The ‘fight or flight response’, according to author Tony Schwartz, reflects a physiology which mobilizes us to attack back quickly when under threat, or run for the hills.
“Most of us are triggered multiple times a day,” he says. “The reason is that our bodies don’t make a distinction between a real threat to our survival and our more everyday fears. An angry boss, a conflict with a colleague, a difficult deadline, a dissatisfied client, an imposing workload, or an unreturned phone call can all prompt the fight or flight response. It occurs automatically, instinctively and often outside our conscious awareness. Our initial challenge is to become aware of negative feelings that arise before we act on them. Because a trigger shows up first in our bodies. That may mean noticing your heart beating faster, a feeling of anxiety in your chest or a pounding in your head.”
Schwartz says that it’s at this point that you’ll want to apply what psychologists call ‘The golden rule of triggers’.
“It’s very simple,” he states. “Whatever you feel compelled to do, don’t. Compulsions are not choices, and they rarely lead to positive outcomes.”
Why do certain events predictably trigger us and drive us into fight or flight emotions? The origin of the trigger in nearly every case can be traced to a feeling of having been devalued or diminished by someone else’s words or behavior. Our core emotional need is to feel secure. Perceived challenges to our self-worth are anxiety provoking at best and nearly intolerable at worst. The more we feel our value is at risk, the more energy we spend defending it, and the less energy we have left over to create and add value in the world.
Schwartz suggests taking a deep breath when we feel a sudden urge of negative emotion, and exhaling slowly several times.
“As your body calms down, your capacity to think clearly returns,” he says. “At that point, ask yourself two questions: How did I feel my value was at risk in this situation? Was my value really at risk? It’s a powerful first step in taking back control of who determines your value and who runs your life.”
What determines your value, and who runs your life? I like questions like this. It’s so important to reflect on what’s controlling us and what might cause feelings of powerlessness…
The urge to fight or flee is ideally replaced with the decision to remain calm when something sets us off.
Finding calm, in part, can mean reminding ourselves of some important truths about our value, such as…
* I am valuable, simply because God has said I am, in His words and actions;
* I don’t have to prove myself;
* This is just an emotion. I am not afraid of it, and it will eventually pass;
* I don’t have to be controlled by other people, or what they think of me. I have choices;
* I am courageous, and don’t need to fight – or flee – right now. I can choose to remain calm in this situation, and overcome it in Jesus’ name…
Wishing us all peace and calm as we navigate our internal and external conflicts this week!
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)