"Tunnel Experiences" By Adams Allison
Hurt people tend to raise a shield, a form of defense mechanism, to protect themselves from future hurts. These shields can come in different forms. Some choose not to trust again (reasoning that if they don’t have expectations then they won’t have disappointments). Some choose not to feel again (their logic here is that if they can’t feel love, then neither can they feel hurt). For such, relationship is just contractual.
This reminds me of the African proverb that says, “If you pluck out your eyes so that you don’t see your enemies, then you will also not have eyes to see your friends”.
Defense mechanisms are many (and they do more harm than good). No matter the form they take, they all boil down to us “reacting instead of taking action”.
What’s the difference between “action” and “reaction”?
“Action” is to act. That is, to act on something. For instance, we act on an idea or we act on a plan. That means, to take action is to take initiative or to start a process.
While the prefix ‘re’ in re-action implies “again”, that is, to do something again; for instance re-turn is to turn again. So re-action is to act again. For a reaction to take place, it means something happened before.
There must have been an action before your action, that’s what makes yours a reaction. This implies that you did not act on an idea or on a plan, instead, an idea or a plan is acting on you. In other words, you did not initiate the process, you were rather caught-up in the process that was initiated by someone else. This also means you are not in control.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it should be like the song writer says, “we run things, things don’t run us.”
Reaction is the comfort zone of people who are hurting. It almost becomes their natural reflex after a tragic incident. It is a “reaction” each time we try to run away or avoid painful and unpleasant experiences. It is “action” to learn from it.
These reactions to pain and to hurtful experiences are what I call “tunnel experiences” or “tunnel reflexes”.
What happens when people find themselves in a tunnel?
What happens when they face the pitch blackness of a tunnel with no light in sight and with apparent confusion in the air?
What do you do when you are in the dark?
That is a very powerful philosophical and existential question that we must all answer in this life because we all find ourselves in the dark one time or another. Sadly, most people start to react when they find themselves in the dark. They can’t see what’s happening around them or ahead of them, neither can they see the big picture.
So they begin to doubt.
They doubt themselves, doubt their values, doubt their decisions and ultimately doubt their prospects. They can’t tell what’s at the end of the tunnel so they react.
That is what I mean by “tunnel reflexes”.
Back to the unavoidable question:
“What do you do when you are in the dark?”
When in the dark, remember what you learnt in the light.
Most of us go through life unprepared, unarmed and ill-equipped… So when we suddenly find ourselves in the dark, we easily forget what we learnt in the light. Suddenly, we begin to react to the darkness we find ourselves in instead of acting on the light from which we came. We allow the darkness initiate the process of our transformation instead of charting our own path based on what we have previously gleaned from the light.
We easily forget the age old saying that, “there’s always light at the end of every tunnel”. If we can endure the darkness in the tunnel, we will enjoy the light at the end of the tunnel. The strength needed to wade through the perils of the darkness is the empowering knowledge that there’s always light at the end of every tunnel.
“For where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.”
Regardless of how we handle the darkness, we can still learn from it once we reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
Our priority therefore, is to get to the end of the tunnel.