#1 Threat System vs Peace System

The brain is an expert keeping us safe: When there is a danger our threat system kicks in to fight the danger, run away, freeze or collapse to stay alive. This is intended for a real life or death situation. However, sometimes we confuse what is real and what is just our imagination. #HealingTrauma

To illustrate this point: Would you fight, run away or freeze if…. You are inside your house and it is on fire? I had a heart attack? I said you are a loser? Most people say they would run from the fire, fight to help me for the heart attack, and fight me if I said they are a loser.

Marcelo Alegre Rubic teaching Filipino Martial Arts:
Threat System vs Peace System.

There is only one way to avoid criticism
– do nothing, say nothing, be nothing –

This is the perfect time to point out that only the first two examples (fire, heart attack) are a real physical life or death threat. That is, you will not die if I call a loser. Yet a lot of us respond as if we will. This means we are using the wrong system a lot of the time.

This means we might find ourselves in a constant state of threat. It is a recipe for trauma. Remember the threat system is for a real life or death threat (i.e. poverty, danger). Although our minds can easily confuse what is a real danger and what is just our imagination. So questions we can ask ourselves when unsure:

Is this situation a life or death threat? Is this situation real or just my imagination? If it is a real threat then fight, run or freeze. The most important thing to do is to become safe. If it is not, then drop the fight and turn up your Social Engagement System, or what I like to call your Peace System.

Know the difference between a catastrophe and an inconvenience. To realize that it’s just an inconvenience, that it is not a catastrophe, but just an unpleasantness, is part of coming into your own, part of waking up. – Bruce Lee

Our Social Engagement System, or Peace System, lets us experience safety via peace, joy, love, compassion, blissfulfulness and ecstasy. It allows us celebrate the miracle and beauty of being alive. Worldwide research shows three things make it grow: Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness.

“It does not matter how others label you. If you wish you can change the structure of your mind. Life is not about peace, but if you do not know peace you will never know life.” – Sadhguru

Each of these topics – Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness – is an area of scientific research on their own. You could actually teach a subject on each one. They are also academic, or big words, that can be misunderstood. So let’s translate and combine them into one sentence for simplicity:

Gratitude: Thankful
Empathy: to feel
Mindfulness: right here, right now

Peace system: “Thankful, to feel, right here, right now.”

Gratitude: If you could have any three things in the entire world what would you want them to be? When you’re done what’s three things you already have that you are thankful for? Now be completely honest. Which one do humans focus on more? What we want or what we have?

Most of us focus on what we want much more than what we have. Wanting what we do not have leads to suffering obviously because we do not have whatever it is we want. Research show that being thankful for what is enhances our wellbeing and sense of connection to life.

Try reminding yourself daily: I am alive, I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think, feel, remember, imagine, create, love or hate. My brain operates effortlessly, I can comprehend this thread, using cognition and language, I can extract its meaning. This is phenomenal. Being thankful for what is.

Australian Geographic: Laura Dance Festival
Cape York, Australia.

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let’s work together.” – Aboriginal Activist

So you woke up today. The sun is shining. The sky is endless. You have clarity. A million things are working for you, not against you. So why do we focus on what is wrong? Our brains are experts at detecting threat. Plus if we focus on what we want rather than what is, no wonder we suffer. So try remember: Is this life or death? Is this real or my imagination? Then. Be. Thankful.

Empathy: If I tell you a joke and you laughed the laughter actually means “you get it”. Similarly, if I feel what you are feeling, it means I get you. Just as importantly, when you feel what you are feeling, it means you get yourself. Empathy fuels connection. Trauma is disconnection. Love is the absence of judgment.

Dr Brené Brown on Empathy:

“If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”


Mindfulness: A Great Master said: “If you are depressed, you are in the past. If you are anxious, you are in the future. If you are at peace, you are in the present.” Depression is about the past. Anxiety is about the future. The moment where peace exists is in the present.

Actor Will Smith and Sadhguru:

“Life is a far larger phenomenon than thought.” – Sadhguru

Yet we are barely in the present moment. Having a mind allows us to time travel with our thoughts and remember the past or imagine the future. This allows us to reminisce and make our dreams come true. However, we can also relive the worst misfortunes or anticipate the worst case scenarios. Neither are reality in this moment.

Clarity is the ultimate state of the mind. Why? Clarity means to see things clearly. You simply see reality just the way it is. The byproduct of clarity is a sense of peacefulness. Joy is peace dancing. Clarity exists in this moment and fosters peace, joy, love, compassion, blissfulness and ecstasy.

Australian Geographic: Laura Dance Festival
Cape York, Australia.

“Our survival has been about laughter, otherwise you cry a river.” – Lea Purcell

Too much focus on past misfortunes brings depression. Similarly, too much focus on what might go wrong brings anxiety. Either direction, focusing on what we want than what is brings suffering. So regularly ask yourself: Where am I? Am I in the present moment with clarity? Or am I lost in my imagination?

The present moment is “almost” always safe. However, we do not experience it as such when we live in a constant state of threat always on the look out for danger. Sometimes there is a real danger. So regularly check: Is this moment is safe, dangerous or was that just my imagination?

If the present moment is unsafe, we can fight, freeze or move away. Here the most important thing to do is to become safe. If it is safe, as “almost” always, then it is the Peace System’s time to shine: by celebrating the miracle and beauty of being alive. How? Being: “Thankful, to feel, right here, right now.”

Kung Fu Nuns, Nepal:

“Stay balanced with a friend… or on a friend.”

Now you know the power of Trauma Informed Care. Let’s turn this framework into a mindset for personal, social and political change. If you are unable to, you might need help first, to get safe or become ‘unstuck’ from trauma. Reach out for trauma informed care. #YouBelong

With love,

Dr Louise Hansen
PhD in Psychology
Human Rights Activist

#HealingTrauma #Justice4Australia #WeAllBelong

Yothu Yindi – Djapana (1989):

DjÃpana wlutju
Dhurulama ngunhawarrtji djÃpana
Warwu galanggarri
Rripa ngunhawarrtji djÃpana
Warwu golungnha
Look at the sun
Falling from the sky
And the sunset
Takes my mind
Back to my homeland
Far away
It’s a story
Planted in my mind
It’s so clear
I remember
Oh my, oh my, sunset dreaming
Wo-o-o djÃpana
Wo-o-o warwu
Wo-o-o rramani
Wo-o-o galanggarri
Hey, you people
Out there
How come
You ain’t fair
To the people
Of the land
Try my, try my, sunset dreaming
Wo-o-o djÃpana
Wo-o-o warwu
Wo-o-o rramani
Wo-o-o galanggarri
DjÃppana warwu
Djekulu dhurulangala
Wlutju warwu
Rripa ngunhawarrtji
Dhurulama – dhurulama
DjÃpana warwu golungnha
Wo-o-o djÃpana
Wo-o-o warwu
Wo-o-o rramani
Wo-o-o galanggarri
Hey, you children
Of the land
Don’t be fooled
By the Balanda ways
It will cause
Sorrow and woe
For our people
And our land
Wo-o-o djÃpana
Wo-o-o warwu
Wo-o-o rramani
Wo-o-o galanggarri
So live it up
Live it up
Live it up
Live it up
With sunset dreaming.”




“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
“Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of support we received overnight! We’re able to fund one more Indigenous Psychology student for a full three year Psychology degree from just a 10 minute appearance on ABC #TheDrum.” – Dr Tracy Westerman AM

If you would like to donate, please visit:

My partner Marcelo Alegre Rubic who taught me do not let anyone control your life. #YouBelong

Trauma Informed World was inspired by Kopika and Tharnicaa; two faces that remind us everyday of Australia’s cruel refugee system. One of many systems in Australia that remind us of the negative operation of power. #HomeToBilo

Kopika (left) and Tharnicaa (right) were kept at Christmas Island Detention Centre for nearly two years despite trauma informed calls to return them to Biloela, Queensland. Tharnicaa has spent most of her life detained by the Australian Government and is still in community detention to this day. #YouBelong
Trauma Informed World respects and acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and waterways on which this educational resource was inspired. I acknowledge and respect Elders past, present and emerging. I honour the continuation of educational, cultural and spiritual practices and celebrate the extraordinary diversity of people and relationships worldwide. This website contains images of deceased persons. There are also swear words in some of the songs presented that portray intense emotions. This website is not intended to trigger people who have experienced trauma. However, if you do find any of the content triggering, each page has a link to Australia’s National Helplines and Websites for immediate mental health support. These are my own personal views and comments and may not reflect the views of my employer.

Australia’s National Helplines and Websites:


To provide the best information possible, Beyond Blue has listed national helplines and external services. All services linked to Beyond Blue are reviewed before they are posted.

Published by Dr Louise Hansen

This is a free educational website on Trauma Informed Care for survival and wellbeing. While each injustice differs, all stories share the same trauma: the negative operation of power. Let’s break the cycle of injustice and trauma together one day at a time. The byproduct of clarity is peace. Joy is peace dancing. Trauma is disconnection. Empathy fuels connection. Knowledge is power: “Love is the absence of judgment.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama. #YouBelong

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