Eva Belanger Somatic Experiencing Therapy

PTSD-Where there is Red there is Blue

People say that there are two sides to everything. There is one person’s perspective and experience, which is often very different from the next person’s. Instead of seeing our worlds as black or white, could we take a chance to venture into the realm of believing that our story is not always the “right” story. Lets not even make it about right or wrong, but rather there are two sides, equally important, and equally present.

The issue we face is this, we get caught up on one of the sides. Most often then not, the side we get stuck on is the “red,” or bad side. We get caught up in believing the most threatening to our existence. Lets say there is a color red associated with all things bad in our experience. Now let us consider that at the same moment there is a “blue,” which is cooling, calm and good. Our minds and brains are geared to focus on the red to simply keep us alive, a survival instinct. There is nothing you or I can do to change this. It is the way we were built many years ago. We were built this way so we could stay alive and thrive.

Henceforth, our nature is to focus on the red, and this encompasses all the bad, threatening scenarios that we may encounter. Will you take a chance and consider this? In every “red” moment there is a “blue” moment. At the same time we feel intense emotion in one direction, there is an opposite emotion or pull. Our bodies desire to stay at ease, calm, fluid and in a gentle balance, but they also desire to stay alive.

Let me explain further. The feelings and sensations that exist in the body when we feel “red” grab our attention and hold it in a vise like grip. As evolution played out, our bodies had to have formed a strong brain function to sense danger and therefore enhanced threat response. This is what has kept us alive long enough to develop such a strong and powerful neocortex or cognitive processing part of our brain. Our powerful flight, fight response has made us the smartest and most advanced organism. We are geared to sense and feel the red in such a way that holds us in a state of readiness to fight. Our nervous system, gets jacked up so high that we are ready to spring forward to fight just as a cougar would when faced with danger. We get triggered then by things that are not even truly worth getting triggered about. This mechanism in our brains puts us automatically on high alert even when there is nothing to fear.

In these moments of extreme “red” feelings and sensations in the body, there are also sensations, somewhere in the body, of being cool, calm, and grounded. If there is no sensation of “blue” anywhere then it is highly possible that it is located in our external environment. Maybe the blue lies in the reality that even though we feel “red” rage and fight, that our surrounding is safe, and the environment around is not after us or harmful to us in any way. Maybe its in that moment of internal rage and red that we shift our awareness to something blue. We shift not to ignore our natural way of being in a moment, but we shift rather to save the emotional and psychologically stress in being extremely angry, or “extreme” in any one feeling. We must work to get our automatic inclinations to see the blue.

There are two sides to everything. There is a blue waiting to be paid attention to. It waits to be discovered as it watches us spin out of control and deep into a red vortex. So far into the vortex we go that it hurts us deeply and the people we love. “Blue” awaits in the background because it knows that we need to fight past the red to get to it. Its always there waiting to be discovered and fortunate for us, it will always be there waiting.

In my own experience with combat trauma and PTSD I struggle to see the blue in my situations. I often challenge myself to see the blue and I find that I have an addiction to seeing the red. Why? I think that to a degree the red has become my normal state. Blue is not the norm as it once was. Now I must work myself back into the blue territory after being in the red so much. Sometimes I fight against the blue insisting that its not there and finding the red emotions to be enticing and common place. Sometimes it feels good to sit in the anger and feel the surge of energy race through my body. Sometimes its the only way I can feel anything at all. (Most people with PTSD can understand this feeling. My body was so heightened in anger and fear that I could not find the blue.) The only way I could find blue was to challenge myself to finding some peace in my environment. My environment was yearning for me to notice its presence.

At this moment in time, and on this occasion, it came down to the color of the wall and a plant sitting in the office of where I sat. This was enough to help my parasympathetic nervous system bring me back down to a state of balance. This had to be enough for me today. I was to be satisfied in this moment. This moment was a win simply due to breaking free from the addiction to seeing only red. Its a journey and it took much work and coaching on my part. I have hope though in knowing that there is always blue to be noticed and experienced no matter what I are going through.