We’ve all seen it happen: the kind, patient person suddenly flares up and bites someone’s head off for no reason. Could the reason ‘nice’ people lash out for no apparent reason be related to their immune system? Take for instance, if you get a tickle in your throat: your body/immune system – without engaging your mind – will try to cough it out automatically. So what if that same subconscious nervous system immune response also works in other ways to expel things from the mind that are deemed by our nervous system as ‘irritants’ as well?
Example: You have a lot of grief in your life, but are doing your best to hide it, cover it up, and move on so you can function. Maybe you’ve fought in a war long ago. Maybe your family hide from you that you were adopted and you just found out. Maybe on top of this long time grief you have present day grief as well – a family member who is very sick, or ailments of mental or physical decline in yourself. Maybe your financial situation is a little precarious. Many disappointments have become stresses that you’ve had to incorporate, yet keep pressing on, to the point you don’t even think of them as stresses but just ‘life’. You are like the proverbial camel with it’s back loaded with stress straw, and the least little thing might topple your nervous system over the edge.
Then someone you love shares something vulnerable with you and you blow up at them. You don’t really know why you blew up, all you know is they really irritated you in some way. You either try to pass it off as ‘no big deal’, or you suddenly see every flaw in the person and now want nothing to do with them.
Could this be the subconscious sneezing out the particle of grief the loved one brought into your personal air space? Since you were already so full of grief, you could sense your loved one’s pain and it was the straw that broke the camels back so to speak. You may still care about the loved one, but can’t bring yourself to trust being around their vulnerability, so you reject them instead.
When a person is ready to heal and admits vulnerability, looks at it face-on and talks about it openly, it can overwhelm those around them who still have their grief/pains stuffed inside under lock and key and aren’t in a position where they personally want to go down the long road of healing. So the latter try to silence the former – just like the immune system wants to expel that dust from the nose into a sneeze, or the tickle in the throat into a cough.
Most counselors will tell a vulnerable person to avoid bullies, to avoid those who don’t understand, avoid those who seem to have turned on them when they revealed their vulnerability – and I think that is wise counsel. It is wise counsel because it supports the person who is healing to find a safe place to heal. But I think the understanding falls short when we assume that the bully in this case is ‘bad’. Could the behavior be rooted in their OWN grief, because if they were whole people they would be able to embrace in love (or at least tolerate) instead of attacking or shaming the vulnerable?
If this odd idea/musing is true, how should we handle those who are cruel to others through an immune reaction – who on a cellular level see the vulnerability of others as an irritant to their own over-burdened system, and without thought, try to expel it?