Wednesday, April 15, 2015. I have had many friends over many years of my adulthood who are of Indigenous ancestry. Among most tribes, as far as I know, there are teachings based on what can most simply be called “The Medicine Wheel.” Tribes vary on the words that might literally be attached to the four directions presented in these wheels (as with colors, stages of life, specific teachings, medicines, animals, etc.).
The words about the “core wheel” itself I am going to describe here are from a common Anishinabeg (Chippewa, Ojibwa) culture. Along with those words I will next describe an alternative, additional way of thinking about so-called “negative” emotions that can be identified as being “survival-based” emotions connected to the operation of our “calm-stress” response system (and are therefor deeply physiologically based).
I have no way to create a visual for what I wish to describe other than to attempt to do it with words. (If you wish, just grab paper and pen/pencil and draw this out as you read along here.) Envision a circle. Draw quadrant lines top to bottom, side to side so that they cross at the center.
I will be listing words here in groups that begin at the far right of the circle and move, then, around the circle at each quadrant point.
- EAST: element = air (mind) — color = yellow – place of new birth and rebirth – ages 0 – 20
- SOUTH: element = earth (spirit) – color = red – place of “doing the work” – ages 20 – 40
- WEST: element = water (emotion) – color = black – place of “the cave” and introspection – ages 40 – 60
- NORTH: element = fire (body) – color = white – place of healing – ages 60 – 80 (over age 80 lies in the quadrant area leaving the top point and moving toward the right = east)
Now, as I think about the processes and emotions of the cycles of our life (for everyone at some time, in some way) I think about the
(a) uncountable times we have been “alerted” to changes within our environment that
(b) give us a version of a “startle response” as these things
(c) demand our immediate attention and assessment for safety or danger, and then
(d) send us either off to address/solve a “problem” or are
(e) no big deal so we have to do nothing and
(f) can return again to the center point of self = peaceful calm
IF we have to do something we are put into MOTION! On my calm-stress response” circle I added
- ANGER at the EAST point. FIGHT RESPONSE. Anger is itself simply a word that people identify with a particular emotion, but in my thinking I use it only as a symbol of power and energy that is extremely creative and full of potential. With this power and energy I envision (in-vision) that we very quickly reach for the most immediately recognized solution to a problem in our environment we have to deal with that we can find. We use first KNOWN solutions, KNOWN resources and if possible our OWN resources. (simplified descriptions here) The power of so-called “anger” used constructively and positively inspires determination, know-how and courage. If a problem’s solution overwhelms our ability in this “anger” (generative), rather than move back to “center” we are forced by circumstances to move on to
- FEAR at the SOUTH point. FLIGHT RESPONSE. Fear again is a word, a symbol, that I am using to signify a realization in our process as I describe it here that WE ALONE are powerless to solve this problem and we MUST reach out (FLEE is as much TO something as it is AWAY from something) to others* for help as we search for alternative options. THIS is part of the shared work of being alive! It is when soaring solo is replaced by a realization that if we are going to fly at all we must “find a flock” to help us. (This is also a state we can reach when our concern for the well-being of others (fear for others) leads us to understand that if we are going to help we cannot be effective alone.) Fear, then, generates a kind of social interaction that involves something we may not have tried before and something more familiar to others. If we CANNOT get help from anyone else at this point FEAR lets us know that we are directly missing a vital resource (and solution) that we need. However the variables in this stage play themselves out, either we solve the problem and return to “center” or we move on to
- SADNESS at the WEST point. HIDE RESPONSE. Whether or not we reach this point alone or in the company of others who share this “state” what is needed is a discovery of something entirely NEW that can solve whatever problem we are engaged in ending. This “cave” of inner exploration to find new solutions is like a womb, a matrix, a place of introspection and ingenuity! I am not envisioning “only” a weepy sorrowful emotional state here. I believe that it is HERE that our greatest discoveries can be made and amazing ideas can be found. If we can solve our problem here back to “center” we go, if not? We move on to
- HOPELESSNESS at the NORTH point. FREEZE RESPONSE. This state involves a kind of fire, I think, that is a kind of agony. This point is one of purification and can be named by a feeling state of utter “hopelessness” in which a sense of being abandoned and completely alone can swallow us whole. Or so it seems. This point is often one of deepest humility which is a gift, I believe, that can come from “pure shame transformed.” Humans are NOT superheroes. We do not have “magical” powers. There are times when the cycles of life seem to present us with no solutions. No options. No alternatives. If so, here we are in a state of suspended animation, a state of limbo, a state of purification that I don’t think anyone WISHES for! This can be the state where the only thing we know how to do is ENDURE.
Who cares enough to find the “lost and hidden” sad and hopeless people when so many of them have faced or are facing severe trauma that alone they cannot move past? Who has the empathy, compassion and SKILLS to reach them and to help them?
How do we move out of this frozen “stuck” dead-end place? I would rather be asking “How do we (and I mean mostly “we the people”) avoid – and help one another avoid – ever getting to this point at all?” Something extraordinary has to happen for us to move on from here. HEALING!
How that healing happens is a concern for everyone. I do not believe we can do it alone. This is the place of miracles.
Not to worry. Such miracles are not rare!
NOTE: *others – our “attachment village” – assistance when needed is always a part of safe and secure attachment
(And this thoughts include my concerns about early severe trauma survivors who have never known “peaceful calm” and cannot get back to that “center” because they were never given what they needed in the early years of their attachment development to get there in the first place. Many such survivors can be trapped swirling around through these cycles without end for their entire lives.)
(This “in-visioning” I am writing today is different from a version of this process I posted a few months ago.)
Note: This is a post that follows this one: +WHAT IF?
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NOTE: I am still stuck with this new version of the blog’s posting page that I do not like and cannot get out of. It has refused to post or include my chosen tags:
adult attachment disorders, adult reactive attachment disorder, anxiety disorders,borderline mother, borderline personality disorder, brain development, child abuse,depression,derealization, disorganized disoriented insecure attachment disorder,dissociation,dissociative identity disorder, empathy, infant abuse, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),protective factors, PTSD, resiliency, resiliency factors, risk factors, shame