What Does It All Mean?
Okay so you've made it through the geeky explanations of Part 1. How does this ancient information play out in your modern body, brain and mind?
1. Your body spends too much time in "threat" mode.
Remember how "Threat Survival" mode means your body stops doing everything irrelevant to surviving a predator? All of your energy, blood flow and oxygen go into your survival mode. Everything is dedicated to fight, flight, faint or freeze. This is hard on your body but it works when it's done briefly. It's a sacrifice worth making to outrun a predator.
This means your body is not doing things like: physically healing, digesting food, or processing emotion. When your body exists in that state for too long- it's as if all the housekeeping is neglected. Auto-immune disorders, digestive disorders, chronic sickness, heart disease, high blood pressure and slow healing times are all typical symptoms of chronic unresolved stress in the body.
2. Your brain (the biological organ) doesn't get the help it needs to process unresolved emotional trauma.
Our ancestors certainly experienced a great deal of hardship and trauma. It's not hard to imagine how much tragedy likely filled their short lifespans. And yet they had no mental healthcare but continued functioning. How did this work? Well, in part their lifestyle provided the one thing our brains need most to integrate and process experiences: bi-lateral stimuli.* Walking, swimming, or REM sleep all provide opportunity for their brain to file experiences and move on.
If you aren't getting the opportunity to neurologically process traumatic experiences as they happen, a "bill" accrues. Over years and decades your brain function becomes bogged down by unprocessed emotions. You find yourself irritable, anxious or depressed and its hard to know why. Your emotions don't even seem to be connected to what is happening around you anymore- because they aren't. The bill is "past due" and your unresolved emotions follow you through your day- loading down each situation and making it harder to "get over" anything.
3. Your mind (your subjective experience) is filled with static.
When your brain and body are bogged down by decades of chronic unresolved stress and emotional trauma.. your brain eventually struggles to rise above. "Letting it go" sounds like a nice idea but feels impossible. Mind states like joy, peace, patience, focus and clarity are elusive. You live for vacation, hoping to experience a taste of these states. Perhaps the temporary break from your stress-response state will actually help. But the return to daily living is a hard crash landing, back in the world of mental clutter.
A lifetime of unresolved threats make you prone to perceiving threat everywhere. Someone looks at you with anger or disapproval and your hair-trigger-threat-perception springs into action- triggering anxiety, anger or hopelessness. Each time this goes unresolved it makes you likely to repeat this cycle again. Unresolved stress responses pile on top of each other, making each following experience that much more loaded.
Sounds pretty dire, right? Well the good news is: You Can Do Something With This Knowledge. There are simple and straight-forward ways you can outsmart your caveman brain once and for all. Click here for Part 3.
Until Part 3
*bi-lateral stimulus is just a fancy term that refers to any movement, sound or sensation that alternates left/right in the body. It is a key element of how our brain processes experiences and can be found in the eye movement of REM sleep, or the alternating motion of legs while walking. Other examples include swimming, running and dancing.