Defining Your Trauma Tale
How would you react if you opened your fridge door and a mountain lion roared in your face, swiping its claws at your eyes?
Just like the mountain lion, your subconscious survival reaction likely activates and you utter a gasp or shriek.
If you’re resilient, your grip on the fridge door handle tightens with the shock of the situation before you forcibly close the fridge door. Only then can you run for your life?
Would you even try to run away to escape? Perhaps you might freeze on the spot? Would you become terrified of returning to the fridge again?
On some level and scale, we all experience trauma in our lifetime.
Navigating your trauma tale is challenging because you aren’t born with resilience. This is a skill you develop throughout life. Resilience is gained as you explore your feelings associated with experiences — those challenges you faced. You reflect and assess all of the thoughts, feelings and emotions that come with your survival response.
In order to undertake this exploration, you need to feel safe.
Certain experiences can be so significant that your resources for coping and responding are insufficient. When this happens, you lack the ability to respond at that moment when you open the fridge to the mountain lion. There’s no conscious choice, there’s only survival reaction.
Your trauma tale is the collation of thoughts and feelings paired with sensory data that get reactivated from that past experience. Your trauma tale is your subconscious survival reaction, that you reactivate over and over and over again until you’ve built the resilience to feel safe once more.
This is a hard-wired neurological subconscious response.
I adopted the phrase, there’s a mountain lion in my fridge, from a post I
read in a social media group for breast cancer patients. It felt so relevant
to me when I was undergoing my own treatment.
Nowadays, everyone in the clinic understands the metaphor when I describe how your stress response works in relation to that mountain lion. You see we all have a mountain lion in our fridge.
A mountain lion can look and sound like a cancer diagnosis. It may look
like the experience of a miscarriage. The death of a parent. Being made
redundant at a job where the boss was bullying you and he got demoted
but they still got rid of you.
The sight of the mountain lion’s teeth, as it hisses, can feel like a handsy parish priest at youth camp. Claw marks from that mountain lion can feel like a friend who took their own life.
Scars from the mountain lion’s scratch can feel like being in a car that
rolls and crashes into a tree, leaving you bruised and concussed and your
friend was thrown out the windshield. The fear of opening the door to the
fridge again can feel like a partner who yells at you because he is in pain
with a spinal injury.
A mountain lion jumping out of your fridge can even feel like being trapped inside your home during a pandemic lockdown.
I had a mountain lion in my fridge.
This beast has matured and calmed as I navigated my own trauma tale. Through my personal and professional experiences, I now understand this creature. I recognise the mountain lion is wild and will never be tame, yet it is part of me.
My response to the mountain lion in my fridge represents how I learnt to respond rather than react to life. I have learnt through these experiences about how to tame the mountain lion.
You can’t change what has happened in the past, but you can change your subconscious stress reaction to it.
Your trauma tale is the accumulation of your reactions to stress from
either a very significant event or exposure to long-term stress. It is your
associated reactive stress response to the mountain lion.
Gaining knowledge of your trauma tale and why you perpetuate certain reactive behaviours opens the door to discovering ways to feel like you’re tethered to a safe place.
Only when you feel safe can you begin your healing journey? It’s common to only start delving into your trauma tale once you’ve reached an almost breaking point. It’s at this point that your motivation for change and feeling different is elevated.
Karen Humphries is a Change Facilitator. She is a qualified Kinesiology Practitioner, Health & Business Coach, LEAP & NES Practitioner, Intuitive Meditation Facilitator, Clinical Hypnotherapist, and published author. She is a self-confessed laughaholic. She loves being of service to the world with her humorous and positive approach to life, encouraging people to ‘choose to change and bloom from within.’