In this week’s episode of Your Heroine’s Journey, we dug into the meaty topic of “Scars … Reminders to Celebrate or …” and the truth is, often we do a lot of the “or” in that equation.
Scars come in all shapes and sizes — physically visible on the skin, and then there are the invisible ones on the inside – the ones that seem to free-float in muscle memory and act as triggers for our fears if a circumstance in our current life starts to feel like a previous circumstance that didn’t go well. Many of our physical scars have internal partner scars.
Now, before we decide scars are bad, let me just say, I’ve had some playful times comparing scars with others. One prior love and I spent a lovely afternoon hearing about and kissing each other’s physical scars – scars from repetitive skinned knees, stitches from this or that mishap in childhood, motorcycle burns and even broken bones. I even have a few favorite scars … one is high on my hip from where a pin was inserted into my right femur when I was seventeen, and it remains there to this day. My femur broke during a car-train wreck and the scar is a reminder of what I can overcome with grit and determination. One of my least favorite scars is the one on my forehead from the same wreck – my head smacked the rearview mirror and the windshield hard. Glass emerged from my scalp for years. I have experienced staggering migraines and neck pain ever since.
Question: What is one of your favorite physical scars, and why? And what is one of your least favorites, and why?
Mostly, we don’t think about our scars – we are busy living life and don’t notice their existence. Until a physical scar gets sunburned, a lover caresses one, or until we stand in front of a dressing room mirror trying on clothes … or … bathing suits. That’s when I notice the 13” scar that wraps around the right side of my waist from donating a kidney to my father. Every once in a while, the trauma from my father dying six months after the transplant kicks in – triggering a prickly, hot sensation under that scar. This experience often opens the door to the emotional scars, triggering a mental spiral.
Yep – this is what I call a triple scar – physical, emotional and mental.
Question – Which of your physical scars opens the door to the emotional and mental ones?
Our internal scars can flare up when an external circumstance feels somehow similar or related to something painful in our past. It is like the new circumstance picks off the scab of our inner scar – mental, emotional or spiritual.
And the old pain comes oozing out, typically triggering a fear response – although it may sound like anger, false bravado or wailing tears.
The Result? This is when we slip into one of 3 behaviors – Fight, Flight or Freeze.
Fight: We get ready to defend, even go on the attack to protect our vulnerability or sense of powerlessness. We may start blaming, making excuses or flat out yelling. (Um, been there!)
Question: What are your Fight responses? And what triggers them?
By the way – Let’s not judge any of these responses. They are what they are. No blaming or shaming yourself here!
Flight: Other times, we flee – if not physically, then emotionally or mentally, and if the reaction is severe enough, we may even disassociate, which is a very scary thing that happens when old trauma is triggered. Again – I’ve been there – it’s like being under murky water where you can’t see or hear clearly. Other times, I simply remove myself from a situation when I feel the old stuff rise up.
Today, my fear can take over at the serious thought of taking on a new project from my passion and purpose. This fear can make me want to flee, which looks like shelving that new project or idea.
Question: What are your Flee responses?
Again – no judgment here – we are just observing and noticing our patterns in order to be more conscious in the moment when they happen so we can be in charge of our responses.
Freeze: Then there are times we simply become frozen in place – feeling incapable to move or flee the situation. Often, when I freeze, I become nearly incapable of speech – it’s like when I was four years old and the neighbor’s big and mean dog got out of its fence when I was playing jacks on the driveway. Tuffy, the aptly named Dalmatian, chased me up onto the hood of my mom’s car. I couldn’t even scream I was so terrified. Luckily my mom heard the commotion and turned the hose on the dog to get him to back down. Today – when I get that scared, boundaries remain inside me and I feel like I wouldn’t even be able to move my hand off of a hot stove.
Question: What happens in your Frozen moments?
Again, no judgment here. And for the record, I used to get so mad at myself when my throat closed up and I couldn’t speak my truth or scream due to fear. Which of course only made the struggle worse in the moment.
Leveraging our Scars to Propel Our Heroine’s Journey
Now, I’m not going to leave you hanging here!
We have to become a little like sleuth-like and begin to I.D. the situations that trigger our scars – mental, emotional and physical – and especially the “trifecta” moments as I call them.
Question: What are some of the situations that trigger your scars and their built in fears?
Remember I mentioned that 13” scar that wraps around my waist from my kidney donation? Well, I did a brilliant job at the time (I was 25) of collapsing that I was a failure in life, for life, with the fact that my kidney did not save my father’s life. It took me years – and I mean twenty years – to pull it all apart completely and really accept and own on all levels that I was not a failure because of this situation that I actually had no control over. That said – when there is a potential to fail at something, even today, it’s like fight, flight and freeze kick in causing my stomach to become a masticating juicer, and then I want to put distance between the circumstance and myself. These days, the circumstances that trigger this reaction in me are the bodacious goals based on passion and purpose I take on – like launching The Heroine’s Journey live show, completing my book, and taking on a candida cleanse program – for the third time.
These days, instead of fight, flight or freeze – I dive into My Heroine’s Journey to propel myself, and my life forward. Here’s how I do it and you can too!
- Acknowledge the trigger in the present moment, and simply notice it – nothing to do about it – which can be really hard to do since we are semi-programmed by life and socialization to ignore unpleasant emotions. FYI: physiologically, an emotional experience lasts just 90 seconds. It is what our minds do with it that turns emotional surges into torturous drawn out experiences. Also – simply noticing the trigger in the moment and being with it is not the same as freezing. Being with means we are present and not slipping into a mental fog.
- Next – Get Curious! What is the current mental / physical / emotional reaction really about in this moment? What is the true trigger? Then, walk yourself through my favorite trinity 1. What is the worst thing that could happen? 2. What is the Best thing that could happen? 3. What is likely to happen?
Now – let me state for the record – if you are currently in the throes of true trauma, get immediate help. This technique I’m sharing works with lingering stuff, and real scars, rather than hot-off-the-presses trauma that you are still working your way through.
- Go for the Wisdom – I believe each of my scars – physical, mental and emotional are friggin’ brilliant at this point. I’ve discovered my scars have great discerning abilities to know if something is really dangerous for me, and to help me see how the present is NOT the past. I also think my scars have good ideas in how to be with new challenges that are way more powerful than my fear.
Question: What wisdom have you gained from one of your scars? Or, what wisdom wants to get your attention now?
Share your answers to some of the questions posed … and any other thoughts you have on this big topic around scars.
I am an expert at supporting women in walking their Heroine’s Journey and I’d love to support you in understanding, expanding and having a hell of a good time living out Your Heroine’s Journey! Reach out here in the comments or email me directly – firstname.lastname@example.org!
Love and Light, y’all!
P.S. Catch the replay of the show all about our scars here! And let me know what you thought!