10 December, 2009

Fight or Flight

When I hear the phrase “Fight or Flight” I immediately assume that there is physical danger.  We are fighting to save our lives… or we fly to save our lives.  It is one of the two.  Our physical safety is at risk.  

Yet, this is not always the case – or better stated, fight or flight doesn’t have to be a life or death situation.  

Our physical security or comfort could be at risk.

Our love relationship might be at risk – risking our emotional security or situation.

Fight or flight doesn’t have to be about physical mortality… it could be about a different kind of death entirely.  

The reaction, regardless of what is at risk, is the same.  We have to fight or take flight.  We react!!  

We react without thinking in many cases with instincts or fear or love taking over.  

When the event is a threat to our lives, the event often ends quickly allowing the concept of fight or flight to end, the reaction to conclude, and then we move to working through the event and our reactions.  

When the situation is more about physical security/comfort or emotional in nature, the end is not as easily determined or defined.  There isn’t a deep breath and sigh of relief as we have escaped the grizzly that chased us down the mountain!  or we have not defeated the armed robber in our homes!

When it is more emotional in nature – trauma in a marriage, betrayal in a relationship, perhaps a sudden loss of job, the reaction is sudden and perhaps on going.  On going in the sense that we may get caught up in the reaction and not find ourselves with the time or ability to stop, remove ourselves, and perform an assessment of the situation.  

We don’t have the time to stop and consider whether or not we are reacting out of fear or love.

We might not be able to stop and consider what it is that we are fighting for.

We might not even have the chance to consider whether or not the fight is really what we want.

Physical danger comes out of no where.  It is sudden.  It comes suddenly and ends nearly as suddenly.  We fight or we fly.  That is the nature of the beast.  

Trauma discovered in a relationship is often not sudden.  Something reaching critical mass in a relationship took years to build before detonation.  The moment of explosion is sudden – often unexpected – and causes a potential flight or flight reaction, but the conditions that existed prior to that event were/are long lasting.  

Physical danger, we fight or fly to save our lives.

Emotional risk… at what point do we have the chance to stop fighting and stop flying and determine the motivations behind our reactions.  

Our lives are worth fighting for or flying to save

. Our characters, souls, integrity, and self respect… they are worth fighting for or flying to save too.  But does this ever get lost in the fight to prevent a loss?  Are we ever more focused on fear of what we will lose in our marriage or relationship or physical comfort that we fight to save a construct or a way of life over fighting to save ourselves – our authentic  selves?


dadshouse said...

YEs, for emotional stuff, you don't have to fight or flight. You can simply yield, face it, be present, move through it, get past it. Though most people who lack self-awareness or the discipline for introspection might choose the fight or flight path, instead.

great post!

Mike said...

Yes it's true. Our bodies can differentiate between the ax murderer or our duaghter's new boyfriend with all the facial piercings.

SS said...

How about fighting your urge for flight? *gah*

I've been wanting to flee, run away, "flight" from some emotional issues and it's a struggle to stay and face them. I'm glad I've been aware enough to realize that unlike a physical threat you can't really take flight from the emotional, that threat will follow!

Another great post, I have really enjoyed your perspective.