Fight Flight and Freeze
Fight, Flight and Freeze are the terms used to describe the strategy of your body, specifically your nervous system to respond to ANYTHING your brain perceives as a threat.
The Fight or flight reactions are strategies of your body when the sympathetic nervous system becomes dominant. It is when your brain stem (your primitive "reptilian") part of your brain is launched into action in order to protect your basic survival (food, shelter, safety, family). Your nervous system comes online to mobilize your body's defences into a focused, heightened effort to make sure you can run from your perceived threat (heart speeds up, breathing increases, vision is acute, muscles tense for action) or if you need to fight your threat, your brain refocuses its function so you can judge the whereabouts, the intentions, the ability of your opponent as keenly as possible. Any function that is not absolutely necessary is downgraded to life support only. You don't need to digest a meal, fight off a virus or nurture your reproduction or be aware of your inner feelings. All you need to do is survive. People underestimate the power of the hormones in this response. The pure dominance of your primitive brain's to survive at all costs is not just for the bear in the wild, its actually still the stress response that is used for anything you perceive as threatening. So that includes deadlines, time crunches, family stress, financial worries, etc.
This fight or flight reaction is normal and healthy. What has become problematic in our culture is that we perceive too many events (personal interactions, work deadlines, parenting, making plans, decorating our homes, etc) as bigger threats than they really are in reality. We only have one stress system to react to all type of threats... so even when its not life threatening, often we are reacting AS IF it could be and our minds and body's respond in turn.
This still wouldn't be so bad as our body has lots of resources and abilities to recover from stress. But the other problem is that we are having too many of these types of reactions back to back throughout our day without a break! And without proper recovery in between each one.
The flight/flight reaction has a very distinct mentality to it as well. When you are in a fight or flight reaction, you are primed to think of how to defend and protect yourself. So your thoughts, words and actions will all look like:
"you're hurting me on purpose"
"you don't love me"
"no one loves me or likes me"
"I will never be able to overcome that, I should just quit"
"I'm going to make sure everything is perfect so you can't blame me"
"I'm going to think of every possible thing that could go wrong so I can be ready for anything"
Many sweeping, black and white statements that seem to have a sense of danger to them or a feeling of being vulnerable and needing to constantly be on the lookout for threat and complaining about the actions of others.. There is also a tendency towards violence and fighting, whether its in the type of TV show you like to watch, video game, sports, interactions with others, parenting. The hormones of stress turn us into a different kind of person that we might otherwise want to be. Its when you say, "wow, that (statement) just flew out of me, I don't know where that came from". A constant feeling of fear and uneasy, leading to chronic anxiety and perfectionism as a way to cope. These are some tendencies that might hint at the fact that you have been hiijacked by the hormones of stress and now lead a life addicted to those hormones.
It may sound bleak, but the ability of your brain to change (neuroplasticity) is incredible and powerful. The Nobel Prize was awarded to Eric Kandel in 2000 for showing how the neurons in the brain can change thier connections permanently with repeated exposure to new stimulii. Its been proven that you can change your brain! But you can't start the process until you are aware of how stress changes your brain and nervous system. The changes happen as a result of survival and over time, so you might not even notice if you've been hiijacked by stress.
Watch my FREE MASTERCLASS to see more how you can recover your Nervous System and get out of fight or flight!
The Freeze Response
Now this response if more difficult to understand but is probably even more pervasive in our culture than you might realize. The freeze response is a natural response of your body where the parasympathetic nervous system becomes dominant. It is a strategy that your body AUTOMATICALLY puts into action if the threat you are interacting with is too big for you to fight or flee from. This response is used in animals who "fake" out their predator and "play dead" in hopes the predator will leave them alone and give up. This may sound like a purposeful strategy that is actually pretty smart, but it is actually a totally survival-driven response BEYOND the conscious control of the individual. Its a DEEP reflexive response with the nervous system as a last ditch attempt for survival. The good news is that there is also a deep protective solution to come out of this shutdown. When an animal "plays dead'... it's not just holding its breath, waiting for the threat to pass, it's actually almost dead.
substantially slow down the breathing and heart rate
substantially INCREASE the function of the gut (nervous stomach or diarrhea)
Loss of bladder or bowel control
The natural response of rhe body after some time of being in this freeze response is to arouse itself again and come back to life. This is done by