Crisis is defined as the perception of a critical incident that produces subjective distress causing the person the inability to cope and function at their normal levels of performance. Crisis can serve as an opportunity to learn and grow, however if the person is not able to work through and regain normal functioning the probability of a crisis cycle may develop causing emotional and mental health dis regulation.
Loss is at the heart of every trauma and crisis. (Wright 2011) Loss is a death that causes one to have to readjust to their original way of living creating a new normal. The death can come in the form of a physical death, debilitating health functioning, loss of a relationship, death of a dream or idea, loss of a community or social status and position. With each of these, additional unrecognizable losses join the list of suffering that requires a grieving process. (Cisney, Ellers 2007). This grieving process or lack thereof exposes trauma effects.
The brain was created in an amazing and profound way causing the specific body organs to function and behave according to the messages that are relayed to that particular body part. Cognitive brain functions (mental process that induces behavior) takes each life experience through the lens of the five-sense stimuli creating an interpretation of meaning known as the perception. When new experiences are happening, our brain retrieves information that was previously organized and filed from a similar situation, influencing how a person acts or reacts to the current circumstance. This process is usually outside of the conscious awareness of the individual. Therefore, stimuli from outside sources trigger an internal warning bell (the traumatized brain) causing a response of learned behavior. (Riegler, Riegler 2008) The consequence or result of this learned behavior causes physical bodily symptoms, manifestations of wrong thought processing or interpretation of external stimuli, and spiritual soul wounds.
The body’s memory has the capacity to observe, measure and repeat behavioral responses. The frequency of a particular outcome, to a perceived reality, reinforces the belief system that an exact consequence follows the certain stimuli, therefor calling for the same precise behavioral/bodily response. Psychology researcher Sir Frederick Bartlett defines memory as, “a reconstructive process rather than a reproductive one…Guided by schemata, generalized knowledge structures about events and situations that are constructed based on past experiences.”(Riegler, Riegler. 2008. P.13)
The term “sweet heart” has won the young girl unwanted affections from a person in the past. In the new Foster home the church family smothers the child with what they believe to be love in affection calling the child sweet heart. Although the person is different and the location is not the same, the term of sweet heart causes the young child to reconstruct the scene while her body starts to react to the thought of the unwanted attention she anticipates is coming. Real physical pain penetrates her body as she runs to the lavatory to discard the content that has risen-up to her mouth. The next time the family prepares to return to church psychosomatic symptoms will explode and declare war in the mind.
The initial trauma is being relived and the child’s cognitive mental processing steps up to bat. The invitation to return to church has set off unguarded dynamite manifesting deliberate offensive behavior toward the host. Survival is the name of her game, yet at the expense of self-destruction. The perception of her last visit experience, in which she revealed evidence of real physical pain, has added church as another unsafe place to be.
The child’s mind has now reinforced the intention of pain with the term of endearment which produces intense mental and emotional turmoil. The perception screams that those who exhibit what they term love cannot be trusted therefore they must be avoided at every opportunity. This new wound cuts deep to the inner soul while blocks are added to reinforce the wall of safety, solidifying the destructive patterns of isolation.
The soul or spirit of a person encompasses their mind, emotions and will. The encoding of life experiences inflames the belief system surrounds a particular situation. Those beliefs stir up emotions which put the will into gear affecting behaviors. “If the infected soul is not healed it will die from fear and unforgiving hatred. ” (Herbst 2008)
The motivating vow of the will locks in the defense mechanism to strengthen the belief system. The belief, “I am not safe at church.” Pure unadulterated care has been turned into the war zone. For the young child who now declares that church (and therefor God) is not safe, “love provokes an army of strong holds.” (Scholl-Henderson, 2007) Exposures of true love are now a trigger that reinforces the lie, people are not safe. The more others try to prove their love and care is real, the more the traumatized brain digs deeper and manifest volatile destructions on themselves or others to try to prove that their lie is real.
How will you respond, “When trauma comes to church?”