Do you remember the story of the 80 person human chain that formed to rescue a family caught in a riptide?
It was in 2017. I went to look it up; watching this video now brings tears to my eyes and a big upwelling in my chest.
Before someone started filming the video, two boys had been caught in the riptide and were screaming for help. Their mother ran in, but also got caught; their grandmother tried as well, but could not free herself from the ocean’s strong current.
As a result of last week’s Boulder County fires, over 1000 structures were burned to the ground. It appears as though two people have died. Countless others are dealing with having lost beloved pets in the blaze, being totally displaced, losing their homes and all that was familiar inside of them.. During experiences like these, one’s very identity can seem to have disappeared forever.
Reactive Brain is survival brain, and has the adaptive function of helping us move through danger and crises. And, it also has a way of capturing us like a riptide, pulling us in with adrenaline, cortisol, emotions and stories that swirl through and take over, threatening to drown us.
It does not matter whether it was our home that burned down or whether we know someone –directly, even indirectly–whose did. A first question we can ask is: just how caught up are WE in the emotional current of Reactive Brain? Are we swimming in our own desire to fix/control the situation, or perhaps are caught in the eddies of our own guilt or shame or maybe our own unfelt grief? If we show up to “help” with these unconscious and unfelt emotions then we likely add to the entangling vortex of Reactive Brain’s riptide.
What we can do instead is to notice our own Reactive Brain stories, and then consciously take steps to get back to the shore of Creative Brain. If it isn’t us caught in those churning throes, it’s essential to become focused on how we ourselves can stay grounded, else we fall in too–or turn away and disconnect so as to not be pulled under.
Some of the ways of grounding our bodies in Creative Brain include:
- Breathing and moving so that we can stay in contact with our bodies
- Letting ourselves fully experience our sensations and emotions, so as to help any reactivity to naturally move through
- Watching how we’re anchoring ourselves into Reactive Brain through repetitive thoughts and replacing those with more expanded thoughts. (from the fearful and despairing “this will never get better” to at least a more neutral “this is happening,” or maybe an accepting “I can accept that this is happening”
- Being sure we find connection with others
Solidly inhabiting states of Creative Brain while others are in whatever state they are allows us to provide support without getting swept out to the roiling seas of Reactive Brain. [To find out more about how to consciously move from the entrancing stories of Reactive Brain and into those of Creative Brain, follow the link below.]
On that miraculous day in Panama City, Florida, people instinctively knew how to keep some people on solid ground while hanging onto the next person out in the water, until finally, 80 people chained together brought the family to shore.
Our challenge now is to ground ourselves in Creative Brain and then extend our resourced selves out to those in Reactive Brain, which truly is the answer to “what can I do now?”—how to deeply support each other and navigate this challenging time.