When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father…” From the Story of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:14-18a
When the parent spoke of their child losing themselves to their emotions, the expression brought to mind the Story of the Prodigal Son. In Luke’s Gospel there is a father who has two sons. The younger son demands his inheritance (and Dad is still very much alive), takes the money, and squanders it all on wild living. When the money is gone and the reality of his situation has sunk in, the writer of Luke’s Gospel tells us that the son “came to himself.” He lost himself and then… he came to himself.
Recently, I took an online course offered through the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s School for Leadership and Christian Formation called Supporting Children (and Ourselves) Through a Time of Uncertainty. The course was a primer on why people lose themselves occasionally and it also offered some very practical skills for helping ourselves and others to come back to ourselves/themselves.
While the course was targeted at those who parent or work with children, I found the information offered about brain function—what is actually happening when we lose ourselves—to be very helpful. The very basic techniques that were suggested for helping children find their way back to themselves could easily be adapted to be supportive to adults whose brains have been hijacked by the fight/flight/freeze response.
You will need to set up an account with EDOW’s School for Leadership and Christian Formation. Follow the prompts to get your “discount code”! The courses are free for EDOW churches.