Hello from Middle-of-January-2024-Me! I'm feeling like I need to detox from the sugar and social life of December, and also thinking a lot about my mindset toward life, especially relating to how I handle stressful situations. In Haiti I thought I had nailed the secret. I did make progress during those two years in learning to be more resilient and mentally strong in the face of problems. So I guess I thought moving back to USA would be easy, that first world problems were too small to affect me now.
Of course, that was not true.
The stress monster officially snuck up on me this last year and I've been realizing lately the real extent of the damage.
Our New Year's Eve sermon was about having a renewed mind. Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
I found an interesting graphic online about the four ways people react to problems: fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Psychology would say that when we are in these modes of behavior, we are reacting from instinct instead of using our logical minds.
I guess I have felt God telling me that having a renewed mind meant living above these instinctual reactions and that a renewed mind was a mind that could act in a logical, Christianlike way even under stress.
I've listed the examples from the graphic first, and then some other things I thought of. Most of these examples have been me at different times in my life. Most of them seem ugly written out. I'm sorry for your eyes. Read on only if you OK with the realities of human nature.
Fight: confront the threat
Anger, rage, confrontation, high energy
Intense need for everyone to know my side of the story
Talking it out may not always be wise in the moment, but it's hard to be silent when you're a fighter!
Thinking it's my job to fix others' problems or behavior
Intense need to be in control of little details in my life in an attempt to fight back the chaos around me
Feelings of bitterness and anger toward God for unpleasant things that happen
Feeling like I need to prove to God and others how strong and capable I am
Flight: run away from the threat
Anxiety, panic, avoidance, high energy
Throwing myself into a project or relationship to help me forget something that's bothering me
An intense need for "me-time", breaks, etc to get away
Always needing a podcast or a person to keep me company because I'm afraid to slow down and be with my thoughts
Seeking out activities that give me an adrenaline rush (definitely 20 year old me before I lived in Port au Prince and finally got enough adrenaline LOL)
Busyness feels better than being still
Changing the subject as soon as a conversation gets a bit more than skin deep
Freeze: shut down to block out the threat
Disassociation, numbness, shutdown, low energy
Hiding looks easier than actually getting help
Paralyzing feelings of shame or dispair
Feeling like it's no use to pray
Daily tasks feel like a mountain because there is no mental energy left
Feeling like God and others are just there to judge me
Searching out things/activities that will help numb big feelings
Fawn: appease the threat
People-pleasing, codependency, loss of boundaries
Yes is always the default answer
Prioritizes strangers or more shallow relationships over family and true friends because I feel safe with my family and they will understand and forgive. A stranger thinking bad of me somehow seems worse in the moment than hurting my tribe.
Reputation can eventually be put above honesty
Peacekeeping (dodging outward conflict) instead of peacemaking (resolving little problems that come up and finding true peace)
Feels necessary to change how I act based on who I'm with - I become the chamoleon who takes on the appearance of my surroundings instead of being true to myself
Always putting out feelers to try to figure out what others are feeling about me . This can even translate to not believing that God accepts me because I'm so preoccupied with analyzing if other people do.
Feeling like no one understands me... But could that because I'm never showing my true self to them?
Real truth can eventually become elusive to a chameleon
Exodus 14:14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. (NIV)
1 Kings 19:11-13 And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
Psalms 51:6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.
I think of the damage that can be done raising children from a reactive place. They are so in tune with our mental state. Even now my little girlie will go back and forth between Zèzè and I when we're having an intense discussion about something. It has nothing to do with her. Usually we're not even frustrated with each other but if we are discussing an emotionally charged topic, she knows it and does not feel secure.
And why waste this one precious life living in reaction mode when there is a solution? I think down deep we are all asking the question of the writer of the song, "Is There More?". "Can I let my burdens fall, will they stay there if I do?"
Our burdens can stay at Jesus' feet. It was only ever us that went and picked them up again. We think modern life is so busy and stressful, but much of it is about making choices that steer us away from doing and having it all, and then surrendering the need to be in control of complicated situations.
There is hope. There is a renewed mind for each of us. There is inner peace and calm amid outer chaos. There is sunlight shining thru. There is more.