"Pausing" is a healthy reaction to trauma. It happens when things in the moment simply feel too much to handle. Like during a car accident, while witnessing violence, or when under attack. There might be too much shouting, too much hurting, too much violence, or too much fear. If it feels too much to you in the moment, your nervous system will likely perceive it as an assault and react accordingly.
In these moments, the aware, resourceful, and resilient part of yourself might say, "Time to check out!" In psychology, this checking out or "pausing" is referred to as dissociation, a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that often carries a negative connotation. The way I see it, "pausing" is a brilliant human mechanism for survival. If the aware-me recognizes that "this is too much to handle," it simply shuts off the part of me that is experiencing the too-muchness. I'm still alive. I'm still more or less functioning. And, the part that feels the "too-muchness" gets to take a little break. Efficient, isn't it?!
While "pausing" is a real healthy reaction in the moment, it can become a real obstacle when big chunks of your life remain on "pause" and/or when "pausing" goes on automatic (i.e. it happens without you noticing).
Typical signs that some part of you went on "pause" are: not remembering what happened during a certain event or time in childhood or later years, feeling not like yourself and unsure as to where the real you has been lately, and feeling as though you stepped outside of yourself and maybe outside of time, too (body present, but the rest of you not so much).
This is by no means a clinical list or a comprehensive one either. These are examples from my own experience and signals that I have learned to watch for as markers of checking out or "pausing."
When "pausing" goes unnoticed and untreated, it can really inhibits one's movement in life. I mean that literally because it shows up as tension, aches, and pains in the body. But also metaphorically, as emotional blockages hinder your relationships and work, and you feel trapped in limited and limiting patterns of thought and behavior.
Now, if you're reading this and feeling "this is me!", please do not despair. While we cannot change what happened in the past, we can definitely heal the parts of ourselves that got put on "pause." We can bring these parts to resolution and integration in our whole being. This is true healing, and this past weekend, I got to do just that! (Finish reading HERE).