There is probably a medical term for what I am about to describe that I do not know. But for now, I will call it “the pinball effect.”
It’s been years since I’ve played a game of pinball. I enjoyed the game because it was physical, visually stimulating, and exciting with all of the lights, bells, and whistles. There was something gratifying about pulling the lever, watching the ball project through the machine, hitting particular points along the way to increase my score, and then hitting ball to keep it in play. Sometimes during a game, the ball would get caught between two boundaries and get knocked back and forth repeatedly - the “pinball effect.” One could potentially score a lot of points when this happens, or not. However, it’s not the points that I’m concerned with here. It’s the ball - the ball that’s getting knocked back and forth in a very tight space.
For the past several weeks I have been experiencing “the pinball effect,” and the two boundaries are extreme emotional highs and extreme emotional lows. The space between the emotional experience can be understood as time. Said differently, there is very little time between each experience of immense joy and gripping pain and trauma. I imagine that some of you may be experiencing “the pinball effect” (p.e.) as well.
Here is an example of how p.e. unfolds for one person - me:
It is graduation season, Mother's and Father's Day, Summer Solstice, BBQ's, and vacations (joy, happiness), and yet, all around us traumatizing events are happening (anguish, grief, pain). Going from one extreme to the other is shocking and deeply stressful to the body and soul. The body and the mind do not know how to respond or what to feel, so they enter into a holding pattern. The anger, fear, sadness, and yes, guilt further exacerbate p.e. to the degree that tears and laughter become a struggle. I've never felt this inability to laugh or cry - and here I am. It is a strange, liminal ball of dough stuck in the middle of my chest. Maybe the body is in defense mode from all of the jarring emotions and the brain has shut down some of its emotional capacity? I don’t know yet. But I do know at some point, the emotional dam will break.
In the meantime, I will be gentle with myself. I will eat well. I will read and listen to what feels good in my soul. I will drink plenty of cool water. I will exercise and meditate. I will vote. I will pray and preach the Good News. I will lean into my community. I will resist.
My hope and prayer is that for all who are experiencing p.e. you will practice soul nurturing care until release comes. Until change comes.