Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fight or Flight

Fight or flight. Cleverly similar words with such appropriately different meanings. I believe everyone experiences the fight of flight response to situations all of the time. But I don't hear much about the after effects of this adrenal response or specifically about the mental reaction that must follow. To me it doesn't seem like a simple chemical reaction at all, nor do most of my fight of flight occurrences happen in the wild when bodily harm is truly on the line. Rather, it is as simple or complex as a social interaction or inaction

Lately, I've been put in or happened upon quite a few situations where I did not know how to respond. There seems to be a gulf between my first response in how I want to react (run, be silent, have harsh words) and what I do, which tends to be polite or understanding and is certainly not indicative of the thoughts within. When what I want to do, to avoid being hurtful, is run or hide, or both.

Of course I haven't hid. I shouldn't say of course, because I have spent many minutes escaping into bathroom stalls in my adulthood just to get away. It's why my first book, if I were ever to write one, would be titled: Hiding in Bathrooms. (It's always good to have a title on hand in case a book presents itself.) But I've stopped hiding, I suppose since I have hid I never developed the, how to stay put response well.

I grew up criticizing those girls who in a moment of stress or make-believe drama would circle up her posse and go gossip in a corner about whatever it was. Someone wearing the same shirt or some verbal exchange and its meaning. I never understood this need exactly nor approved since it seemed to create more havoc than good.
But I am gaining understanding and have the urge now.

When I am in one of these social, I need to get away moments, I long for someone else far enough removed, but intuitive and close enough to me to see and understand what is unfolding. The proximics, the syntax, the tone, the vocabulary, the non-verbals. How the surface is not all of the story and that I need a swift exit. I need to go and talk of "shoes and ships and sailing wax" to laugh, because laughter will shed light return it to where it needs to be.

All of those cards seemed to be in place today. I was with my faithful, observant, and best friend of a brother at church. And yet when I needed to cut out due to an uncomfortable situation, we didn't. I got the opportunity to be an adult but not run, but desired to not linger. Instead, we were 30 minutes later, still socializing, him in some unknown location, and not answering his phone. And certainly not taking hints even when I asked directly for us to please leave. But by the time we did it seemed too late. My thoughts and feelings were strewn about in such a way that I couldn't catch them, fold them up nicely, or put them back away.

And once removed, once the need to fight or flee is gone, what then? The trigger is gone, but the feelings aren't. Where do they go? They don't have receptors like adrenaline and get absorbed back into the body or mind. Where should they go?

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