Lillian, one of our co-founders, likes to say that we were really dropped into an unfair setup in this reality we call life. Our bodies are evolutionary programmed and trained to do one main thing: survive. Everything the body experiences is put into two categories: will this thing kill me? Or is it safe? This kind of binary operating system was really useful when humans were vying to survive in raw landscapes with lions and tigers. However, in this modern world, the body’s mechanics to take us into fight, flight or freeze, really get twisted up into the daily lives we live in community at large.
With training, it is possible to create sovereignty in your emotional experience, such that no matter what happens in the world around you, you are creating your emotional setpoint from an internal locus of control. This practice happens by transcending the body’s emotional reaction loop. The place that we begin in this body of work, is to look at and train survival emotions. The fight, flight, or freeze responses are the ones that can pull our mentality offline and drag us around in a reaction state. Being able to resolve these emotions thoroughly and completely, is the first step to emotional regulation.
It is important from here to address trauma and what it is.
A trauma occurs when we experience something that is overwhelming to our system and sets off the fight, flight or freeze response at a level higher than 10. It is something we “can’t compute” or can’t understand. Something so scary, sad, stressful, or guilt laden, that we have to compartmentalize it away in order to feel safe moving forward. This strategy of compartmentalizing is wonderful because it allows us to continue to be high functioning individuals. Something terrible happened, but because we have a coping strategy, we are able to still go to work, make our phone calls, pick the kids up from school, go to that dinner party, and smile and have a good time.
What is happening in the meantime where that trauma is compartmentalized, is that it is alive and well, looping outside of our current experience, waiting to be addressed. It’s almost as if the version of ourselves that was 3, 10, or 23 years old when this event happens gets frozen in time, waiting for resolution. At Mindlight we call this the “echo”, the part of you who is partitioned off.
We then spend the rest of our lives protecting this part of ourselves from every feeling hurt again in the same way. You can think of this like an evolutionary survival strategy. But it’s a lot of work to go around your daily life protecting yourself from daily occurrences or people who resemble the scary thing that happened. In Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, he talks about this like having a thorn in your arm, and then wearing armour on that arm to protect the thorn, and then having to build bigger doors in your house so you can pass through with your armour, and a special bed so you can sleep with armour on comfortably. A lot of energy gets spent building a world of protection.
Why do we build up so much protection? Because if we come into contact with anything that reminds of that scary time, it really hurts. This is known as “getting triggered.” Getting triggered is the act of a a compartmentalized trauma getting poked, and it coming back online in your body as a very painful reminder of the experience.
Often when we have someone in our life who exhibits the behavior of getting triggered, we see it as a character trait flaw. In reality, this is not their personality, this is a protection mechanism that is coming from a very primal survival place. When someone is triggered, it is as if they are back into the psyche of the version of them that got emotionally hurt, however old they were, and they can’t see past the reaction.
In the video above, Devyn shares that she was able to resolve a trauma in one, hour and a half long Mindlight coaching session that she had been working on in therapy for eight years. What makes a Mindlight session different from therapy is the orientation our techniques have to efficient, lasting results.
In Devyn’s share, she talks about how, before her trauma was resolved, she could be at the grocery store shopping, and if someone bumped into her, it was enough to send her into a panic attack. Once she worked with a professional to address her trauma, suddenly, there was no chance of that happening. The thing that was available to be triggered, was no longer there, and she didn’t need to wear armour and protect herself on a daily basis from experiences that reminded her of what once happened.
At Mindlight, our practitioners are trained to very gently and completely resolve a trauma. The art that we take very seriously is managing the pace by which we approach it, while always keeping the nervous system of our client safe. In Resma Menakam’s book “My Grandmother’s Hands,” he refers to resolving this kind of trauma as feeling “clean pain.” We let the body feel the feelings it wanted to feel in that big overwhelming moment, while skillfully keeping the mind at a distance from the actual event. In this way, the stored emotion can be processed out, without ever having to relive anything.
When a trauma inside you is resolved, it is such a gift. Where there was once pain, fear, anger, sadness, there is then: peace, neutrality, openness. There is space to create something new; anything new. What you may have been experiencing inside yourself as a character flaw, has been released. There is no more emotional holding or protecting. And from this place of freedom you can begin to act and behave the way you want. Perhaps with more confidence, more ease, more internal control. And that’s really what this is all about. Internal sovereignty. It is your life to design the way you want it; it is your life to experience the way you want to.
It is also important to name that some trauma can be developmental. A way to think of this that comes to mind is “death by a thousand paper cuts.” That’s a rather extreme saying, but you can imagine this kind of trauma by thinking about maybe a young boy who hated having short hair, but was made to continue getting short haircuts his entire childhood. Every time he looked in the mirror, he might have hated what he saw, and this pain happened continuously every 3 months when it was haircut time. No matter whether the trauma is caused by a single event, or a series of events, it is all healable.
At Mindlight we say that we experience the world from the inside out. That is to say, that inside each individual is a whole map of the world: what things mean, what we should be doing, what is okay, what is not okay, and lessons we learned from things we experienced. It is from this internal landscape that we can look at a circumstance and have a perspective about what it is and what to do. The beauty of knowing that we are operating from an internal map is that this gives us the opportunity for a new orientation to life. Rather than thinking about how we can change or move the circumstances around us to give us the feeling we want, we can look inside ourselves to change the map we are operating from, so that we meet the world from a place of sovereignty. The world is not happening to you; you are happening to the world.