Don’t Trust the Transitions

The German author, Eckhart Tolle, refers to a state he calls  “the emotional pain body.” This is a highly dysregulated state when intense feeling overrides our ability to regulate our central nervous system and function properly. In this state, our frontal cortex shuts down, our amygdala starts flapping like mad and we feel stuck.

When I am in a traumatic moment or the re-triggering of old trauma, I am in my emotional pain body.

Transitions are an example of re-triggered trauma for me. As long as I can remember, my family of origin would move into dysregulation whenever we were getting ready to leave our home. It could be something like getting ready for church, going on a trip or going to see a show on Broadway. When the event was important and we were running late, the house boiled over with emotions.

In these situations, my father and mother became highly agitated and anxious. I remember my dad combing our hair before church like he was raking a lawn to remove stones. It actually hurt and he didn’t care because his priority in that moment was not my health, but his concern about being on time.

Invariably, someone or many someones might blow up – crying or screaming – making it even more difficult to be on time. In my case, I learned to shut down, to get really quiet and move into what my parents came to call “moody.” I shut down to protect myself. It worked for a long time.

Sometimes, I will still shut down – but it doesn’t work well anymore.

Right now, for example, we are in transition. After 30 days on the road, we’ve unpacked our camper for a month’s stay in our friend’s home near Asheville, NC.

For a variety of reasons I arrived here very nervous, so my initial reaction is to shut down, to just get through things. Yes – even while in this beautiful location, even while being treated with lots of generosity by my friend, I shifted into a less toxic, but still uncomfortable version of the emotional pain body. I could still function, but I was not happy.

Listen, the house is great and I’m very thankful to be here, but my mind-body-spirit have become accustomed to moving, living in a trailer, enjoying long walks with Beth and the dog, and not taking care of a home. So, being here – working and householding became a transition. And transitions re-trigger me.

Keep in mind, we just left a home at the start of February! It was a wrenching process to purge, sell and leave and adjust to life on the road. So, in some ways, it sucks to move back to householder mode.

For some of you, this transition would come under the heading of Easy-As-Pie. Why? Because for those lucky people, change is not dysregulating to your central nervous system. God bless you! I consider you very fortunate to not have the feelings that come up for those of us who are traumatized by change.

Fortunately, my nervous system is regulating. I couldn’t write about this if the worst had not already passed.  Thank God for that.

So, why did I title this post, “Don’t Trust the Transitions”? The answer is that a transition is unreal, almost like a fugue state for me. It’s an in-between period where I have learned to not make any decisions including “should I leave Asheville right now?” Ha!

In closing, I want to let you know that another transition has been with me for the last two years. It’s bigger and scarier than selling our home and hitting the road. And that will be the subject of my next post. Stay tuned for that one.

In the meantime, I want to pray for help.

Dear God, please help me by removing the emotional pain body experience every time I encounter a transition. Help me by removing my tendency to shut down when I have an excessive fear of the future. Help me, please, to be more trusting of Your plan. Help me to learn how to leap into your lap like a little boy and know that your arms can hold me better than my parents could. Amen.

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