Gone But Not Always Forgotton

"The scars you can't see are the hardest to heal." - Astrid Alauda

Sometimes we can find ourselves having reactions to things that seem to make no logical sense to us. Things 'press our buttons' or leave us feeling uncomfortable and no amount of rationalising seems to help, in extreme cases it can lead to anxiety and phobias.

It is easy to forget, that as we move through life, that everything we see, hear and experience is being logged, only a little of it makes its way into our conscious mind as the rest is discarded and dumped into our subconscious mind - gone but not always forgotton, it can still cause a reaction.

I'd like to share a story that illustrates this -

My Mother has had a lifelong fear of the sounds of church bells ringing, she gets a really panicky anxious feeling and feels real fear - she has no conscious reason for this.

She investigated all sorts, even thinking that maybe it was a 'past life' memory. Nothing helped.

She was born at the beginning of 1939 the year the war broke out, and a while ago I happened to catch a TV programme talking about England and WW2.

I was half watching while doing something else, when all of a sudden my ears pricked up as they said a very interesting thing! I don't think was common knowledge, as no one I have spoke to had heard it before.

They said that when the war started they silenced the Church bells all over the county. - It was decreed that they were only to be rung in a real emergency, as in the case of the country being invaded, when they would be rung everywhere to warn people.

They then went on to say that they were actually rung just once in 1940, as they thought invasion was imminant!

There it was - the bells! - Can you imagine the fear of the people, with a country at war and the bells ringing! I am sure my Mother picked up on the fear and anxiety that all her family and the people around must have had when they heard bells ringing!

Of course a baby is too young to rationalise but the sound of the bells and the feelings of fear from those around was logged and internalised and then replayed whenever she heard church bells.

I couldn't wait to share this with my Mum and she was so glad to have finally solved the mystery and understood "why".

I wonder how many things we have internalised and forgotten that are perhaps influencing us, our reactions and our behaviour?


Suz said...

Oh so very much
I am certain of this
How very fascinating that you could give your mother some information about this
Bless your loving daughter heart

Colleen Loehr said...

Hi Susannah- This is a great post and an enlightening story- and it comes to me at the perfect moment. I had a lot of reactivity these last few days and felt very discouraged by it. It's frustrating to find myself feeling upset at small things and giving people a hard time when I don't feel they deserve it. Your article reminds me I may never uncover all the causes for my reactions. Hating myself only seems to make things worse. Having compassion and forgiveness for my reactivity doesn't mean I condone it, and may be the only approach truly powerful enought to heal it. Your post helps me to feel un-stuck from reflexive self-condemnation. Thank you! Colleen

Susannah said...

Thanks Suz. :-)

Susannah said...

Hello Colleen

- I think that is a very good point that you make, that we may never uncover the causes of all our 'reactions'.

We all have buttons that can be pushed by things that to others may seen small and insignificant but on an emotional level they have a charge for us and trigger reactions.

That is why (as you so wisely say) we need to have compassion for ourselves.

Lets always remember to be our own advocate and be kind to ourself.

Thanks very much for your comment. :-)

BK said...

Interesting experience. This reminds me of the experiment I read in several books of the ringing bell and the dog; every time they rang the bell, food was given to the dog. They did it several times until whenever the dog heard the bell, it knew it is time to eat. And even if no food was being served, the dog would still be salivating. In the case of your mother, that ringing church bell was associated with fear of an attack. It must have anchored so deeply in her that it continues to affect her subconscious even when she has grown up already.

I sure hope your solving of the mystery will help your mother to overcome this subconscious fear.

Jennifer said...

What an interesting story. And it's so true. It wasn't until I was in my mid-forties that I discovered the source of the creative block that has plagued me my entire adult life. It's still a challenge to work through, but at least I know where it comes from and I don't blame myself anymore.

It would be interesting to try and be mindful of this for a week or two and journal about it.

Susannah said...

Hi BK - Ah yes, Pavlovs dogs! Yes, I see what you mean.

That sense of fear was anchored really deeply, but at least now she will be able to rationalise the feelings when they happen and know that the feeling of 'something bad is going to happen' was rooted many, many years ago, and she has no need to be fearful now.

Actually, I don't know if she has heard bells since and what difference it made? I shall have to phone and ask her.

Thanks very much for dropping in. :-)

Susannah said...

Hi Jennifer :-)

I too discovered something like that myself and as you say you still have to work through the issues, but it helps SO much knowing where they stem from.

In my case it enabled me to challenge things I thought were facts about myself - rather than a belief or external judgement that got anchored.

Interesting stuff!

Thanks for sharing your experience too.

Barbara Scully said...

What a great post Susannah. I guess we all need to look back when we can and drop the baggage. But what a lovely story about the bells and your mother's fear. It is good that you were able to find that piece of her personal jigsaw for her! What a lovely gift to be able to give her - the gift of hearing the beauty of church bells!

Colleen Loehr said...

Yesterday I read this post to my husband and teenage daughter and it triggered a lot of interesting conversation between us. I like the connection between the church bells story and BK pointing out conditioning as in the experiments with Pavlov's dogs. We all have conditioning, in fact what Eckhart calls the pain-body is in a way a term for the maladaptive conditioning that has built up in each of us to some extent. The beauty of this insight is that it de-personalizes and takes some of the shame out of our conditioned emotional reactivity. We can still accept responsibility for unskilful behavior, but we don't need to get bogged down with internalizing a personal sense of self based on impersonal conditioning. Thanks for a powerful post Susannah, and for your responses to my comments. Colleen

Ellen said...

Awesome post Susannah. I know this has something to do with my sister's fear of dogs. We come from a family of dog lovers, yet somehow my sister doesn't like dogs and she will not even touch one. We've all talked about it at length. Neither my sister nor my mother ever remembered her being bit by a dog or even having a bad experience. There has to be something from when she was very young that perhaps happened to her and at the very same time, maybe she heard a dog barking or something like that. I don't know if we will ever know, but it's interesting to think about.

Jewels For Hope said...

That's great you were able to give your mother some sort of closure as to why she feared bells. It's strange how the mind works and what it remembers. :)

Susannah said...

Barbara - Yes, I was glad to solve the puzzle for her. I don't know whether she will ever truly enjoy church bells but at least she will be able to rationalise the feeling of impending doom!

Colleen - I am glad it triggered an interesting discussion - there are so many avenues to be explored once you realise how things like this are 'locked in' by circumstance.

Like you say, "we all have conditioning but we don't need to get bogged down with internalizing a personal sense of self based on impersonal conditioning" - that is a really good point, stuff like the bells for instance, can be mistaken for something deeply personal when in fact it is just the effects of something outside of us, that has lodged in our psyche!

Ellen - What a shame that your sister has a dislike of dogs and no conscious reason to pin it on! In a case like that I am sure you are right, that something somewhere in the past triggered it.

Hi Jewels - yes, it was SO nice to be able to get to the bottom of something that she had lived with for 70 years!

We had all just accepted that it was an irrational fear, never dreaming that one day the mystery would be solved!

Thanks everyone for all your comments, it has been great. :-)

Ann said...

Hi Susannah, I found this very interesting. I am delighted your mother has found a reason and now can understand her fear/anxiety. I too react to certain things in an odd sort of way. Have always put it down to my peculiarity. After reading you post I realized deep within me I knew my anxieties are linked to past experiences.

Susannah said...

Hi Ann - yes, I know what you mean, we all have our own peculiarities and just accept them as part of us but I am sure lots of them stem from forgotton incidences like the 'the bells'.

In fact I was talking to my sister tonight about my reactions to something and she told me that she reacts that way too! and informed me that my Mum does as well!

Now in that case it is learnt behaviour, something we pick up without realising it - but I didn't realise that about this particular reaction until talking with her tonight.

Thanks for popping in, always nice to see you. :-)


Related Posts with Thumbnails