Emotional Distancing and PTSD: A Natural Defense

The residual anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares are difficult to take but, given what you went through, may seem to make sense. But the emotional distancing and numbing may seem to make no sense at all. You are loved by those around you and you know it. But it doesn’t feel the same. It may be that nothing in your life feels the same. Even stranger may be the closeness you feel with those who shared your experience. Let’s talk about how your body protected you. Let’s look for ways you can give your body permission to relax, to engage and to come home.

Why Emotional Distancing and PTSD are Often Connected

Your Subconscious Mind has many abilities that most will never need, nor develop. Your Subconscious Mind can allow you to develop tremendous dexterity, strength or flexibility. You can develop any of your senses to a very high degree. A good tracker can follow a trail others miss. A radiologist develops visual-spatial recognition that saves lives. A surgeon’s fingers can tie each knot with precision and can often feel when a piece of tissue is cancerous. A “push-hands” practitioner can sense your next move and a mother can sense when something isn’t right about their child.

When placed in a dangerous situation, your body becomes a specialist in survival. It actively anticipates potential danger. This keeps you alert and reactive with amazing speed and accuracy. Afterward, this can be experienced as flashbacks. At night your mind reviews the day’s activities to incorporate new data and strategies that promote survival. Afterward, these can be experienced as nightmares. In a dangerous situation, to relax is to die. This same degree of vigilance begins to be seen as “hyper-reactivity.” In a dangerous situation, to care too much also can leave you vulnerable. You must step into danger confidently. You may need to do things to other human beings that would otherwise be unthinkable… and then need to do it again. When you come home, this very same shift, this very same dulling of your humanity, can be experienced as emotional distancing or emotional numbing.

Your Subconscious Mind can do all of this for you, particularly in a highly emotional situation. It can literally up regulate or down regulate any sense or emotion that promotes your survival. If you have PTSD, your body has done its best to help you survive. Now that this particular part of your journey is over, you need to again grow and optimize your perceptions.

How to Overcome Emotional Distancing

Let’s consider a few points of view that may be helpful:

  1. You survived. You have developed survival skills. This is a good thing. You have new abilities and awarenesses. To some degree you will always have these skills.
  2. You may have needed to do things that under normal circumstances would be unthinkable. But these weren’t normal circumstances. Who would not do whatever they needed to do to keep a child from being seriously hurt? Afterwards you may be able to think of alternatives but in the moment…you defend the child.
  3. These skills are good. To think about these skills while trying to diminish them doesn’t work. It’s like trying not to think about the color red. Every time you say this - you think of the color red. You have this skill. You no longer need to think about it. This will allow it to find its place in your past.
  4. You may not have ever really thought about yourself much. You may not have decided who you are and why you are on this earth. Making these decisions and putting them into words to live by can now be helpful. For example, “I am a child of my Spiritual Source. I am on this earth to share my love and strengths, to relieve suffering and build each of my personal, professional and global relationships.”
  5. The words you commit to need to become your constant mantra. They must be heartfelt and carried with you with every decision.
  6. Every moment must carry the intent of your Spiritual Source, your energy, your focus and your constant inquisitiveness as to how you are going to make the moment better. Every conversation must carry your awareness that your Spiritual Source is talking to you both directly and through those you see and communicate with.
  7. Every relationship deserves your attention, a daily plan to make it one percent better and a daily affirmation of all that was accomplished.

This moment is about survival too. You aren’t dead yet. Choose to live well, actively giving, receiving and loving as though your life depends on it because…it does.

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