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I have this theory that survival mode is essential to so many things that it limits our ability to think, feel, experience, or adapt to much outside of the small window of opportunity that says “Your life depends on this.”
Let me explain:
A young child has a wide array of colors they see, use, can describe and those colors make up many things to them. But, when they have only seen a blue sky during sunset and the sun shows off for them, and they see their first orange sunset it pulls them in to wonder. Sheer, free wonder where they throw everything in them at that experience and welcome it in to move them.
When that same child experiences hurt (trauma of any kind) it does not have a name and it does not have a color. But its energy pulls the young child inward often. It’s like a magnet that says “Think of me. Look. See? I am here.” And when that child looks, because they are overwhelmed and ill-equipped they come up with coping skills that help them escape those feelings, even if for a moment.
That young, innocent (brilliant) child isn’t able to look at their next orange sunset the same way, because the hurt requires so much breath, so much time, energy, and focus. When they go to look up at the sunset, what was previously known as surrender because they loved throwing themselves at the sun’s artwork, is now called restriction, because there is other stuff that needs their time and attention.
Survival mode grows like this child and those restrictions are in place to keep sunsets away and it’s not because that child does not long to see that beauty, but because that sunset provokes something that makes them feel deeply, and right by those feelings is a pain they have ever known how to heal.
Because they were young.
Because they were innocent.
Because they were a child.
And so today, they are overworked and tired, and give so much of themselves and others are trying to remind them they matter and all they can do is beg for other people to not make them feel. They are asking “Please do not remind me of that orange sunset. Please.” Because it hurts to feel like that. It is scary to have uninvited compassion, or unconditional love. What a threat.
One day at a time, you look back to that young child and their experiences and tell them that it is time to let the colors come back, and that when they are afraid of what that feels like you will remind them over and over that their survival is what got you here, and now you want to help them rest.
It matters to a part of us that a simple gesture of being seen feels like someone is threatening us. And to those lonely parts of us, they are. We adapted to survival mode because we had to. But survival mode does not give us breathing room to pause long enough for the sun to invite us to surrender to its offering.
It’s in going back and saying “Thank you for what you did to get by. Trust me to receive this. Trust me to bring this back to us and let good news be true.”
To your mind.
To your body.
To your survival.
To your past self who only knows to protect from further pain.
You have good news for them. Please, go let them know.
I’m so glad you are here!