As a clinician, I would diagnose the world as currently suffering from Acute Stress Disorder. This diagnosis differs from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder only in time: we are currently encountering the overwhelming stress, and reactions to stress, well-known in PTSD, most acutely in our daily encounters with oncoming world events.
On a psychological level, acute stress is met by the activation of the survival instinct, which manifests in reactions of fight, flight, or freeze. These reactions are archaic responses, universally programmed in all humans, that generally override the thinking, reflective, choice centered part of our brains, the neocortex, which generally goes dormant when we feel threatened. Thus, our behaviors become instinctively, versus consciously, directed reactions to stressors.
We see the fight reaction in the political and social media battles throughout the world. We see the flight reaction in the mass migratory patterns of human populations fleeing the earthly disasters and dangerous political conditions of their familial homelands. We see the freeze reaction in withdrawal into depression, as well as into the numbness of addiction.
Although instinctive reactions are nature’s time-honored survival strategies, they are not always the most efficient or appropriate responses to a crisis, nor do they really penetrate the true depth of an issue. Deeper levels of consideration require the ability to reflect objectively, which cannot happen when the neocortex is offline. Thus, the ability to restore the thinking function to normal capacity is critical. But how?
Breathe. Mindful breathing has the physiological effect of blocking stress producing hormones and inducing a relaxation response to the body. From there, thinking comes back online and can provide a broader perspective. The greatest challenge to breathing when stressfully activated is to separate from the actions dictated by the fight, flight, freeze instinctual program. Sometimes a vigorous walk, run, or private scream is a helpful release before breathing. When battling another person, it is generally best to separate for awhile, rather than try to force a resolution. Not to do so often results in a continued and escalated battle.
Although the neocortex is the biological thinking center of the brain, the mind and consciousness itself are actually part of the soul or energy body. This is most evident in the mind’s ability to act in opposition to its biological programming. When we choose to breathe when deeply stressed, we are acting in opposition to our biological programming. We rise above our animal nature to access spirit consciousness and choice.
The heart center in human beings has its energy body connection in its interconnected relationship to all of life. Thus, from the heart center we are able to feel love, which enables empathy, care, and support beyond one’s instinctive survival drive, which cannot extend beyond the narcissistic province of me and mine. This spirit center elevates the human being from the dominance of the survival drive at its animal level, which we witness pervasively throughout the world at this time.
As Mother Earth continues her drastic reformation of the globe, a major healing crisis, we are likely to see all animal species, particularly the human, responding through instinctual survival programs. For humans, these instinctual survival programs will increasingly pit human against human. These instinctual survival programs lack empathy, love, and a greater understanding of the changes we are all being confronted with.
In spite of the dire state of world affairs, it is possible to consciously rise above these instinctual survival programs and maintain and increase greater love and understanding. The ability to be empathic truly does lie at the heart of the evolved human being. With intent we can find our way to higher ground.
Seek sanctuary in heart-centered breathing to counter pure survival behaviors that lack soul. Find the higher ground of love and understanding, even as our species grapples with major change. As individual cells of this great body of Mother Earth, we can, individually and collectively, introduce soulful healing energy into our planet’s current major healing crisis.
From the breathing heart,