Does the wilderness bring calm or panic?

My awareness of the dynamics of stress responses in my body, the kind that push my blood glucose up, the kind I can’t yet feel consciously but want to so I can heal, emotionally and physically.

Last week I drove a friend into the deep woods, away from cell phone signals, two-lane roads and the noise of civilization. We landed at a remote lake where the song of loons greeted us. As I floated in an inner tube, I was aware of deep relaxation draining my body of everyday stress. A glance at my sensor readings showed my glucose flattened. This was very good to see.

My friend who accompanied me on this journey had a different experience. She’s at a different point of her healing journey, and I think the remoteness of the location caused her stress to increase. It probably didn’t help that I pointed to every dark pile on the logging road and called out, “Bear poop!” I like bears. I believe they don’t want to be around me any more than I want to be around them. But I can see that proximity to bears in the woods can cause anxiety for some.

Back to floating in the tube, hearing the call of loons…I tried to stay in the moment, present in my body, and letting go of everyday stress. I reminded myself that the body and emotional self wants to heal, and I can let go of dysfunction ways I learned as a child. I no longer need to busy my mind by counting random things, closing myself emotionally, or regularly hauling up a shame response after sharing thoughts with others.

These are hard habits to break. But I think the only way we change our course is to prove to ourselves that habit like these (and I have many others) served a purpose when we were children. We were too young to realize they never really helped us, and now we’re adults we can let them go. We don’t need to count. We can share our feelings (but first we have to feel them ourselves). We can track back that shame response to parents who carried it in their own psyche as a result of their own childhoods. It sometimes feels wrong to go against those early teachings by our parents. But our emotional selves want to heal. We’re drawn to the light like those trees we see in the forest that start out growing sideways before they turn for the sky. Healing is possible.

Leave a Reply