Beyond “Fight/Flight/Freeze”

November 12, 2018

A collage of a woman with no body pulling a necklace around her neck looking at a white bird flying away from her.

I have a secret superpower. Want to know what it is? Ok, I’ll tell you in a minute but first let me tell you what it allows me to do.

It allows me to create my reality. I get to choose what happens in any given situation or circumstance, shaping my present and future to my liking.

It allows me to taste freedom, to not be a slave to my emotions, from reacting without a sense of control based on past experiences.

A collage of a woman with no body pulling a necklace around her neck looking at a white bird flying away from her.

“Totem” by Rachel Derum

What is this secret superpower you ask. It’s actually something from that many people run from, hide from and try to avoid. Maybe this will help change the perception of it as a punishment, and we can start to see it instead for what it is: a building block to freedom.

Response-ability.

Wait, what? Yes, that’s right! Your response-ability is your ability to respond as opposed to react, and it’s a superpower because it allows you to choose how you experience the outcome of any given situation. It provides you with a heartbeat’s space between when something happens and how you respond to it. By honing your response-ability you will change how people interact with you, the kinds of situations and energy you attract, and how you perceive the world around you. How you respond depends on you, and you can choose!

It can’t be that simple right? It is! However, it’s not easy. You can think of it like this: react implies instinctual and unconscious motives, while response implies conscientious decision making. So, when we are reacting to something we are not fully conscious of what is driving our responsive choices, but when we are responding to something we are taking that heartbeat to bring into our consciousness the truth of how we’re feeling—e.g, sad, angry, anxiousabout the stimuli. Responding holds space for our higher selves to help us choose the wisest course of action with which to proceed, whereas reacting brings to a given situation the emotional memory of unconscious thoughts and feelings, which may or may not be helpful in that moment.

“But Bless, HOW?! How can you utilize this superpower to protect the world, or at the very least, yourself?”

No worries. I’m going to break down the steps to wielding this power so that you can protect yourself from decisions that you might regret, and protect others from your emotional reactions that, again, may lead to regretful decisions. Ready? Here we go:

Situation (i.e. stimuli): Your boss walks up to you in the break room at work. S/he tells you that the presentation you gave to your coworkers the day before, the same one that everyone raved about and congratulated you on and asked you to please send them a copy of your bullet points, was not actually that good. It was missing x, y, z, and it was obvious that the extra thirty hours you spent creating it was, in fact, you not putting your best foot forward. S/he then proceeds to imply that your position with the company is now in question because are you even really a team player if you won’t present your best work?

(Side note: if this situation ever happens to you I encourage you to re-evaluate if you want to or should continue to work with that company, but that’s for another blog post.)

Step 1: Take a slow, deep inhalation (this can be done quietly while listening to him/her talk).
Step 2: Then a slow, deep exhalation (this can also be done quietly while listening to him/her talk).
Step 3: Smile.
Step 4: Say thank you for the feedback.
Step 5: Ask if there’s any suggestions that can be made to help you improve.

Does that sound simple? As I said above, it is! However I encourage you to leave a comment below after you’ve tried it and let us know if it was easy.

So, what just happened? In step 1, you gave yourself space to remember what is truly important: i.e., life, breath. In step 2, you gave yourself the opportunity to release the emotions brought on by the confrontation. In step 3, you signaled to your brain that everything is okay and that there’s no reason for stress or fight/flight/freeze mode because you’re not under threat. In step 4, you incorporated a concept of ho’oponopono which is the understanding that all things outside of you are actually part of you and so being angry at someone else is really being angry at the unhealed part of your self. And lastly, in step 5 you’re acknowledging the need of the other person. For reasons beyond your control or understanding, this person needs to feel superior to you (and probably everyone else, too). In truth they’re not, but it’s not your job to teach them that; we all learn on our own time in our own ways. But by asking if they have any suggestions for you, you’ve done two things:

  1. You’ve reduced the potential of future “feedback” because if you listen to their suggestions and try to incorporate some of them moving forward, you remove the teeth of the person’s argument that you’re rogue and need to be monitored or “guided”. And who knows, maybe his/her suggestions can actually help!
  2. You’ve given his/her the acknowledgement that he/she feels is needed, which is a gift. Think about it, most of the time s/he probably DON’T get what s/he need because of his/her approach to obtaining it.

By taking a minute to respond instead of react you bought yourself some goodwill, time, breathing room and space.

Does this work in every instance? Probably not. You will meet that person that no matter what you do will try to push your buttons because that is his/her true goal. But for the most part, the majority of people simply want to feel heard and acknowledged, and so this works.

Once we can rein in our emotional reactions and turn them into conscious and measured responses, the world we’re creating for ourselves changes. We begin to send out a different energetic signature to the universe that signals that we’re aligning with our higher selves, the place where our compassion and patience reside. This superpower is so powerful that you will probably start seeing its effects on your life and relationships immediately!

There is one word of caution however…

Most relationships involve other people, right? Right. Now, I like to describe the way we interact with each other as a dance; we all dance with each other when we are arguing or talking or laughing, and so on. When we are dancing with each other, and have for a long time, the dance moves become second nature and habituated. For example we know when we’re talking with this person that x is the expected reaction to y, the old “they’re just trying to get a rise out of you” thing. Once you begin to wield your newfound superpower the dance changes, the tempo of the music speeds up or slows down, and your partner no longer knows the moves to the dance they usually do with you, and this can lead to varying reactions from them about your new rhythms. They might get angry that you’re changing the music, they may be confused about the change in tempo, they may remove themselves from the dance floor altogether because they can no longer keep up with you, or enact any number of other reactions. So, I would say that before you begin to truly embrace this superpower, understand that it will change you, your life, and the lives of those around you.

I hope you’re ready. Now, go forth and be super!


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