Fight-Flight-Freeze versus Resilience
Let’s look at Fight-Flight-Freeze and Resilience more closely. The fight-flight-freeze response, first elucidated by work on the General Adaptation Syndrome theory (Selye, 1946), is one dictated by autonomic, reflexive thinking. We may literally or figuratively fight or yell, preventing us from paying attention to new thoughts, or we may run, hide, or curl up in a ball to protect ourselves. Any of these options is a coping mechanism, developed as an evolutionary mechanism for survival. Unfortunately, they prevent and supersede our ability to pause and think through other options. And, they circumvent creativity and new actions.
Resilience, on the other hand, gives us the capacity to experience difficult experiences, sometimes quite severe, without being subsumed by those experiences and without falling into the automatic responses dictated by fight, flight, or freeze. How can we develop our resilience? First, we can recognize that developing resilience is a practice, requiring our attention (Walker and Salt, 2012). We cannot simply call on our resilience and hope that it shows up in times of need. Second, we can be gentle with ourselves, recognizing even small instances when we recover well from hardships and congratulating ourselves when we endure tough times. Third, we can understand that resilience does not occur in a vacuum. Giving ourselves permission to draw on the support of those who care about us is critical to our ability to recover from events that can be traumatic. We are interconnected and have the capacity to improve our resilience through dialogue and with the aid of others’ understanding.
How have you managed stress in the past? Have you ever fought, frozen, or fled? What caused this? What did you learn? Send us your comments.
This blog is Part 2 of a 4 Part Series. Check out Part 1: Resilience.