I can hear Will Smith right now, "You got an opinion on this too, huh Mary? Well let's hear it, I can take it."
I saw Will's trauma response to Chris Rock's joke about Jada's short hair, and essentially about her alopecia condition, completely clearly. Based on the smallest of facial expressions on Jada's face, her head tilted in shame, you could see that her feelings were hurt. Will, who'd spent his entire childhood and young adult life looking for cues that trouble was on the horizon with his father, and ultimately others, knew what this meant.
Never again would he stand by while someone he loves gets abused or harmed. If you've read, Will, which I happened to be listening to when the incident happened, you know about his guilt for not having stood up for his mother during his father's fits of rage and violence. This moment now became the perfect moment for him to levitate and move toward Chris in a charge to make things right and restore peace for his wife, and ultimately, his mother.
Trauma does that, it makes the past pain feel like it's happening right now. It blocks out things like joy, in fact, it bonds with joy, love, and other feelings of happiness. Will had already made that pact with himself long ago, to stick up for those whom he loves, and not be a coward. In my opinion, to stop the fight, flight, or freeze response was probably the hardest moments of his life. Perhaps there were moments he could have contained his reactions, like while walking on stage, right before the slap, or even while walking back to his seat and deciding to say nothing to Chris' reaction. But alas, he could not contain his responses, he was in fight mode.
Instead of apologizing to Chris during his acceptance speech, Will spoke of his wife and mother, the academy, the William's family, the movie, the man behind the movie, Richard Williams. But he was especially speaking to his mother, "I look like the crazy father, just like they said, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things. To my mother, a lot of this moment is really complicated for me. To my mother, she didn’t want to come out, she had her knitting friends, she has a knitting crew, she’s in Philly watching. Being able to love and care for my mother and my family, my wife, I’m taking up too much time, thank you for this honor. "
I am assuming there is a lot of soul searching happening with Will right now, as this new picture of Will has painted over a lot of what others thought they knew of him. Does it paint over his past, all the good? Temporarily, yes, yes it does.
We all have trauma that we're carrying around from our childhood, adolescent years, and our adult life; there is a lot of unresolved or unforgiven situations that have caused us harm and have embedded themselves into our subconscious mind and in our bodies and can "trigger" us whenever a similar situation arises or when we even think about the traumatic experience. Thoughts are reality.
We often think about our role in past trauma, and we often replay those experiences in our minds, and in some small way we try and rewrite the past, however that can be causing us more harm than good. I've found that the most impactful way to move on from trauma is to forgive yourself and others for their actions. We are all each other's teachers, and in that respect, finding the silver lining can help you begin to forgive and to re-write a painful experience for good. Therapy treatments such as EMDR for post-traumatic stress disorders is also an incredible way to rewire the brain and replace the trauma with positive memories. I've written about my own EMDR experience in my memoir, Travels Through Aqua, Green, and Blue.
Responses to trauma can be extremely difficult when the emotion is supercharged, as it can feel like there are no other options than to react to the situation with a trauma response, with anger, fear, remorse, detachment, or hyper-vigilance. Sometimes we're taken aback by our responses to certain situations because we believed we'd already overcame them, yet we feel impulses to react or to change the current situation no matter what, which can mean to fight with the person or group that's triggered us.
Instead of a moment of fight, flight or freeze being a negative stain on your life, it's actually a good time to address your trauma, to look within and discover what the root of the trauma is; why you were triggered and to see where you felt it in your body, and to develop a plan to address it. Knowing where your trauma is living in your body, helps you determine the right approach to release the stress and tension in your body by using a mind and body therapy modality, such as somatic release.
Somatic Therapy helps you to connect the mind to the body, to understand how your nervous system responds to stress and traumatic events, and to learn ways to calm and regulate the nervous system when you've been dis-regulated or "triggered" by using talk therapy and body movements, you release pent up tension and return to positive emotions and feelings in the body, which is your baseline.
There are many movements you can make to return to your baseline and to tell your nervous system that all is well. Holding acupoints are the simplest way to calm the nervous system. According to Pamela Stokes, a HeartMath Trauma-Sensitive Certified Practitioner, and founder of Move Into Resilience, "Acupoints are places on our body which send messages of safety to our brains. Acupoints can be stimulated by touch, tapping, sound, or electricity." In this free download, Pamela lays out several ways to access your own acupoints to quickly begin calming your nervous system.
At the end of the day, we must live by the consequences of our actions. How severe those consequences are, and how we are judged, have a lot to do with who we've hurt, and what our society and culture believe the consequences should be. However, I believe that holding yourself accountable is the most important judgement we may have on ourselves. One of the biggest ways to hold yourself accountable is to understand how your trauma may be affecting your life. Seek out therapies that will help you regulate your nervous system, and above all else, forgive yourself and others and determine a path to move forward, better, and wiser than you were before.