#1 Threat System vs Peace System

The brain is an expert keeping us safe: When there is a danger our threat system kicks in and we fight, run, 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 our imagination. #HealingTrauma

To illustrate this: Would you fight, run, freeze or collapse… If you were inside your house and it was on fire? If I was with you and I had a heart attack and fell down on the floor? If I said you were a loser? Most people say they would run from the fire, fight for my life, and fight back if I called them 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 life or death situation. That is, you will not die if someone calls you a loser. Yet many of us respond as if we will die. 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 which is a recipe for trauma. Remember the threat system is for a real life or death situation (i.e. poverty, danger). Although we can easily confuse what is a real danger and what is our imagination. So questions we can ask ourselves when unsure:

Is there danger right in front of me in this immediate moment or am I safe? Is this experience reality or am I lost in imagination? If there is danger, then fight, run, freeze or collapse to stay alive: safety is primary. If there is no immediate danger, then it is time to turn up the Social Engagement System, or what I like to call our 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 Peace System, lets us experience “safety” via intimacy and play (Thread: #2 What is Intimacy and Play?) and is experienced as peace, joy, love, compassion, blissfulfulness and ecstasy. Our Peace System allows us to celebrate the truth 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

https://www.consciousplanet.org

Each of these phenomena – Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness – are an area of scientific research on their own. You could actually teach a subject on each one. They are also academic words and so sadly they are sometimes explained in an unnecessarily overcomplicated way. So let’s break them down 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 anything in the entire world right now what would you want? When you are done what is something that you already have that you are thankful for? Now be completely honest: What do humans focus on more? What they want or what they have?

Most of us focus much more on what we want than what we have. Obviously focusing more on what we want than what we have will make us suffer because we do not have whatever it is that we want. Research shows that being thankful for what is enhances our sense of connection to life and wellbeing.

Gratitude: The Short Film By Louie Schwartzberg:

“You think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.”

https://youtu.be/cpkEvBtyL7M

So try remind yourself daily: I woke up today. I am alive. My heart is beating. I can breath. I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think, feel, remember, imagine, create and love. My brain is operating effortlessly. I can read and comprehend this, using language and cognition, I can extract its meaning. This is phenomenal. I even have choices. I do not have to agree with this. I can leave this page right now and think to myself: “This woman’s crazy!” This is just some of the many phenomena occurring within us…

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

https://indigenousx.com.au/

When we look at what is happening outside of us: The sun is shining. The sky is endless. Existence has turned up everyday. Actually it never went away. This is clarity: A million things are working for us, not against us. So why don’t we feel that? Our brain is an expert at detecting threat.

The brain is constantly on the lookout for danger (i.e. obviously to keep us alive). So it will naturally gravitate to any threat. When we combine this with focusing on what we want than what is, it is no wonder society is miserable. So try remember: Is this immediate moment dangerous or safe? Is this moment reality or am I lost in my imagination? Then. Be. Thankful.

Empathy: If I tell you a joke and you laughed at my joke, the laughter means “you get it”. Similarly, if I feel what you are feeling, it means I get you. Just as important, when you feel what you are feeling, it means you get yourself. Why is this vital? 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.”

https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw

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 only moment where reality and therefore peace exists is in the present.

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

https://www.consciousplanet.org

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 beautiful experiences and make our dreams come true. However, a lot of us end up instead reliving our worst misfortunes and projecting those memories into the future using our imagination to predict the worst case scenarios. Neither are reality in the present moment.

Clarity is the ultimate state of the mind. Why? Clarity means to see things clearly. Yes. Life is crazy, beautiful and terrifying. Clarity knows this. We acknowledge life’s beauty and terror; not just terror without beauty. The byproduct of such clarity is a sense of peacefulness. Joy is peace dancing (i.e. a higher intensity of arousal). Clarity exists in the present 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

https://indigenousx.com.au/

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 makes us suffer. So regularly check: Where am I? Am I in the present moment with clarity? Or am I lost in my memory and/or imagination?

The present moment is “almost” always safe. However, we cannot 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, reality or was that just my memory and/or imagination once again and again and again?

If the present moment is unsafe, fight, run, freeze freeze or collapse to stay alive: safety is primary. However, if it is safe – as “almost” always – then it is the Peace System’s time to shine: by celebrating the truth 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.”

Source: ‘Threat System vs Peace System’ was inspired by Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory. https://www.stephenporges.com

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
Psychologist
PhD in Psychology
Human Rights Activist

#HealingTrauma #Justice4Australia #YouBelong

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.”

#YouBelong

https://youtu.be/aMX2PrHPXzY
“The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation from First Nations to all Australians to realise a better future. Learn more and help us educate other Australians.”

https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement/
#IncarcerationNation

https://incarcerationnation.com.au

“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:

https://www.thejilyainstitute.com.au/about-us/
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

https://www.hometobilo.com

You can listen my talk with Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, the President of Blue Knot Foundation on my own healing journey, training and study and how it has informed my work and advocacy for a trauma informed world here:

Trauma Informed World acknowledges and respects 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:

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-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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