When something in our lives, be it physical or emotional, isn’t feeling good, it is human nature to want to protect ourselves against it and move away. But what if that thing isn’t leaving even when we try to step away? What if rather than stepping away we were being called to step up and adapt in a way that could enable us to discover something life-giving? Perhaps the new growth wouldn’t come right away, but it would show up slowly over time if we stayed engaged with our discomfort.
I believe it's time to put down the fight or flight armor we often use to protect ourselves from the profound discomforts of our time so we can pick up healing mode, the place our body is always trying to bring us to when we get out of balance or feel threatened. I am not trying to suggest that we can simply turn off the fight or flight response. This part of our sympathetic nervous system gets unconsciously activated within us in healthy ways all the time. But I do believe the fight or flight response has become a default mode of armor we wear to combat discomfort, challenge, and life trauma. What if we could take the armor off and rely on a balanced nervous system to activate the response whenever needed.
More and more research is showing how returning as quickly as we can to a state of relaxation and activating our parasympathetic nervous system is what gives our bodies, minds and spirits the best chance to heal. We are designed to overcome trauma and upset with love and connection. Perhaps these are two things we can replace the armor with; the things we know how to do naturally when upset happens as we cradle a child who has just scraped their knee or cook a meal for a friend whose father just passed.
The question becomes how to find love and connection amid an upset world that seems to be stuck in the fight or flight response because of compounding trauma. Enter Curative Reading. It isn’t always our rational mind that finds its way through trauma and upset even when we think it is. I for one am certain some of my best ways forward have been revealed from a place deep inside of me that is slowed down, reflective and listening. This is the place of insight which can also be found when we read a great piece fiction slowly over time in community. Returning to love and connection and spending more time in parasympathetic healing mode is always available to us.
All of a sudden it was hard for me to talk. I loved the preacher so much. I loved him because he loved Winn-Dixie. I loved him because he was going to forgive Winn-Dixie for being afraid. But most of all, I loved him for putting his arm around Winn-Dixie like that, like he was already trying to keep him safe. Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo (2000)
Consider this; every time we drop into thoughts that are less than loving we have picked up arms to be at war with our true nature. So why not sit down with a great piece of fiction and consider reading it slowly over time in a Curative Reading community to put down your fight-or-flight amour and pick up healing mode. You might just find endless life-giving possibilities to change and grow forward the better.
Curator & Literary Apothecary
To meet literary apothecary & curator of Curative Reading, Catherine Brooks, click here.