When we go through upsetting, confusing or unusual experiences in our inner lives we experience mental distress. This can result in changes to our behaviour and can impact our relationships. It’s often those closest to us who first notice that we’re in mental distress. Who among us hasn’t either said or been told: “You don’t seem like yourself at the moment” at some point in our lives? Suffering is linked to mental distress and happens when we experience something unpleasant that we want to avoid. It could be associated with a perception of possible threat or injury to a person.
Both mental distress and suffering are universal human experiences. In other words, part of being human is being subject to pain, and mental and psychological stress. It is a normal part of life. In Buddhism, they refer to universal suffering experiences as the Four Noble Truths, which is 2,500-year-old teaching. What I love about Buddhism is it gives a clear map of how to transcend suffering and have more peace, clarity and wisdom in your life.
Trauma seems to be the word to use these days; I hear it talked about a lot. But as Gabor Mate says “what you think is trauma is not; it is just life.” Trauma is not the same as mental distress or suffering, and while people may be distressed after experiencing a potentially traumatic event, not everyone will actually become psychologically traumatized.
Why? Some individuals may have resilience and willingness to seek help. These traits are called “protective factors” in the field of Preventive Medicine and Health Psychology.
Protective factors are “conditions or attributes (skills, strengths, resources, supports or coping strategies) in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities.”
Imagine! The importance of having a supportive community and society for our well-being! This would save a lot of money we put into medication and hospitals.
However, some topics in our communities and society are taboo to discuss. One of these is money. How can we have coping strategies around money, if we are taught not to talk about it? For many of us, it was a secret. It was rude to talk about it. Because of this, I hear a lot of feelings of shame confusion, guilt, loneliness, stress, and anxiety when people talk about money to me. My clients may display other attitudes like anger, denial, stinginess and entanglement. I hear the phrase “feeling burdened” by money. It seems that we heap so many emotions onto this topic, and because we can’t talk about them we try to suppress them. This doesn’t seem helpful to me. Over the years, I’ve incorporated emotional releasing techniques to help my clients release some of these negative emotions from the body.
Releasing negative emotions is vital to our survival, and I have an interesting story to tell you that illustrates this.
Many years ago I was on an African Safari in the Kruger National Park, where I watched a lion pounce on an Impala. The Impala went limp and stopped breathing. For some strange reason, the lion left. After a few minutes, the Impala started to breathe again. What fascinated me was what it did next. It sat up, shook and trembled for a while before it got up and ran away.
I asked my guide about this, and he explained “the Impala is shaking or trembling, which comes from the limbic brain – the part of the brain that holds emotions– this sends a signal that the danger has passed and that the fight-or-flight system can turn off. They are literally finishing the nervous system response to release the traumatic experience from the body.”
He continued “In the animal world, animals “shake off” the freeze response caused by a life threat. When animals suffer trauma, it has been documented that they will literally shake it off, which helps the animal discharge the energy of the traumatic event.
“What happens if they are not able to shake it off?” I asked. “Animals often die if they cannot shake off the trauma,” he told me.
I thought immediately about my client’s feelings of shame, confusion, guilt, loneliness, stress, devastation, stinginess, anger, denial, entanglement and anxiety around money. Are they shaking these emotions off? I researched this and learned that when humans cannot shake it off, they don’t die, but the freeze response evolves into mental or physical illness. We fail to send the signal to our nervous system that the danger has passed and we can release the pain and fear.
Perhaps, we need to make it ok to include some shaking and trembling coping strategies around money and life. These can be included, alongside talk therapy and other modalities, especially when you don’t fall under the trauma category.
Here are four ways for you to shake and tremble when the fight-or-freeze response to life and money arises. I guarantee you will feel silly doing this! Give it a try anyway, you may be surprised by its effectiveness. Of course, you will need a quiet place for most of them. But you can do the first one when you are at work or with others, by excusing yourself and using the bathroom.
- Put your hands over your mouth. Scream into your hands silently or out loud. Move your belly to keep the energy flowing.
- Put a pillow over your mouth. Scream into the pillow as you move your belly to keep energy flowing.
- Stand with hands extended over your head. Move your legs as if running in place and have your arms mirror leg movement above your head. Scream out, “Ahhhhhhh!” and keep the energy moving.
- Lay on your belly or your back. Have pillows under your extremities. Throw a temper tantrum as if you are two years old.
Reflect on how your body felt before and how it feels after doing these. Experiment with each; you might prefer one over the others. Let me know if you found it helpful!
And of course, if you would like to chat with me, and get to know me, send me a quick note at firstname.lastname@example.org