The Way Out is Through

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Every trauma we suffer has two major possible components:  pain and emotional pain.  It can have one or the other, and it can have both.  After that traumatic events are all made up of the variable details:  who, what, where, when, why and then all of the hidden sensory input:  what could be seen, heard, smelled, tasted and felt.

The reason we’re unable to completely disarm some traumatic events is the lack of realization of all the details surrounding us during the event.  At the time of the event we are focused on the danger at hand.  We quickly slide into fight or flight mode using the limbic system of the brain known as the amygdala.  It is the most primitive portion of our brain responsible solely for survival and is often referred to as the lizard brain due to the fact that the limbic system is pretty much all there is to a lizard’s brain – survival. 

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As we go through a traumatic event, our analytical brain function dials down.  This is because the analytical brain and amygdala are unable to function at full capacity at the same time.  We tune out much of the details around us outside of the antagonizing force we are dealing with in the moment.  It is not that we do not take the details in at all, it is that the volume is turned down on them due to their lack of importance in the moment.

All of those low-volume details do not cease to exist, they are stored instead in the same limbic system that governs fight or flight.  This area is the Reticular Activating System or RAS.  It is responsible for bringing details in and out of our focus dependent upon circumstances at any given time.  We are surrounded by sensory input all the time.  If our brain focused on all the details surrounding us all the time we couldn’t process a rational thought.

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With all the aforementioned in mind, here is why trauma continues to haunt us even decades later.  All of those hidden details become what psychology refers to as “triggers”. Triggers can be any little detail that was present during the traumatic event:  the color of paint on the walls, a pin someone was wearing on a hat, a song that was playing in the background, the temperature, the weather, food cooking; you get the idea.  

In our day-to-day life one detail or trigger happening around us at any given moment probably won’t even register.  However, three, four or more triggers going on around us at the same time can be enough to bring on an emotional response to a situation that doesn’t even remotely resemble the initial trauma.  You can be having an innocent discussion with a friend that escalates into an anxiety-filled fight or flight response of epic proportions.  This is because enough unconscious triggers from a past traumatic event were present to turn on the fight or flight response in you.  In that moment all you can do is whatever it takes to survive and get away.  Then when the dust settles and you are mortified at your response (whether you admit it or not) you are unable to explain how things went that bad that fast.  This scenario can continue to play out through the course of one’s life.

It is time to change how we face trauma.  Medication, medical procedures, and many talk therapies have often had short-term affects but nothing that has given life-long change.  We have a world filled with wonderful people who are being controlled by past events.  We need better help physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in returning the power of self to each of us.  

What is needed is professionals trained in safely guiding people back through a trauma to unearth all those hidden details waiting to trigger another painful reliving of traumatic moments.  As long as those details lay hidden, they continue to hold power over our responses to the world.  Some of the work needed we can even start doing ourselves.  No one knows us better than we do.

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When we have a disproportionate response to current circumstances it is time to start sifting through the details.  This begins with determining what past traumatic event did the current circumstances seem to bring up for us?  Journaling is very good for this.  Start writing out the details.  In your mind look around the environment you were just in searching out the details that were also present in the initial traumatic moment.  This is the way that we diffuse those triggers.  You can come back to the journal repeatedly as more details come to light.

There is something else we need to do as we discover our triggers and take back our power from the past.  We need to apologize to those we unintentionally hurt with our response to an innocent situation.  I don’t say this lightly.  However, it has saved some very important relationships in my world.  Being able to say “I’m sorry” and sharing what set me off and what it reminded me of have been cathartic experiences bringing those I love closer to me again.

In the case of serious trauma involving any form of abuse or PTSD, please work with trained professionals who are willing to allow you to work through one layer at a time.  This is not something that can be forced or rushed through.  You deserve to be safe and experience the best outcomes as you work through your trauma(s).  Interview professionals with whom you are considering working.  Not all therapists are the same.  You have to find someone with whom you feel comfortable with and that has had success helping with what you wish to achieve.  I wish I had the answers to who those professionals are.  It is something that certainly needs to be addressed so that those of us finding the courage and strength to take these steps may do so with those that instill confidence and trust.

If you are a professional doing this type of work, or you are someone who has worked with one that was successful in helping you, please share that information in the comments.  Let’s all help each other safely make this journey.  We deserve to be living our best lives free of the past.

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Ozona Blue, a Relaxing Treat for the Senses.

I love those unexpected adventures. My husband and I went out for dinner. We weren’t looking for anything specific. It wasn’t a special occasion just a meal to end a day. Instead we had a taste journey created by a passionate chef that was served by a cheerful staff in a beautiful location. I love sharing the gift of people who love what they do and where the do it.

Ozona Blue is now on our list of favorite places to visit when we find ourselves wandering the Clearwater area of Florida’s Gulf Coast. It is not on the beaten path and looks entirely unassuming if you happen past it. Blink at the right time and you may not even realize it is there outside your car window.

It is a great place to stop in for a meal or spend an entire relaxing afternoon. They have an in-ground pool with tables and lounge chairs where you can set up sun-drenched camp for the day.

The restaurant itself has outdoor seating. Get there early though! The couple who walked in ahead of us at just 5 PM got the last outdoor table available for a small party. Though possibly second choice for a sun-worshipper, inside is low-lit and cool. The deep blue colors of the decor give the feel of an underwater ocean warren without being kitschy with typical seaside decorations. The windows are tinted which gives that dimmed light that you might experience if you were on a scuba adventure in the deeper gulf waters.

We only experienced one drawback to sitting indoors (other than not sitting outside). It is a big space with no acoustic buffers which lends to hearing a din of conversations as there is nothing to absorb those sounds. We were lucky to be seated at a table in a corner away from most of the tables. It reduced some of the cavernous noise of everyone else’s voices so we were able to enjoy our own conversation.

The service was wonderful. Every staff member is pleasant without being boisterous. They are efficient and helpful without hovering. We were given time to enjoy each course, conversation and digestion in between. We loved not feeling rushed at any time during and at the end our meal.

Now for the food… I ordered off of the specials menu. They had options ranging from the sea to land. We started by sharing the Crab Rangoon. The presentation was lovely and gave the impression of it being a light dish to start. The long white plate held a row of delicate wrapped puffs of flavor accompanied by a smooth fruit puree.

Each rangoon was a delicate packet. The shell gave way with no effort releasing the puff cloud of silken delight inside. The crab was sweet and melted away with the creamy cheese quickly leaving the desire to quickly enjoy the rest. It was a super light beginning to the meal leaving plenty of room for the next course.

My main was a cedar plank sampler. I was concerned about being served too much food for one person and was pleasantly surprised with just enough of everything to satisfy. There were three different samples including salmon on the cedar plank. The plank allowed the fish to steam rather than char leaving each morsel moist and flavorful. The light sauce gave a perfect whisper of lemon that did not needlessly overpower the flavors of the individual fish samples. The cedar plank gave a barely detected smokiness to each one bringing out sweet, savory and a bit of ocean salt.

The sides were equally delectable. I am not a fan of squash as a side as it is usually overcooked and slimy having no real flavor of its’ own. What was on my plate was not at all like the cheap throw-away side with which so many restaurants fill up the blank spot on your dish. It was as if heat had barely brushed the vegetables. They were paired with tomato and a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan bringing out the very subtle flavor of the yellow and green squash. (Yes, squash has flavor when not cooked to within an inch of life).

My other side was garlic potato. Another often glossed over stock option. However, these potatoes were airy and smooth. The delicate texture of the skin of the red bliss potatoes disappeared like a paper thin wafer leaving behind the subtle sweetness of the potato and garlic blended together.

After all that it just wasn’t possible to let the meal end without dessert and coffee to round the whole adventure out and return us home. Not wanting to overdo, my husband and I shared a dessert. We selected the Coconut Creme Brûlée accompanied by Spanish Coffee.

Creme Brûlée is always a favorite of mine as it is a lighter option to end a meal. This one did not disappoint. The coconut flavor in the custard was subtle and the perfect amount of sweet. The delicate glass of toasted brown sugar gave that small crackle of flavor on the tongue. The dollop of whipped cream was made fresh and barely sweet bringing the entire dish together.

Now, I am usually drawn to an Irish coffee after a dinner of this caliber. But it seemed to me that the smokey whiskey would not compliment the tropical flavor of the brûlée. We went with the Spanish Coffees instead and it was the perfect option. Made with Grand Marnier, dark rum and Kahlua, the spicy orange flavored coffee contrasted with the sweet coconut each improving the flavor of the other. It was a perfect ending to a not planned food journey. We happily drifted home thinking about when we might return.

If you find yourself on a wander in the Clearwater area of the gulf, take a moment away from your get-it-all-in vacation to allow your senses to enjoy a journey at Ozona Blue. You will add another savorable memory to your adventures here in the land of endless summer.

Ozona Blue is located at 125 Orange St., Palm Harbor, Florida, 34683.

*This author has not been compensated for their review.

“I Hate Confrontation”

According to Oxford Dictionary confrontation is: A hostile or argumentative meeting or situation between opposing parties. Based on that definition, agreed, I hate confrontation. However, confrontation should not be confused with disagreement. A disagreement is when we don’t see eye to eye on a subject. It becomes a confrontation when it escalates into loud voices, arguing, expletives and more.

Sometimes someone tells us something about ourselves, or something they perceive in us that we don’t like. It seems it is human nature to immediately take the opposition with guarding and argument. We may use deflection pointing out something we don’t like in the other person or even someone not involved at the time who exhibits the same behavior or trait. We may use the tactic of making excuses for what has been pointed out to us as well. What if instead we just took a moment to think about what that person has shared with us. Do you know what courage it may have taken them to bring this to your attention? I have rarely found that there isn’t some truth to what someone has showed me about myself.

Unless we’re already at the confrontational phase, what that person is pointing out to us is most likely not meant to be hurtful. Not if it is someone who cares about us. It is often easy to tell that they are coming from a loving place by the language they are using to point something out to us. The fact that they are not yelling should be a really good sign. When someone is bringing our attention to a trait or behavior of ours it is because they want things to be better in their relationship with us. They may devolve into that confrontational stand point when they feel the frustration of not being heard or understood.

Listen, pause and think. This is one of the best ways to work through something with someone who cares about us. Maybe we don’t realize we respond a particular way because it has become a habit for us. We can ask to step away from the conversation if we need to give ourselves time to see it through the other person’s eyes. We can always continue the conversation later. People really do want to get along and will give us the space we need when they care about us.

Of course, we all want to be the hero of our own story. But, did you ever notice, the hero in every story has a moment where they question themselves and who they are? They have this epiphany often brought on by some level of adversity that evolves them into the true hero that they are meant to be. Let’s consider what someone is sharing with us about ourselves as one of those possible moments to evolve.

We deserve to be the best version of ourselves. Sometimes that means working on something about ourselves that hurts someone else. Sometimes, it is seeing ourselves with honesty and doing the work that is necessary to create the change we want to see around us. None of us is perfect and honestly, who would want to be. Perfection leaves us nothing to strive for. However, we are all amazing works in progress. Sometimes the next lesson, the next evolution of ourselves comes from someone showing us our not best features and giving us the opportunity to grow. Ideally, that is what can bring people closer together.

Noise vs. Nature

All the noise, noise, noise, NOISE

Dr. Suess

We don’t do quiet very well anymore. What’s worse is that we don’t even notice how much manmade noise is in the world around us all the time. We wonder why we can’t string a thought together and are easily distracted. It is all the noise jamming up our brains.

I really noticed this issue when I went down to the Dunedin Causeway today to walk. It’s a great way to clear the cobwebs out of my brain and get my creativity going. The problem was, I couldn’t get my zen on. There were cars going by. There were a few people sharing their high decibel bass music from vehicles. People were walking by sharing their phone conversation with everyone. What was missing was the sound of the breeze moving the palm fronds, the water lapping at the shore, the birds chattering to each other. What was missing was the quiet music of the natural world. I’m sure it was still there. I just couldn’t hear it over all the other noise.

I find that when I get out into the natural world (in a place I can actually hear it), everything just calms down. Time slows down for me. So does my heart rate and breathing. My whole nervous system goes into a rest and digest state. Then the magic happens. My brain stops jumping all over the place. I can string coherent thoughts together. Even better is that this overall effect seems to last for quite a while once I head back indoors to get things done. It is amazing what a little time with nature can do for us.

“Research has found that people who spent just two hours per week outside in a natural setting reported greater well-being compared with people who spent less time outdoors.” I already know what you’re thinking. “I don’t have two minutes in a week let alone two hours to be outside!” I get it. Sometimes, most times, I don’t either. Good news! Further studies have shown that listening to recorded natural sounds has the same benefit. Numerous natural sounds were recorded and played in lab settings in 11 different countries. The results were pretty impressive as those who were tested showed a decrease in stress, annoyance and pain. They also showed a great improvement in mood and cognitive testing.

So, when you can get out into nature, take the time for your happiness and health. Even 5 minutes sitting on a deck, park bench, or wherever you can find nature counts. When you can’t get out into nature there are all kinds of natural sound recordings that you can download to any device and just take a few minutes to listen and reset your balance. One of the apps I use is Calm.com. (I am not compensated for sharing their site). There is a free trial. Then there is a monthly subscription. However, there are plenty of other ways to download free natural sounds online. Just type free natural sounds into your device’s search engine. If you like something that will always be available to you then you can purchasing digital albums through sites like Amazon. (Again, not compensated. Just click on that highlighted Amazon you just saw and it will take you to what I found.)

I hope you get some time this week to get quiet and hear nature in some form. I like to check out new places, and so do others. So, go ahead and share your fave spot to get into nature in a comment and in the meantime, enjoy this quick little natural sound video I took:

Lake Valhalla, East Stroudsburg, PA Spring 2021
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