Last weekend, I had been reading Peter Levine’s In an Unspoken Voice1 about how the body releases trauma. I wasn’t planning an experiment to test it out. My plans changed.
I take my mother to a therapeutic swim midday Mondays, so I don’t visit her in the evening. Monday had become the late night at the office. My suite is on the third floor of a three-story office building, adjacent to the elevator. I was often there until the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
That week was about the same, except I kept hearing unusual noises. I told myself, “Oh, it’s just the cleaning crew… I’ve got to get one more email out. Hmm, better rewrite this article… Why is the cleaning crew going into the offices below me? Maybe they asked for extra cleaning? Rosi, stop being so paranoid.”
I finished the last email, sent it at 1:41 am. I cleaned up, organized files, put my laptop into its case, bundled my laundry into its bag, zipped up the backpack. I opened the door to the hall, slung my laundry bag out into the chair outside the door and instantly knew something was terribly wrong.
I went back into the office. “Who can I call in the middle of the night, who won’t mind being wakened up? I better at least text a friend.” I texted her at 1:53 am, went out into the hall. The feeling of something wrong became a rising wave.
I locked the door, put my cell phone in my jacket pocket, and positioned my keys in between the fingers of my right fist just like they teach women in safety training. At this point, all those years of training and a black belt in karate went out the window, and I started to go numb and froze up. I took a deep breath, let go of everything and concentrated my mind utterly on God. All the fear left me. I ran like a herd of elephants down two flights of stairs and out the front door.
The only car in the well-lit parking lot was mine. There were no tigers. I looked behind me through the glass front door, down the first floor hall. It was brightly lit and empty. “Oh, Rosi, you’re just being paranoid.” A few minutes later I got home and texted my friend that all was well. (Don’t you love how our electronic gadgets date stamp our every action?)
The next morning the building manager emailed us that at least 7 offices had been broken into. The thieves were professionals, wore gloves, left no fingerprints. They had used the back door, which someone had left unlocked. At least one of the thieves was in the suite adjacent to the stairwell on the second floor at the time I left. The thieves or thief had unplugged all the computers, printers, office machines and wrapped the cords, and had them arranged to take. The police believe someone startled him (or maybe a herd of elephants?), since in his haste to leave, he knocked a computer to the floor and left it—and everything else.
On my floor, around the corner from the elevator and two doors down, they had taken all the pictures off the wall, unplugged computers and just left them. Perhaps when I first entered the hall, that thief gasped in fear of being caught, and I sensed that below the threshold of ordinary consciousness.
I kept reliving that time in the hall when dread and terror arose in every fiber of my being like a storm, over and over, as if revisiting that would imprint it onto every cell: trust your body, this means danger! How does our body know these things? Primitive, ancient self-defense mechanisms work beyond the rational mind and faster than thought, to detect the unseen, unheard, to protect us.
Last night, we were out of tissues at work. I stopped by a store to get some more, and the thought of dropping them off at the office caused me to flinch in fear and contraction. What if they came back to complete the job? I flew into a rage at the idea of being cut off from my work by fear. The rage built until I imagined I would blast those thieves out the door by my fury. The muscles in my arms, back and abdomen suddenly got strong and firm. Fortunately, the sweet, gentle smile of another shopper at the checkout line brought out a responsive gentle smile from me. The anger receded as I stopped chasing imagined tigers.
Levine said that anger is also a necessary part of the healing process. I understand that now. But you can’t push it. You can’t force your body to release and “get on with life,” until it is time. What a gift this is, to learn to trust my body to know danger–and safety! I am grateful for this healing.
If you should meet up with danger, tigers or elephants, I offer Ortho-Bionomy® and other gentle tools to support your recognition of your body’s wisdom, release stuck guarding patterns, and affirm that you can heal from trauma and tigers, no matter how long ago they were.
1 Peter Levine’s In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. North Atlantic Books, 2010. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8582180-in-an-unspoken-voice