I once flew to Johannesburg for a weekend of safari. I managed to book three game drives from three different parks. On that Sunday morning, I was at the Lion & Safari Park. Me and the park ranger were alone in a closed vehicle inside the lion enclosure. If you don't know what a lion enclosure is, it's basically a plot of land surrounded two electric fences. It's basically a bigger cage for the lions so that they don't run out and eat other animals. Think Jurassic Park.
So 6am, it's still dark out, me and the park ranger were inside the lion enclosure shining a flashlight at the lions and talking about what they eat, how they sleep, etc. Suddenly the park ranger got super distressed and starts telling me to back off from the windows and start making loud noises to scare the lions. I was just like what the hell is going on? Apparently, she saw the lion ears go up and walking towards us, which could mean that the lions are stimulated and may try to open the door and attack us.
Thankfully, nothing happened in the end. Once the lions got bored and went away, I was keen to get the hell out of there. I was freaking scared. The day before, I was super relaxed taking photos next to lions only 2 metres away at another park. But after this lion enclosure experience, I am now afraid of lions.
A couple years later, I was in Kenya for a safari and I was really struggling with the lions. There were prides of lions hanging around; while everyone else took their cameras out and got super excited to see them up close, I was freaking out. Chris Germer, the cofounder of mindful self compassion was near me and I sat right next to him because I was freaking out. He told me, hey maybe now you can have a corrective experience.
Corrective experience. It means experiencing a previous trauma but this time you feel safe. Security, safety, is of the utmost importance. With trauma, one good experience is not enough to be corrective. You need repeating good experiences for it to be corrective. Whatever trauma you are dealing with, you need multiple corrective experiences to change your neural connections but it can be done. Thank God for brain plasticity.