It’s another sleepless night. 4:20 am to be exact. It’s been like this for three days and I have never suffered from insomnia before.
I can’t sleep until late, wake up between 10 and 12 and then can’t sleep again. Feels like I’m caught in a strange groundhog night movie. I should mention that it’s been almost two weeks of quarantine in Spain. Two weeks of being alone and even though I can still see my neighbors, I haven’t touched another human.
So, fuck it, let’s use this energy to output even though I’m dubious how coherent my writing will be at this hour. Still, my mind has been performing all sorts of loops and illegible acrobatics, I might as well try to make some sense of it. Here is what’s been keeping me awake at night:
The thing that pisses me off the most about this pandemic is that there seems to be no space for anger.
Yep, anger. You heard me right. Old fashioned, good old straight anger. Not the muted, watered-down version. Not the reasonable one. The spiritual one. Nor the compassionate one.
Just honest fucking anger.
The one that can openly say, I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all. And I don’t want it.
I don’t like what’s happening to this world.
I don’t like how messed up everything is.
I don’t like being in quarantine and not having touched another human for two weeks.
I don’t like that I don’t know where this is going.
I don’t like to feel so powerless, a small pawn in forces beyond my control.
Above all else, I don’t like feeling all this fear in and around me.
I’m angry for being put through this experience without my consent! Basta.
That’s what personally pisses me off, but then there are other more general aspects that make me angry like:
I’m angry at how incoherent the information is surrounding all that is happening. None of it is really making any sense.
The stats don’t add up and it makes me angry to be bombarded with all this data triggering an emotional rollercoaster ride inside of me that I didn’t sign up for!
This confusion creates overwhelm, powerlessness and a freeze response in the body. And I’ll explain in a moment why that’s our biggest enemy right now.
As I’m lying in bed, my mind caught in those endless loops, it slowly dawns on me: I’m traumatized. That’s why I can’t sleep.
Ok, I know that may sound dramatic. In my surroundings no one has neither died nor does my reality feel unbearable. I still have access to nature, a good support network, food, shelter, health…plenty to be grateful for.
The pandemic hit us like a tsunami wave of fear. For most parts unexpectedly. The shock of it is still sitting in our bones even though we have (especially the circles I’m connected to) taken the blow in stride. We have quarantined, gone online and sacrificed our personal freedom for the collective good.
We have done so as compassionate warriors and we shall remember these times with pride, however weird they are. We did what we could to save lives. And we did it together. And I am deeply touched by this. That somehow, we were able to find this common agreement. That in itself is worth a lot. But…
But here comes the part that no one is talking about.
When we feel in danger our bodies respond with fight or flight. Adrenaline rushing through our veins causing us to buy too much toilet paper. It’s actually a normal physiological response. Survival. We can all relate.
That was the first part of what happened to us. And then came the quarantine. Which to our nervous system is like a freeze. It’s what happens when we can’t fight or flight.
All the accumulated energy literally stops in our bodies. Even if we can’t feel it. That’s the crucial part. We might feel relatively normal as our cognitive side of the brain does everything to give meaning to what is happening around us.
As I said, it’s been two weeks for me, so the novelty is wearing off.
I did use the time wisely, I painted, I rested, I talked to friends, I laughed at all the creative and silly videos people are sending and, most importantly, I slowed the fuck down. It’s been actually great. I did not feel consciously in stress or trauma.
This level of routine and normalcy in these abnormal circumstances is creating a level of safety that allows the body to relax and open up again and with this, we get a chance to discharge all the adrenaline from before.
Because let’s face it:
The world is falling apart before our very eyes and we are told to sit at home and wait!
Checking the case stats every day. xxx people died today. Great. If you are still working out in the field, at least you can use your body, you can take action. You don’t have to be in freeze. And on a psychosomatic level, it’s better to be in action than in freeze. Here is why:
In response to danger, our bodies go through a cycle of fight and flight, or/and possibly freeze and then have to discharge the frozen energy of adrenaline through the deactivation process to arrive back at a balanced state of social engagement.
Diagram of fight, flight and freeze response from @somaticexperiencinginstitute on Instagram
The discharging of the adrenaline, that’s my anger now.
And it needs to be given space. The part of me that wants to scream: hey, I didn’t ask for this. This is not how it was supposed to be. I’m already in so much disagreement about what’s happening in the world and now I have no choice! WTF!!!! Now I’m part of the whole, whether I like it or not. And I don’t like it because I might get sick. I might die.
As my personal will is being crushed, there needs to be at least the compassion of allowing it to fight and scream.
Because as much as I like the idea of being way beyond my ego, I am not. Most of us aren’t.
Allowing it and acknowledging its presence, without spiritually bypassing it away, high vibing it, diminishing it by comparing to others, …all those strategies haven’t helped and they won’t.
Because this animal that is our body, that really is us, it needs to feel and express its terror at the unsafety that is all around us. Causing sleepless nights to, I’m sure, not just me.
It needs to literally physically shake off that terror before we can access the deeper dimensions of the heart and move forward from there.
It needs to move, to scream, to fight in order to soften and feel safe again. If we, as a whole don’t want to wear the fear and shock of what just happened to us, we need to make space for our anger. Because by doing so we give it a chance to transform into something constructive, something beautiful. If not, we will carry it within us for years to come.
What you can do to not carry the trauma of Corona in the future
As I’m writing this, I’m aware of the part of me wanting to judge myself for being emotionally immature. Anger has always been a taboo in our society in general, let alone in times of crisis like now.
We feel ashamed of feeling what we are feeling:
So many people dying. So many people working really hard, saving lives, risking their lives, people losing their businesses. Real shit. So how does me not getting what I want fair in all this? Insignificant, of course.
How do I reconcile how I’m actually feeling with what I think I should be feeling right now?
With the information above we can start reframing anger as a physiological response and not just emotional. In a strange way, because we don’t have as much power over our physiology as over our emotions, it empowers us.
We can give our bodies permission to do what it needs to do in order to release, rather than judging it. Practically speaking it means:
1) acknowledge what’s there.
Is there restlessness? A feeling of disorientation? Demotivation? Paralysis (sleeping long hours?)? Be with those feelings. Does any of what I mentioned above resonate with you? Do you also feel afraid, confused and then angry?
Just noticing how we actually have been feeling is oftentimes a great relief and the first step to changing it. Like me being struck at 5am in the morning that the reason I haven’t been able to sleep is because of anger, is empowering. Otherwise, I’m just caught in the energy of it and not knowing how to get out. Now the path is clear: acknowledge, express and release, transform.
2) express and release.
You can do that through all kinds of exercises, but they all need to be physical. Yes, screaming and hitting a pillow can be a great relief. Doing shaking meditation, also. Vigorous exercise can be helpful, but I would combine it with expressing sound. Our jaws get tight when we get angry. That needs to be moved also by literally opening our mouths and throats and sound helps with that.
Just expressing your anger to a friend and someone who is safe can be magic. If they are resourced enough themselves and can hold space for you, that is.
(NOTE: ANGER BECOMES TOXIC WHEN PROJECTED ON SOMEONE ELSE. Releasing it by hitting or abusing another is not helpful nor healing and not what I am talking about here!)
Anger only becomes bad when we stay stuck in it.
Transformation happens on its own when we fully embrace our ‘shadow’. If you physically discharged your adrenaline, you will feel at peace afterward. Your body will be exhausted. Transform your anger means to move it, don’t stay stuck in it. Anger only becomes bad when we stay stuck in it. Watch out for the narrative that looks for a scapegoat for your situation of discomfort. Now that you have expressed it you can use this inner fire to take action. What do you, your family and the world need right now? When we can ask ourselves this question again we are back down in Social Engagement.
Personally, it inspired me to do my own research rather than just swallowing everything the media says. It took me from the fear response to each doom and gloom headline and empowered me to look for the truth in this world of digital overwhelm. Spreading information that is not fear-driven has transformed my anger into a burning passion for truth and the empowerment of humans.
It’s 6 am now and I feel much better for having gotten up and done something with this energy inside of me. Even though I’m tired as f***.
I wish there to be more awareness about our emotional well being as it relates to our physiology. Less judgment and more compassion to ourselves and others.
I wish that after this pandemic, we will not be frozen in trauma, scared of the next catastrophe that’s waiting for us as it inevitably must, leading us to make really bad choices.
Traumatized people are disconnected from their ability to choose. Traumatized people can easily become sheep. Let’s not allow that to happen. Let’s empower each other to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health so next time we get hit by a tsunami wave of panic, we can keep our heads cool and choose from a space of wisdom.
May you sleep well.
Kasia Patzelt works as an Embodiment Coach and is passionate about integrating our spiritual experiences into the here and now of daily life aka how to be truly heart intelligent. She is a writer on Medium and works one-on-one with people online or on the magic island of Ibiza, where she lives. www.kasiapatzelt.com
Image courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez.