Moving from Fear to Growth: Navigating Collective Trauma
Have you seen this chart that’s been making the rounds?
When I first saw it, I thought “Yes. We always have a choice in how we respond.”
Yes, AND, it’s extremely problematic.
If we could simply make up our minds, we’d all choose to abide 24-7 in the light blue sweetness of the Growth Zone, safely insulated from fear and anger and grief and all the other messy emotions. (See how tidy it is? And how self-satisfied we’d get to feel?)
But that’s not how it works.
At the risk of stating the patently obvious, we’re all collectively living through a major traumatic event.
And the chart can be a little shamey of those who perhaps have very good reasons to be in the Fear Zone: losing our income, health insurance, health itself, and people we know, as well as pretty much life as we know it, for an indefinite period of time, is some scary shit.
So I’d like to invoke another meme to remind you — especially if you’ve been “shoulding” on yourself, that:
It’s 100% OK to not be in any kind of “go mode” right now.
To move at the speed of your body.
It’s OK to just stop and feel whatever feeling.
Want to move to the Growth band?
We can’t get there without tending to ourselves with care. This starts with giving ourselves permission to feel whatever we’re feeling.
This is not what I was doing last week as I threw myself into learning which herb protocols that were used in China and South Korea to help people with Covid-19, establishing new systems to convert my practice to telemedicine, crafting new coaching offers, pushing myself to be of maximal service, all of this while battling a wicked kidney infection.
It finally hit me at 11:00 PM, 30 minutes after I had supposedly gone to bed, when I found myself urgently putting avocados and oranges in the refrigerator so they wouldn’t ripen too quickly, that I realized I was in the midst of a trauma response.
Some of us go hyperfunctional. Some of us get paralyzed. Neither is better than the other. Both indicate that there’s some emotional tending that needs to happen.
The next day I slowed down. I cried. I let myself feel the fear, the rage at how this is all being handled, the powerlessness, the heartbreak, and let myself be a person.
Paradoxically, the way to get to the Growth zone is to be willing to spend time in the Fear Zone (or the “feeling zone.”)
What’s required is allowing whatever’s coming up to move through you — a task that’s made infinitely harder when we’re judging ourselves (perhaps from the smug comfort of the light blue zone).
To make the chart more accurate, I suggest tearing it up, throwing the pieces up in the air, and allowing them to flit down snow-globe style.
Because being in the Growth Zone requires regular and frequent trips back into feelings, and it doesn’t mean you’re regressing: it means you’re being responsible.
Creating a space to feel can be as simple as pausing when the feelings arise, and allowing. Journaling, meditating, taking media-free walks in nature (if you have access to that) can all help create that container to feel what there is to feel.
Some questions to consider* in those settings, which transcend all the zones:
1) What am I feeling? (emotionally and physically)
2) What am I needing?
4) What can I do to take care of myself?
5) What am I learning?
5) How can I help someone else?
6) What am I ready to leave behind after this is over?
Our ability to access empathy and love depends on our ability to be real with and respond to ourselves, with care. Now more than ever, we’re in this together.
Please take exquisitely good care of yourself. I’m here for you.
P.S. I just learned that I’m allowed to provide telemedicine for anyone residing in Oregon (not just existing patients). I’ve already supported a handful of people through Covid or Covid-esque presentations.
P.P.S. Looking for a way to boost your “protective qi?” Check out this 3-minute video of a simple breathing exercise that can help.
*shout-out to Rachael Weber for suggesting a few of these on a recent course member call