“Jung introduced the idea of synchronicity to strip off the fantasy, magic, and superstition which surround and are provoked by unpredictable, startling, and impressive events that, like these, appear to be connected.” ― C.G. Jung, Synchronicity
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Susan has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, severe agoraphobia, panic attacks and dissociation after being robbed at her place of employment. While being held up at gunpoint, she was still able to remain composed and pack the thiefs’ backpack as he demanded.
She returned to work after a week but she remained in the fear response and couldn’t manage the constant feeling of intense danger. She was overwhelmed and thus came to see me.
We have been working together for almost a year with some progress. Her intense fears cloud her confidence and her critical voice keeps her stuck.
She rather leap forward and “return to normal” than confront her fears with small steps. She feels the fear and then criticizes herself for having the thoughts at all. She understandably just wants the fear and anxiety to go away.
I have used many of the techniques inside my toolbox. I introduced mindfulness meditation, four square breathing, grounding exercises, and positive, compassionate self-talk to soothe anxiety. She is able to relax in session and regulate her fears but once she leaves my office, her attempts at home empower fear and her critical voice belittles her efforts.
The Anatomy of Anxiety
Neuroscience has helped us understand how trauma effects the brain. Physiological changes occur even before the conscious mind knows why you’re afraid. The classic fear response located in the amygdala alerts other brain structures resulting in a burst of adrenaline, a shutdown of digestion, a rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, and increased blood pressure.
The circuitry from the amygdala alerts the thalamus and the cortex, the conscious thinking portion of the brain. After the fear response is activated, the cortex and thalamus kick into gear. The thalamus processes sights and sounds and filters incoming cues and directs them either to the amygdala or the cortex. If the data streaming in through the senses assesses there is imminent danger, the body stays on alert and the thinking part becomes limited.
Once the circuitry proceeds into an elevated stress response for a long period of time, physical, mental, and emotional aspects remain out of normal working conditions. Tools like mindfulness meditation, walking, deep breathing, listening to soothing music, and positive mantras can help regulate the stress response and return your neural circuitry back to normal.
As confidence is built in your ability to self regulate emotions, it is possible to slowly expose yourself to your fears in small doses. Susan was stuck in the stress response and had depleted her self-esteem to try and normalize her emotions.
Symbolism and Synchronicity
While we were in a recent session, I decided to have us switch chairs to engage her into a sense of empowerment. The physical change didn’t help.
But just when things seemed so unhopeful, a cricket appeared. I had been in the office all morning without a cricket in sight. I mentioned seeing the bug crawl on the floor.
Susan lit-up. She said, “My daughter and I were sitting in the backyard the other day and saw a cricket. I was about to kill it but my daughter stopped me. She said, “Mom, crickets are good luck. Don’t kill it. You’ll ruin your luck.”
Was this a coincidence or synchronicity? In Cameron’s book, The Artists Way she described Carl Jung’s term synchronicity as a fortuitous of intermeshing events. Whatever you want to call it, it helped Susan. The belief in seeing the cricket sparked her hope again.
According to many cultures, crickets are a symbol of good fortune and wealth. The cheerful chirps of crickets make us happy. Even William Shakespeare writes about the joys of crickets in his play, Henry IV. In scene IV, Prince Henry asks Poins, “Shall we be merry?” Poins responds, “As merry as crickets, my lad.”
In The Cricket on the Hearth, Charles Dickens writes, “It’s merrier than ever tonight, I think.” And it’s sure to bring us good future; John! It always has done so. To have a cricket on the hearth is the luckiest thing in the world!”
The Chinese observe the cricket as the threefold of life. Crickets lay their eggs in the soil and lives underground as lava. Then they transpire and convert into the imago.
The Irish considered crickets wise and household spirits. They understood all that was said and it was unwise to speak badly of crickets. The singing of crickets keeps the fairies away.
There is much evidence from many cultures and timespans that crickets are a symbol of good things are to come. Sometimes it’s a spontaneous symbol like a cricket that can bring positive change. I am hopeful that Susan will normalize her fears and anxieties. Soon she will reflect back on the experience as major turning point in her life as a way to make new meaning and sense of a more expanded and renewed sense of self, compassion, and gratitude.
By the way, I never saw that cricket for the rest of the day. I believe it to be a synchronistic event meant only for Susan!