It’s pure instinct in its most primitive form. Physical, mental, and emotional traumas are inseparable to the Nervous System and the Subconscious mind. Sometimes the scales get tipped one way over another, but all are present in these experiences of pain and suffering.
In times of trauma and or excessive stress our Systems can become overwhelmed. We all know how that feels. We can have a million different things all going on at the same time and we proceed to get more stressed, more overwhelmed until there is a breaking point. Something has to give.
The Systems simply can’t keep up with all the information being thrown at them. So they process what they can for immediate action and throw the rest into a pile in the corner to get to later. Then the next experience of trauma and stress comes as it always does, because life.
The cycle repeats. And the pile in the corner gets bigger and harder to ignore until it’s the only thing the Systems can think about, because the pile is so intrusive.
Systems & Strategies.
As much as we would like to create a pillow fort and ignore the outside world, that’s not really an option. Ah, maybe on a rainy Saturday we can reassess that option.
The Systems have to create a strategy, an effective compensation pattern in order to keep you safe, putting one foot in front of the other to keep you moving forward. If you can keep moving forward you can evade danger, get the food, get the sex, and get on with the living.
Let’s use a painful experience as an example of a #protectthehuman strategy and how it could relate to your current state.
Have you ever twisted an ankle? Those curbs are sneaky, I get you. Strange invisible objects that you go tumbling over and crank your neck around to look back at whatever it was you tripped over. Struggles are real. In any case, when you twist an ankle and you try to get up hoping nobody saw that ever so graceful tumble to the ground, the first exploratory step on your freshly injured side is a wake up call. Shock, agony, and legit suffering. You immediately carry the majority of your weight on the non-injured side in order to avoid further pain or damage. With each tentative step you explore how much pressure you can put on the injured ankle before it’s simply too much to bear.
The Systems gather resources creating this compensation pattern in order to keep moving forward and to avoid further damage, known and unknown. In that moment of injury you could be thinking and feeling numerous things as you are trying to evaluate the situation and figure out what to do next. There could be a dozen different things that your Systems could not tolerate to process in the moment and chose to put off until later so you could simply focus on taking that first wobbly step now. It’s not pretty, but it IS a fully functional survival strategy.
The beauty of this primitive instinct ends when you begin to live within this creative strategy.
protectthehuman vs limitthehuman
In case you haven’t noticed, we humans are inherently lazy. We like to expend as little energy as possible to do what needs to be done. It’s another primitive survival strategy. Saving energy means we have reserves to hustle when the Zombie Apocalypse is upon us. Remember, you only have to run faster than the other guy.
When we get stuck living within the strategy we developed to get through trauma, we are unknowingly piling up more things in the corner that the Systems may or may not process well later. The pile gets bigger as our compensation patterns develop compensation patterns and a little twisted ankle becomes a noticeable limp and severe hip pain 30 years from now. The arm you put out to brace for impact now has a tweaky wrist that flares up for no apparent reason. Your neck has this ongoing thing that happens when you turn it a certain way, likely from the same forever long ago forgotten ankle fiasco, but you probably just slept on it wrong, eh? That’s a bit tongue in cheek as it’s rarely ever something as simple as sleeping on it wrong.
Our #protectthehuman response, which was once the hero of our story, is now limiting our ability to move well. It’s not the villain though. It’s locking in specific muscles to add more stability and overworking for the ones that have been downregulated. It’s using the fear of increased pain and the possibility of further injury to reduce the amount of space available to the joints and limiting the range of motion. The subconscious is keeping a running tally of the things that are working and the ones that aren’t so it can cross compare all future internal and external neuroception for use in future experiences. It’s simply doing a job that it believes to be the best course of action even after it’s outlived its purpose.
It’s our responsibility as Movement Professionals to be aware of these responses and discover where things went sideways so we can decrease the need for the Systems to continue to #protectthehuman and help our clients adapt forward.