There is trauma in my background and sometimes it is not as far in the past as I imagine. The trauma was Mottsu’s death by suicide, years later it affects me. The after-shocks sometimes sneak up and ambush me. Last week, for example, I discovered my own little stress disorder symptom; an inability to cope with ‘surprise’ events.

William Jame's bearWhat was planned as a pleasant surprise work Christmas party, last week, caused me so much anxiety I had to decline the invitation for a fun mystery event at an unknown location.

The mystery party presented too much uncertainty, it has taken me a little while to put together the cause and effect of mystery leading to anxiety.

To understand my emotions, like the rising pre-party anxiety, I find it helpful to consider William Jame’s bear. Jame’s hypothesises that the physiological reaction occurs first and is interpreted by our conscious mind as an emotion. We don’t run from a bear because we are afraid our response to the bear is to run and then we notice our bodily responses, like sweaty palms and racing heartbeat. We are afraid because we run.

I noticed my anxiety when I was unable to accept the Christmas party invitation, rather than being unable to accept the party invitation because of my rising anxiety.

Maybe it is easier to think that rather than crying because I am sad, I am sad because I cry. The physiological tears come first closely followed by what you recognise as the emotion of sadness.

What I am starting to realise is our tendency to expect rational emotional responses to things and situations, is not rational. The best we can do is to rationalise emotional responses, and only after the fact. I suspect we are essentially emotional beings who think of ourselves as rational beings.

…and for people who have experienced trauma? Well, we’re even less rational and more emotional than others. Handle with care.