I get so many emails these days from a variety of sourcesthat it is hard to pick the ones that deserve to be read from those that waste my time. I’m sure you can relate. Yesterday, however, I actually opened one that turned out to have some very simple advice relative to addressing fear. It was an article on PTSD and how individuals who have symptoms may not react in the same way as those who do not. The end result may be that because of their reactions, they may end up being retraumatized from events that otherwise would not impact someone else at all.
The story that they related was of two women who were in Central Park in New York, seated on a bench after a conference. They had their suitcases with them because they had checked out of their hotel and were waiting to catch a shuttle a little while later to the airport. It was obvious from the suitcases that they were not locals. As they were sitting there, a man came up and told them that they had guns in his pocket and that the women were to turn over all their valuables to him. The first women went into fight or flight mode: she got up, kneed the guy in the groin, and when he started running away, she took off after him, carrying her suitcase with her and yelling for assistance. The second woman remained paralyzed with fear on the bench. Following the incident, the first woman showed no continuing signs of the trauma; the second woman, however, was visibly shaken, and continued to demonstrate signs of PTSD. It turns out that she had had previous significant trauma in her life, and that this event acted as a trigger to reactivate her symptoms.
The normal human response to attack is usually to fight or to run. Our bodies gear up, we have adrenalin racing through our blood streams, our pulse shifts into high gear,and we direct our energies away from the brain into the muscles that are going to need to react. However, when one has PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – one is likely to respond in a different pattern entirely, either as an over-reaction of fight or flight, and potentially becoming paralyzed and unable to do either.
An individual in this paralyzed situation is well aware of their inability to move and probably also aware that sitting still is probably not a good option, but they are powerless on their own to do differently. According to authorities who work regularly with PTSD sufferers, the best thing that this person can do for themselves is to physically get up and move. The movement helps to dislodge the inertia and helps to override the paralysis. It can also help to minimize the longterm impact of the event as it doesn’t have the chance to settle in to the existing pattern of paralysis and reinforce it.
Movement in this situation is a new habit that needs to be supported and reinforced so that it becomes possible without intense concentration. And the sufferer needs ongoing reinforcement either from others or from cues they leave themselves so that they can engage in movement at those times that paralysis seems to be setting in. Movement re-establishes the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body and to the brain disrupting thefight/flight/paralysis response. And while it may not be intuitive for the sufferer to move, after a couple of tries they are likely to begin seeing the benefit.
More information on PTSD and treatmentfor similar disorders can be found at: http://www.nicabm.com