Many of us are conditioned to deal with two boxes when making decisions in life. Either this or that, right or wrong, good or bad, should or shouldn’t, them or us, or all or nothing. And when we have to make a choice, we want to define, categorize, and conclude and fast.

When you’re in a traumatic response, you may think the simplicity of these boxes will keep you safe. In your out-of-control-ness, you may want to control what you can, and these boxes give you the illusion of control.

You might get agitated when others don’t understand and agree with the boxes you’ve asserted. And feel even more out of control when your boxes don’t alleviate the urgency you’re experiencing—pushing you further into the two corners you’ve established. Doubling down on what you’ve decided needs to happen to keep safe, you might find yourself isolated in your own rigidity.

The boxes are often implicit, reinforced in the repeating, based on the story you’ve created about yourself and your life. They are the basis of your expectations. And have become the criteria by which you judge yourself and others and make your decisions.

But quite often, we’re challenged to adjust our expectations to the demands of life. And it’s during these times you’ll need to pause, which is the opposite of what our nervous system is telling us to do. 

When pressed to choose, you’ll need to take a long look at the story on which our boxes and expectations are based. 

Long enough to ask why, long enough to see where that story came from. Long enough to begin to see the shadows of other ideas, possibilities and options emerge between the boxes. 

Long enough to remember you have more than two choices. 

Long enough to recognize you are in a traumatic response. 

Long enough for compassion to emerge for yourself, your pain, and your panic.

Long enough for compassion to emerge for others, their pain, and their panic.

Right now, you may need to pause. 

So you can breathe. 

Or cry so that you can move the energy through. 

Choose to use your resources and supports. 

And share your heart. 

Take a step back.

So you can break down the boxes, even if it becomes a scattered mess on the floor, ask the people who love you to help you clean it up.

You may need to tell the expectations and judgments to be quiet. Admit that you don’t know what to do and try your best not to reorganize it into two more boxes. 

But most of all, you need to hold yourself in tenderness and rock your pain and grief and fear like a baby in your arms until you hear your breath steady.

Deep breath in. And a full breath out.

Deep breath in. And a full breath out.

Deep breath in. And a full breath out.

For today, that’s enough.