It was something Julie Ditmar (of True Divine Nature) said in an audio I was listening to this morning that made a piece fall into place. She was talking about a little girl she knows who became suddenly very overwhelmed and fearful of life (preoccupied with mortality and “bad” things happening) and it was because she was empathing all the extreme news that was going on at that time (plus the adult reactions associated with it). Coming into her childhood perspective, what she was tuning into was all too much for her and it made her suddenly very frightened of her own and her parents’ mortality and the state of the world. Luckily, in the way that most children have if the circumstances in their home are loving and supportive, she was over it in a day or so but it shows what super-sensitive children can tune into, even without understanding all the details.
Something about this time of year – and my body’s unhappy reaction to it – had already served to wind my mental clock back the exact 40 years since one of the most memorable Januarys of my childhood. Early 1977 was memorable…not in a nostalgic way…but because it was my first encounter with overwhelm and deep emotional distress. I was nine years old and being bullied non-stop by another girl and her cronies; but that wasn’t all. It was the compound effect of something else I remember, the impression of which is that I remember that time being like I was stuck in a bright yellow room full of screaming, chaotic children and there was no let-up from it. This is because the weather that winter was particularly severe and, at school, we were force to spend many “playtimes” indoors, under those yellow-hued 1970s strip-lights, supposedly reading comics and books…though the reality was that all of these pent-up, over-energised kids would skid around the room screaming at the top of their lungs. To my quiet, introverted sensibility this was almost unbearable and the lack of outside-time (which, unbeknownst to me, I relied upon to recalibrate my stress levels) felt malignant and deadly; making the days drag on and on. When I look back to that time, I find the essence of what I dislike so strongly about this time of year even now…those days when its too cold and sludgy-wet to spend long outdoors, when the sky is slate grey from morn till night and when days spent indoors under electric lights make me feel like my soul aches to be in another season.
Why had I always remembered this time like a milestone of “growing up”, like the end of childhood and the beginning of something far less magical, laced with so much anxiety? I’ve hated overwhelmingly noisy places filled with voice-boom ever since and my loathing of yellow strip lighting (or flourescent lights in general) is extreme plus I can tell you exactly what was in the music charts at that time in my life, with an immediate emotional hit if I hear those songs. With my curiosity piqued further by what Julie had said, I looked-up what was in the news in January to early March 1977 and, there, found an astonishing list. Just for starters, IRA bombs went off in London and were found elsewhere in cities not far from where I lived, a domestic plane crashed in Stockholm, freak snowstorms occurred in Florida, a new and possibly lethal water-borne bacteria was identified, the death penalty was enacted for the first time since its reintroduction in the US, a massacre took place in Spain, an earthquake killed 1500 people, the so called Great Blizzard hit parts of America, two planes crashed in mid air and a hostage situation unfolded in Washington.
These coud be the same kind of headlines that have today’s adults feeling triggered as the world at large acts as though freak weather conditions and political crises are a brand-new invention. Well, no they’re not and revisiting 40 years ago reminded me that we have seen it all – and worse – before. So instead of going into our latest version of overwhelm, perhaps we should concentrate instead on the alarming trend that we just keep giving our power away to these kinds of headlines, giving them priority over the welfare of our children and their right to a childhood devoid of adult-scale trauma. Our wholesale cultural submission to “the news” is the way that we car-park patterns of lasting trauma into our kids even before they can make any rational sense of the information they are turning into.
I heard something else very interesting yesterday and it was that (using a computer an analogy) by the time we reach about 20 years old, we already have around 10 million pre-cognitive commitments (unresolved thoughts including all those mini traumas or fight-or-flight moments from our childhood) left “open” in our psyche like a million computer windows that we forgot to shut down and which are still sitting there on our desktop. Just as we would expect that number of open windows to slow down and seriously affect the performance of our computer, we too are likely to crash sooner or later if we go around year after year with all these unresolved issues left “open” just beneath the surface of our minds. Given the amount of daily trauma we are subjected to via the media – on top of what “real” life might be delivering to us every day – no wonder so many of us crash by the time we reach our fourth or fifth decade. Clearing these parts of our psyche out is a little bit like emptying our computer’s cache and can resolve all manner of operating issues. To do this, we might need to go back and look at what we left open and unresolved many years ago…
In the tiny house of my upbringing, the television was on all the time and was an omnipresent deliverer of “bad news” that lived with us like an additional member of the family since every news program was watched with almost religious attention to detail. I can be quite sure that all the above headlines and more would have been heard by my nine year-old self on both of the available channels of that time, since my parents would switch straight over from the nine o’ clock new to watch the news at ten, not to mention it would have been branded across the tabloid newspapers that they read out over breakfast. Added to the family obsession with the news was the fact that, at that time, my parents would have been in the midst of anxious “discussions” about my father’s imminent early retirement due to his every-worsening heart condition; thus about extreme money worries and their never-ending list of fears of “the worse”. This was not helped by the fact that both my parents were expert worriers, my father to a chronic degree. Perhaps it was a 1970s thing but no effort was made to keep any of these things from me. There was complete subservience, on my parents’ part, to the perspective of the world delivered by the media to the point where I remember suddenly noticing that my parents no longer felt like these all-knowing, all-protective beings any more, which made the bottom fall out of my world around the age I am taking about. I’d like to say that their behaviour is something we have all grown out of since the ’70s but there is still a fundamental lack of sophistication rife in the world that makes people surrender themselves and their circumstances utterly to what they are being fed by “the news”.
So, at an age when the child-psyche starts to step-up its awareness of their broader world, mine was immersed in the worst kind of fears at levels that were global, familial and deeply embedded into the fabric of my school life. Being the kind of child who picked up on every little detail, people’s subtler feelings, the subplots and unspoken vibes of my every environment, these factors must have been like a sledgehammer to finish off the bullying situation that was playing out at school, which already had me jumping out of my skin. At a time when I was just starting to explore the broader environment of my world beyond the family unit, life must have seemed like an affront at every turn. These are the kind of traumas that weave deep into the fabric of our adult selves, calibrating the way we respond to all manner of situations and our very expectations of life years, maybe decades, later if we leave them there where our younger selves have adeptly buried them out of sight.
I share this story party to give voice to the nine year-old self that I find still hiding in the markers of my health long after the emotions of those times have been aired and made peace with. Also because I want to demonstrate how those markers get to be there; and how we can sometimes play them out, year after year, without making the association with their root. Is there a time of year, a set of seasonal circumstances or other prompts that particularly trigger you to the point of overwhelm or relapse? These are the kind of questions that can initiate a delve through the annuls of your life to find the things in common across time which lead back to the very source of feelings that play out in the subconscious long after a current trigger event stopped being present in your day-today world.
The subtlest sensory cues may be the prompts that repeatedly set those old feelings in motion again…but if you can shine some light on their source, and send some love and understanding back to the “you” of those times, great healing can be the result. As well as seeing that original event in all its glory – appreciating what the “you” of back then was subjected to and what they survived (which can bring massive healing all on its own), you could perhaps strive to make the current “offending” circumstances very different to the ones that hold the original wound since you know now what you are dealing with and what renews that sense of unspeakable discomfort in your life. Perhaps you could even delve into the wider circumstances of the trigger event as I did, to see if you can intuit what it was that helped catalyse the deeper trauma that took place. In my own case, its fascinating to watch how, now I’ve opened up this particular seam in my sub-conscious memory, I’ve been able to mine a whole other layer of epiphanies around my belief systems, motivations and stuck points relating to that time in my childhood.
As ever, it is the light of consciousness that heals most powerfully in all these kinds of situation; allowing you to revisit what was only a partial and immaturely-assessed picture of circumstance when it first happened to you “in the past” and bringing a new depth of understanding to it with your current breadth and maturity of awareness.
Stress: The Reason You Need To Clear Your Brain’s Cache – Ziva Mediation (the source of the above computer analogy relating to precognitive committments). Meditation is a powerful way to release unresolved trauma of the kind I have talked about in this post.