It is Healthy and OK to React to Life

Ordering people to get out of victimhood, to suck it up, that they created their own reality, that others have it worse, to snap out of it, to get over it, to let it go, to move on already, to not be dramatic, to cheer up, that they are lazy or life isn’t supposed to be easy and other reductive language ironically keeps people stuck in victimhood. It’s like telling someone who is anxious, enraged or terrified to calm down. When has that ever worked?

Healing can only happen once we feel completely free and safe enough to react to what happened to us (be it toward something in the past or present) without the pressure of time constraints. But in our world, our reactions (i.e. rage, grief, sadness, helplessness, numbness, terror etc.) get condemned and how long we take to feel these emotions also get condemned so we must shut ourselves down losing who we are and this might be the true cause of C-PTSD and PTSD. (For more information on this, please see this lecture: )

Animals in the wild do not play dead — rather they freeze (a life-saving dissociative trauma response that all mammals use) when they are in life-threatening situations. If they survive the attack, they go to a safe place to literally shake it off and then they can move forward right away with no traces of trauma stored in their bodies. Humans, on the other hand, do not allow for one another to react to pain and this is why so many of us resort to addictions, emotional and physical illness, maladaptive relationship patterns and self-defeating ways of living. Strangely enough, if I take a match and burn your finger, you will react. Now, imagine if I told you to hold in that reaction? This is what we do to each other when we stifle an emotional or somatic response to abuse. The difference between physical and emotional pain is that we can hold on to emotional pain since we learn to freeze in childhood as a response to trauma, but this holding on for the sake of making others comfortable comes at a VERY HIGH price to our own well-being.

“Once an experience is emotionally articulated and physically expressed, it can no longer influence us unconsciously…Many times healing cannot begin until we allow ourselves to feel how bad things are. Doing this frees emotional and physical energy that has been stuffed, stuck, denied, or ignored for many years.” (Northrup, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, p. 16) –Marilyn Van Derbur

We are all holding onto our reactions. For healing to happen, we need to be around people who validate, understand, and encourage those very reactions. I know. I am getting my life back because my husband holds space for my reactions. I have had therapists hold space for my reactions. If you knew me years ago, you would not recognize me. I am a completely different person now (even though I’ve still a long way to go) and so much better than I was before because people let me react.

Friends, if you are real friends, you will let your friends react in a safe environment or you will confess their reaction makes you uncomfortable and that it is your own problem and not theirs.

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