We all know that Fight or flights are our automatic response to danger. When fear is present, adrenaline pours into our system to prepare us to fight or flee from the threat which could be in form of anything, It’s the same way we automatically respond to the deep fears that come up in relationships: rejection and engulfment, fears of loss of other and loss of self.
Often, when we feel rejected and fear the loss of the other, we fight for love not to away by defending; explaining, blaming, attacking, complying, fixing, or we flee through withdrawal. Funny enough that’s exactly how we feel when engulfed with fear of losing ourselves through being controlled by another; we flee through resistance or withdrawal, or fight by attacking, defending, or explaining.
The same way we fight or flee from physical danger, we also fight and flee from emotional danger. The problem is that, while fight or flight is appropriate in the face of physical danger, this same behavior in the face of emotional fear causes deep problems in relationships.
When we respond automatically to the fears of losing ourselves and losing another, we behave in the very ways that create fear in the other. Our fight or flight reactions create fears in the other person the same fears of losing themselves or losing us. Our fighting and fleeing activates others fear of rejection and engulfment, creating a vicious circle of fighting and fleeing.
These unconscious, automatic reactions to emotional danger were learned long ago, when we were very small and had to rely on fight or flight as part of our survival. Today they are now necessary for our survival, and need to be replaced with loving actions toward ourselves and others.
What does it mean to take loving action in the face of another’s fight or flight behavior?
Where do we get the role modeling for what it looks like to take loving action in the face of another’s unloving behavior?
Most of us had parents who are not role models in loving action in the face of conflict. And funny enough, we have not seen much of it on TV or in movies. How do we learn to take loving action when faced with conflict, with another action that takes care of ourselves without violating or threatening another?
This role modeling exists in the form of our spiritual Guidance. Tapping into this Guidance is not as hard as you may think it just takes practice and a deep desire to move out of fight or flight and into loving action.
The steps we can take to move out of automatic fight or flight and into loving actions are:
- Start to attend to your feelings. The physical sensations within your body that let you know when you are anxious or afraid.
- Stop and breathe when you feel fear or anxiety in the face of conflict or in the face of fight or flight behavior. Do not attack, give yourself some breathing time to make a conscious decision rather than go on automatic pilot.
- If the other person has withdrawn from you, loving action may be to do something fun or nurturing for yourself.
- Open to learning with the source of spiritual Guidance that is always here for all of us by asking with a sincere desire to know, what is the loving action? What is in my highest good and the highest good of the other? Asking this question with a deep desire to learn opens the door to receiving information. It does not matter whether you are asking this of your own highest self within, or from an external source of wisdom. The information will come in the form of words, pictures, or feelings when you sincerely want to love yourself and others.
- 4. Take action on the information you receive.
Examples of loving action are:
- Be more compassionate with the person, recognizing that he or she would not be experiencing fight or flight without being in fear. Ask them again from a deep desire to learn, what he or she is afraid of that is causing this behavior may De-escalate the situation and lead to understanding and healing.
- If the other person is not open to calm discussion and exploration of the conflict, disengage from the interaction without anger or blame. For example, you may say, I don’t want to fight with you. I’m going to take a walk and let’s try to talk about it later. Or, this isn’t feeling good between us. Let’s take a break and get together later.
Both staying and learning together or taking some time apart to reflect on the issues or self-nurture will break the cycle of each person going into fight or flight in reaction to the present situation. It takes conscious practice to stop going into automatic behavior, but the payoff is well worth the time. It takes practice if you want to achieve loving action.
Written by: Juliana Jonathan
Photo credit: stockstutter