As a child, one would have been powerless, dependent and not equipped to deal with their emotions or too much arousal. This is why they needed caregivers who were loving, caring, and emotionally in tune.
Yet, as they were abused at this stage of their life, they wouldn’t have received what they needed. Instead, they would have been harmed on a regular basis, and this would have overwhelmed their system.
Unlike an adult, they wouldn’t have been able to fight back or to go for help. In a way, they would have been like a tortoise that is stuck on its back; they would have been in an extremely vulnerable position.
If they had fought back, there is the chance that they wouldn’t have got very far and they could have ended up being harmed even more, if not lost their life. As for running away, if they did this, they probably wouldn’t have lasted for very long.
An Unlikely Scenario
However, while both of these options could seem possible to a grown adult, they wouldn’t have seemed possible to a small child. During this time, it would have been as though they lived in a world of giants.
So, just as a human being would be incredibility intimidated around giants that are violent, a small child will feel the same around adults who are violent. Therefore, although they were being harmed, standing up for themselves would have been seen as being too much of a risk, at least until they got older.
Their main priority at this stage of their life would have been to survive, and fighting back or running away wouldn’t have been seen as the way to make sure that this took place. But, as this was the case, it wouldn’t have meant that they were totally defenceless.
The mechanisms that they used to survive would have been pretty basic, but as one is still alive to this day, it will show that they worked. The downside is that while they would have kept them alive, these mechanisms wouldn’t have stopped their being from being harmed.
When a martial artist blocks a punch or a kick, it will stop him from being hit directly. Nonetheless, blocking an attack is still likely to mean that at least one body part will have been used to stop the attack.
Blocking something once is unlikely to cause too much pain, but if an attack was stopped about fifty times, the martial artist is likely to end up with a number of bruises. In the same way, ones being would have still been taking the blows, even though they had a number of ways to protect themselves.
Thanks to how much pain one may be in now that they are an adult, they could believe that these mechanisms were not good enough. Then again, they could be grateful that they had them.
When it comes to what ones outlook is, it can all depend on where they are at on their own healing journey. If one is in a really bad way, a big part of them could wish that they had no way of protecting themselves and that their life had come to an end.
A Number of Options
In the same way that ones being would have utilised a certain survival mechanism when they were overwhelmed as a child, they can do the same thing now that they are an adult. One will no longer be a powerless and dependent child, yet they are still going to lack the ability to handle how they feel.
Thus, when they experience a strong emotional reaction, it could be as if they are a small child all over again. And just as their brain would have taken over to stop their life from coming to an end as a child, this part of them will take over now that they are an adult to stop their life from coming to an end.
If one was to end up feeling overwhelmed, they could have the need to move or to run away. This could mean that they will suddenly leave a meeting or a get together with a friend, without saying anything, or if they were to say something, they could say that they are unwell or just make something up.
After they have experienced movement or left a certain environment, they could soon settle down and no longer feel the need to do anything. One could spend a lot of time in this mode, which will make it hard for them to just be and to relax.
Another thing that could take place, if one was to end up feeling overwhelmed, is that their whole body could tighten up. Unlike the option above they won’t go anywhere, yet it can be as though they have turned into a statue.
Playing dead and appearing to be invisible will be a way for them to handle the arousal that is inside them. When this happens, one can find it hard to speak and to express themselves, and if they spend a lot of time in this mode, they could be used to feeling powerless and as though they have no control.
Alternatively, one could simply leave their body and space out, if they end up feeling overwhelmed. Once again they won’t go anywhere, but they won’t be in the present moment either.
What is going internally will be too much for them to handle and so they will lose touch with reality. When this happens, they will come across as being absent-minded and they probably won’t remember what is going on around them, and if they spend a lot of time in this mode, their life could be all over the place.
Another thing that could happen, if they were to feel overwhelmed, is that they could be filled with aggression and adrenalin. This time they won’t go anywhere, seize up, or leave their body – they will get ready for battle.
In this case, it can be more or less impossible for them to think clearly and they could end up doing something that they will regret. If they spend a lot of time in this mode, they could be seen as someone who has anger problems and lacks self-control.
One may find that they can only relate to one or a few of these survival modes, or they might be able to relate to all of them. Ultimately, while these different modes responses have allowed them to survive as a child; they are going to be causing them problems now that they are an adult.
The only way that this is likely to change, though, is if they start to deal with the trauma that inside them. By dealing with this trauma, they will find that their tendency to be overwhelmed starts to diminish and that they are able to handle how they feel.
When it comes to dealing with this trauma, one may need to reach out for external support. This is something that can be provided by the assistance of a therapist or a healer.
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Oliver JR Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.