Fight, Flight and Go to Heaven Stress Response

We all know about fight or flight, and even freeze response. Yet, especially for Highly Sensitive People, I think there is another stress response we need to take into account. (Well, two actually, but this post will discuss one of them)

…click the image to play the video below…

Let’s start right in the middle here: Life gets a whole lot easier when you stop trying to subconsciously kill yourself.

I really mean subconsciously – so I am not talking about suicide hotlines and wrist slitting etc.

The thing is, no matter how intent you are on living and living well, there’s always the possibility that some subconscious deeply hidden part of you has different ideas about that.

  • There may be some extremely fearful experiences, locked away in the past – very “been there done that” or so it seems – that have convinced a part of you that dying is better than possibly having to experience that thing ever again.
  • There may be a deep conviction that if you were ever to truly be all of who you are, it would mean getting attacked and hurt, to the point of preferring to die before that ever happens.
  • There may be a part of you that is desperate, lost, seemingly out of options, or plain outraged to the point of deciding “That’s it! I’m not participating in life on this planet any longer! I quit! (*dramatic door slamming*) “

Bill Burr has a funny sketch on this, a dramatised version of what I’m talking about:

This is the weird thing: You may be utterly devoted to living your best life: eat healthy foods, work out, set positive goals for yourself. And yet, we are a compilation of our own history. Any past instances that you “made it through” but had to squash your feelings, they get stored. Any big feelings that were too much to process at the time, they get stored.

thehappysensitive subconscious killWe all have an archive of repressed emotions, no matter how diligently we’re feeling our feelings now. The reality is, if you’ve dealt with any kind of trauma, emotional, physical and/or spiritual, then it’s very likely that big chunks of it are still floating around somewhere inside of you. To your body, there is no time, everything is happening now. So while from a personal standpoint you may feel like “been there, done that”, your body may actually be deeply impacted by all those times, no matter how small, when you decided you didn’t want to be here.

So you’re saying, “geez, of course I don’t have a death wish!” Yet all those past instances where you left your body, didn’t want to be here, looked for ways to avoid and space out… they all add up. They’re like mini-instances of “don’t want to be here thank you very much” that go into the “kill me” fund, like pennies.

I know that sounds dramatic, and it is.

I’m not saying this to freak you out. I’m saying this because I believe (and yes, let’s call it my hypothesis) that we all have a much more active role in our health and well-being than we grew up believing. Taking ownership of our past, and recognizing that moving on doesn’t equal clearing the slate, can go a long way to explain why there may be that one tiny drop that makes your inner buckets overflow unexpectedly.

Why moving on doesn’t necessarily work

We cannot really create our new life on top of our old life. At some point, our old life will start to seep through, possibly in the form of physical ailments. The upside of that is that physical expression of a painful history takes some of the pressure off our emotional well-being and our psyche. The downside is that now it becomes easy, and tempting to start blaming our body for all that isn’t working in our life.

In my own Chronic Fatigue /Fybromyalgia / Whatchamakallit healing journey I’ve noticed often that when certain old emotions that surfaced were most intense, my physical symptoms would be least intense. Vice versa, when my body was literally in pain, I often felt a lot more peaceful emotionally.

(Does this prove anything? Not really – in the bigger statistical scheme of things – but it’s an interesting parallel to explore: to what extent can the same underlying “issue” be expressed in different ways, namely mentally, emotionally, or physically? By extension, to what extent may a physical issue be better healed emotionally, and an emotional issue require physical support?)

Uhm. Do we have to, really?

For us HSPs, dealing with “physical reality” is more often than not considered to be a bit of a necessary evil anyway. Yes, we’d rather float around weightlessly in space, but darn it, we need to get to work on time, eat three meals a day, do all kinds of mundane tasks (*yawn*) and deal with money (*eek!*). And THAT is precisely our challenge.

To have more synchronicities, do and have more of what we love, and generally have a more pleasant kind of life, we need to team up with physical reality, and that includes our body.

We need to remind ourselves that we’re here now for a reason – even if we don’t necessarily know why- and that all escapist tendencies, whether conscious or subconscious, require transformation, not acquiescence.

Teaming up with our body requires being in our body. Being in our body requires not running away, not dissociating, not stuffing things down and not ignoring confrontational realities.

The desire to die is the ultimate form of dissociation and escapism. The “get me out of here” approach takes us away from dealing with what is right here right now. Fantasising about heavenly ever-afters to the point where doing so numbs us to our actual life, is a life-defying pursuit, not a life-affirming one.

And yet, when the classic stress responses of fight, flight and freeze don’t work to get us through something tough, dissociating and fostering a desire to die and escape are the next “logical” steps. Again, I’m not talking about actual suicidal tendencies. I’m talking about a collection of moments throughout a life where things felt too much, and there was a desire – if only fleeting – to just leave everything behind.

Those moments pile up and they feed the part of us that just wants to give up and give in.

The Microchip Body

In many ways, or bodies are like huge microchips. There are massive amounts of information stored in them, and what we consciously know about ourselves in this way, only scratches the surface. A few years back, I had a chronic, disconcerting choking feeling. As it turned out, hidden in the tension of my frozen shoulders, there were lots and lots of instances of feeling suicidal (as if one part of me was literally trying to choke the rest of me). It was quite the Pandora’s box. No fun to open, but working through what was locked inside did do much to help relax and heal that area.

And so I believe that we need to dig into our own past, and heal our escapist bits and pieces. We need to do this, if only because being happy in a body that knows that part of us is also trying to kill it to get out, is a serious kind of stress.

Again, I can only quote my own experiences here, but from what I found, there is a very tangible connection between a particular kind of fear and deep suicidal feelings. Our body doesn’t want to die, so any life threats cause fear (whether it be tigers and bears, or our own “not wanting to be here”). The body signals fear to alert us to the life threat, we then pick up on the fear consciously, and that can intensify our desire to escape (to leave the fear behind). In turn to the body this signals: alarm! M’aidez! She’s trying to kill us! And on the fear-cycle goes.

Instead of trying to counter what our bodies are doing, I believe we need to follow their trail. What feelings and conclusions is your body leading you to? What is underneath your symptoms? What is your body expressing that your mind is oblivious to?

The Connection between “Being Here” and Self-Expression

To take thyroid and neck issues as an example, this is the energetic place of the throat chakra, which is all about truth and expression. In other words, our throat area is about expressing the truth of who we are (sensitivity and all!). There are many reasons why that may not seem like such a great idea, yet, it’s integral to our health that we align with and express our own truth – which may differ significantly from other people’s.

That doesn’t mean getting on a soapbox and trying to convince everyone of what we believe in. It simply (easier said than done!) means that we need to be o.k. with who we really are.

In working with clients, subsonscious suicidal pieces show up quite often. I don’t think that there’s anyone alive who doesn’t have some of that inside of them. What I found is that every time we choose to “check out” instead of “be here”, it leaves an imprint. This can be cleaned up, but it won’t go away automatically. There is no expiration date on our own inner negativity. As far as our body knows, it’s exactly what we want, right now.

Our bodies are literally storage houses of our past.

Healing is about aligning who we know we are, and what we know we want, with what is going on inside. When we know how we want to live, yet somehow can’t live that way, I believe we need to turn inside to find the ways and places in which we have – once upon a time- chosen otherwise. This kind of honesty can be tough to come to terms with, but it’s also empowering.

“Suicidal” is a feeling like any other. Hence it can be processed in the way you’d process any other emotion – assuming you have a way to do that (and I don’t mean thinking about it!) Yet “suicidal” is also one of the hardest feelings to feel. It’s downright dark and icky! It takes courage to face our most wounded parts. Yet it’s also liberating, in the most non-escapist kind of way.

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