DANGER AND THREAT TO SURVIVAL? When we are faced with, or anticipate fearful/dangerous/stressful situations our body can automatically respond so that we are able to fight or flight (run away) to keep ourselves safe. This unconscious fight/flight response means that the brain focuses on preparing the body for action without you needing to do anything. In dangerous situations it is important to get oxygen and energy circulated to different areas and muscles of the body so they can be prepared for action. Other bodily systems deactivate like the digestion and immune system to save the needed resources and energy. REAL OR PERCEIVED THREAT
Fight and flight can also be triggered when we are not in actual danger, but perceive or imagine something as fearful/stressful. This can be useful where we need to be extra alert, focussed and motivated like when attending an exam. The fight and flight is not always experienced as helpful, and if it is triggered excessively then it can be more difficult to switch the response off. The fight flight response can get triggered with fear, anxiety, stress, and inner conflict, and for many reasons such as: trauma, guilt, shame, negative thoughts, conflicting thoughts, experiencing emotions, being true to ones self, shallow breathing, expectations of others, relating to others, lack of action. The unconscious can misinterpret these fears and stresses as life threatening situations, and thus activate the flight and fight response.
CHANGING THE FIGHT FLIGHT RESPONSE
When we become aware of what is happening in our body, we can start to work at changing what we are experiencing. Sometimes there is a negative cycle created where we react with more fear to the fight flight response which increases and maintains the fight flight responding. With awareness we can start to work at addressing our thoughts, feelings and behaviours so that we can help reduce these difficult responses. This can include working with such things as breathing, mindfulness, sensory resources, muscle relaxation, imagery and positive thinking. There is more information about this see > anxiety.