Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Most people will have heard of the fight or flight response. The scientists among you will probably know that the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated. Even if you’re not a scientist, you’ll know the story. Man attacked by lion, man chooses to either attempt to fight the lion, or run. Of course, this can be seen in the modern day through other types of stress. Whilst we aren’t usually attacked by lions, you’ll probably know the feeling when you’ve got to go to an interview, give a presentation, sit an exam, or play a musical solo. Your heart rate increases, your palms feel sweaty, your mouth gets dry, your breathing gets faster, and you get a feeling of ‘butterflies’ in your stomach. That’s your body perceiving that interviewer or audience as a lion, and so it’s getting ready to fight or flight.

In extreme times of stress, for example if you’re attacked by a bear and you know you won’t live, you might go into what is called freeze mode. In humans, this can happen in car accidents, or to victims of rape. They find that they cannot move, and they often pass out, or mentally remove themselves from the situation. They can’t feel any pain, and they can have no memory of the situation afterwards.

The strange thing about me though, is that I seem to slip into freeze mode a lot more easily than normal. It’s almost as though I’m permanently in a state of flight or fight, and constantly have elevated stress levels, and so when something upsets me or I get nervous, my body responds by freezing. I suddenly feel stuck to the spot, and whilst I’m sure I’m aware of what is happening when it is happening, I find it difficult to recall what happened and how it felt when I relax. It seems alien to everyone around me, but it’s normal for me. I don’t expect to remember my flute solo or what answers I wrote in the exam. That’s just how things are for me.

It’s scary, that every single stress seems like a grizzly bear. It’s like I don’t ever feel hope, and I think that this will be the problem that destroys me. Even if I think I’m feeling positive, I don’t, really. I can’t physically ‘do’ positive in the way that other people can. It’s just not something that comes to me naturally, and I couldn’t tell you what my colour and pattern was for positive, because I haven’t figured it out yet.


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