Category Archives: Beloofs About Life

If I See Myself in the Mirror

dissociation     If I really see my self in my mirror, I will see my pain. If I see my pain, I will feel my pain. If I feel my pain, I will cry. If I cry, I may never stop. If I never stop crying…
Can you see where this is going?

When I heard the children crying as I watched  the video a passenger recorded just after the airport bombing in Belgium, I dissociated. I turned away from my pain like the man in the mirror. It was all I could do.

Had I been in the airport that day and survived the bombing , I know I would have run to the crying children and gathered them up into my arms. That’s how I’m built – I run towards chaos rather than away. I’m not trying to brag; sometimes I wish it were not the case. Years ago,  when the logging truck we were following  overturned in front of us, I slammed on my brakes and was out of my car before I knew what I was doing. As I ran to the cab of the truck, my mind said, “Are you crazy? You have a wife and two small daughters in your car.”

Diesel fuel was cascading down from the tanks and the driver was trying to push up to open the driver’s door that was now sideways over 10 feet in the air. I started to scramble up the bottom of the truck over the tires as the driver pushed the door straight up and crawled out over the running board below the door. When he was halfway out, I grabbed onto his hands and helped him climb down towards me and the roadway below us. He jumped the last few feet to the ground and I pulled him away from the truck. He was in shock, and I was completely dissociated from my emotions. I was the man in the picture, disconnected from the man in the mirror.

As I ran back to my car to check on the family, I felt excitement and arousal. My wife and children were afraid and angry. Why had I put myself in danger? Why didn’t I think of them?

Dissociation allows us to perform in the face of danger. It is an autonomic response – the fight part of the fight or flight response. We hone dissociation to protect ourselves from the reality of trauma; 911, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Gabby Giffords, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Oklahoma City, Paris, Belgium…the sights and sounds of trauma overwhelms our nervous system and it learns to shut down in self defense. When we are exposed to danger and intense feelings on a chronic basis, we develop beloofs that maintain our dissociation. We stop feeling.

“Thank God its not us.”
“It must be God’s will.”
“Don’t be afraid…”
“It can’t happen here.”
“Maybe they didn’t suffer.”

But the cries of the children amid the bodies scattered on the floor of the Belgium airport were not to be denied. My heart exploded in pain. Sadness wracked my being. Rage welled up in arms and legs. Confusion filled my head. I will not dissociate! I will not dissociate!

Here is my mantra for times when we witness intense trauma:
“May I always remain conscious and present to the hurt, rage, and devastation of the innocent children of violence .”
“May I always remain conscious and present to the hurt, rage, and devastation of the innocent children of violence .”
“May I always remain conscious and present to the hurt, rage, and devastation of the innocent children of violence .”

“And may we always teach Peace.”