Why am I always over reacting?

Are people right when they say I’m ‘too sensitive’?

Do you ever find that your emotional responses seem to be out of proportion to the situation you find yourself in?  That you experience a spiral of fear, anxiety or anger, or feelings of abandonment and overwhelm?  If this happens to you, it will most probably be because something about the current situation is recalling a past trauma for you. 

** I’m not meaning to blow things up out of proportion here, or to push you into a sense of victimhood, however we’re beginning to understand that it’s very important to be aware and conscious of how past events can colour our responses to events in the present. **

I should probably also mention that when I say ‘trauma’, I’m referring to those events which – entirely subjectively – we’ve found completely overwhelming and that left us feeling powerless.  In MetaConsciousness™ they’re known as UDINs, which means that they were:

  • Unexpected
  • Dramatic
  • Isolating
  • and we felt we had No coping strategy or resources to deal with the situation at the time we experienced it.

This means that a trauma doesn’t have to be a big event, or even something that another person would find challenging.  It could actually be a series of small incidents that, over time, mount up into something quite substantial; something that has a huge impact on how we feel.

In The Wisdom of Trauma movie Gabor Maté, talks about people who have been brought up by parents or care-givers who were encouraged to allow their child to cry, rather than to pick them up and try to work out what’s upsetting them.  The belief was that the latter would be ‘mollycoddling’ the child and would result in them becoming overly dependent.  In  fact we now know that leaving a child to cry can push them into shutdown and that what they actually need in this situation is physical touch, in order to be able to feel connected, and therefore safe.  In fact, this is how a child develops the ability to self-regulate – through physical touch with their mother, father or other caregiver.

In antenatal settings they’ve discovered that babies are much more likely to thrive when they have early and frequent skin-to-skin contact (SSC) with another human being.  Even poorly, premature babies benefit from being taken from their incubator in order to experience this close physical touch.  According to the La Leche League International website the following points are why SSC is so important for baby, and mother, in the minutes and hours following birth:

  • Keeps mother and baby together.
  • Promotes bonding between mother and baby.
  • Provides for earlier initiation of the first breastfeeding experience.
  • Reduces crying.
  • Helps baby maintain body temperature better than a hospital warmer, as your body will alter your own temperature to warm or cool the baby to maintain a normal temperature.
  • Helps regulate baby’s breathing and heart rate.
  • Helps keep baby’s blood sugar level stable.
  • “Normalizes” a difficult or surgical birth.
  • Decreases pain for baby from any procedures done while skin-to-skin.
  • Reduces postpartum haemorrhage in mother.
  • Can reduce maternal stress and postpartum depression.
  • Increases the probability of breastfeeding as well as the length of time you will breastfeed your baby beyond the hospital time.
Close up of woman holding baby skin to skin

If an infant, whose only way of experiencing and knowing connection is through physical touch, is deprived of this contact, this is a form of trauma.  So if, as a child, you were one of those children who was left to cry, and you haven’t yet had the opportunity to address this issue, it may still be held in your body, and be stirred up any time you feel the possibility of losing connection with someone.

Let me say at this point that I’m not in any way meaning to point the finger of blame at anyone.  Our parents were doing the best they could with the teaching they were given and/or the experience that they themselves received.  Looked at from this perspective it’s all too easy to see how trauma can be passed down through generations, and can even magnify from one generation to the next.

And yet, human beings are amazingly resilient!  We can find ways to release our traumas and to experience profound shifts in the things we’ve carried or inherited from our parents.

in the next part of this series, I’ll be looking at how trauma can be stored in the body, then stirred up again causing us to experience those same uncomfortable feelings, even though they might not be out of proportion to the new situation.

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