and defense parts (your brain stem) will catch up if you take the necessary steps to reset your nervous system, process out your traumas, and learn how to calm your brain through either mindfulness or meditation.

Remember to be kind to yourself and to your brain for always working to help you survive, heal, and find the safety you need to grow far beyond anything that happened.




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