It’s the scenario we all dread.
The moment a stranger enters your car and drives off, with you inside it.
This happened to me in the summer of 1996. It was a warm afternoon with a slight breeze and no warning of what was about to happen. It didn’t occur in the back streets or alleyways of London town, but in the heart of a bustling street, jam-packed with people doing their weekend shopping.
That afternoon, my husband (soon to be ex) had stepped out of the car whilst I sat in the passenger seat observing the vibe and the atmosphere out on the streets. I had recently become a first-time mum and had given birth to a beautiful baby daughter. I was sitting in my seat still reflecting on the changes that had occurred through her birth.
As I sat there in quiet contentment, I couldn’t have been more unaware of what was due to take place.
The drivers’ side door opened and in stepped a man I didn’t recognize. He was a young guy with a cropped blond haircut, and in my naiveté, I turned to him and pointed out that he seems to have got into the wrong car.
He looked at me coldly and said ‘No, I’m in the right car’.
With that sentence punctuating the air, he forced the key in the ignition and drove off while I stared at him in disbelief. I should have screamed, panicked, fainted.
But here’s the thing.
I was as cool as a cucumber.
I’m awakened by more anxiety when I receive a tax bill in the post. When my accountant sends me an e-mail, or when I reach my car and find yet another parking ticket with another hefty fine to pay.
Yet here I am carjacked and I’m as relaxed and nonchalant as I could be.
The body has an incredible intelligence system.
The Body has a coping mechanism which shuts down and cuts itself off from any feeling during times of danger. Imagine an electrical circuit and when there’s an overload of electricity, the system just shuts down.
In the human body, this shutting down protects you from feeling too much or being too overwhelmed. At this point, more clarity ensues then when you’re navigating your everyday life.
Trust your wisdom and gut feeling.
Throughout the whole process, I had a gut feeling and knowing that all would be well. I trusted this and did not allow myself for one second to become consumed with thinking of worse case scenarios.
I surrendered to what was happening and let each moment dictate what needed to happen next. I effortlessly developed a focus I didn’t even believe I possessed.
Access the humanity of the other person.
The first thing I did when the guy drove off with me inside the car, was to engage him in a conversation. To illustrate the extent of this, I laughed as I told him that the last thing I could imagine doing on a Sunday afternoon was being taken for a drive by a stranger.
If he could only connect with me as a human being, he might then not want to inflict any pain on me. Bizarre though it seemed, my gut feeling led with this option and I followed obligingly.
To my utter amazement (and confusion) the guy drove around the area without uttering a word in response to my invitation to engage in conversation. He then drove for a while, then to my amazement, turned right back along the road he had picked me up from and parked in exactly the same spot where we started.
With a swift movement, he stepped gingerly out of my car.
I never saw him again.
As I sat glued to my seat, imagining I had been in some kind of warped dream, my husband stepped back into the car. He was totally oblivious to what had transpired throughout the 30 minutes he had spent shopping.
His world had stayed the same during this time, but mine had turned upside down. Nothing looked the same again, and as the hours ticked on, my system began to wake up to the reality of what had occurred.
In waking up from my trance, I reflected on my role as a wife and mother who could have disappeared from the planet in one fail swoop. Who knows where this guy could have taken me and if I would have survived it.
What would have happened to my baby girl if I wouldn’t have survived? I would have missed the next beautiful years of her life.
None of this was at the forefront of my mind as the guy had driven off with me a few hours earlier.
When there is mention of ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’, I imagine this is what people experience psychologically. Of course, Psychologists will label it a disorder, as I would have done in my days when I worked as a Psychotherapist.
It isn’t a disorder, just the opposite.
The internal system is an extremely intelligent one which self-heals and closes off when traumatic experiences occur so that you can manage what needs doing in the moment to keep you safe.
Once the body is no longer in survival mode, it then relaxes and feelings begin to seep in. Of course, by this point, the feelings come in a tidal wave, often overwhelming and difficult to manage. This is when it is experienced as a trauma, but it’s simply the overwhelming thinking that accompanies an experience.
As I stand here 20 years on, my daughters (yes I added a second daughter to my repertoire) are aware of my obsession with always locking the car door the minute I enter the car. A small price to pay for what could have been monumentally worse.
What I remind my daughters is that just like I use the internal locking in the car to keep us all safe, my internal system also systematically locks my unhelpful thinking out, to protect and keep me safe.
Reflect for a moment on your life, and ask yourself what experiences have required you to surrender to the moment?
Originally published at www.micheleattiascoaching.com