In parts 1 and 2 we learnt how our minds work, in part 3 we will learn more about fear.
Firstly fear is an emotion, a powerful emotion but just an emotion, it’s purpose is to move you into action fight or flight. There is also a third reaction – to freeze. We’ll come to that in a bit.
In Part 1 and Part 2 we learnt that our ancestors faced dangerous situations all the time, so the survivors that went on to make babies, were those that had a more developed fear response. After all, if you weren’t afraid of the Sabre Toothed Tiger, chances are it ate you. As a result we all are pre-disposed to survive. Fast forward to today there is less for us to really have fear about in the developed world. However our mind still has it’s super evolved survival mechanism.
The Freeze Response
In addition to Fight or Flight there is a third response Freezing, remember our friends Ook and Ukk…..
A few weeks after the Sabre Toothed Tiger incident, Ook and Ukk were out hunting this time their friend Gronk is with them, Gronk is a bit new to hunting so hasn’t been before. They are out in the woods when two things happen at the same time, a Thunderstorm rolls in (which our boys are terrified of) and a large ferocious meat eating dinosaur – that somehow survived the asteroid impact thanks to, plot armour – rears up to attack our heroes. Ukk thinks ‘f’ this and runs off, Ook decides to fight the dinosoaur hoping Ukk will be with him to take it down. Gronk is stunned, has no information on this situation and freezes…
In this situation the dinosaur happens to be a predator that is trained to follow movement. Ever noticed how your pet cat stops being interested when the animal it is playing with stops moving? Same response. Also the animal playing dead? that’s the same as our freeze response. Back to the gang…
Ook realises Ukk has done a runner and races off, leaving Gronk frozen stiff in place. Gronk is still terrified internally but he literally cannot think or move with fear. The dinosaur sees the other two running away and gives chase. Gronk is frozen in place so the dinosaur ignores him, and ambles off after the other two. Eventually Gronk recovers and heads back to the village.
Ook and Ukk race to find somewhere to hide. The Dinosaur gets struck by a bolt of lightning and becomes a Vegan. They all lived happily ever after…
This is how we can also freeze in a situation. There is also no control over what happens when extreme fear is triggered unless you have been trained out of that response, for example the army spends millions training its soldiers to adopt the fight response in any situation. There are Martial Arts that will train you to stay relaxed when facing a fight or run away if its too dangerous. No one trains the freeze response to my knowledge.
Releasing the Fear
Ook, Ukk and Gronk are all at the point of evolution where they are just Subconcious and Lizard Brain evolved. Everything is instinctive, they become afraid, fear is dealt with, they forget the fear and don’t think about it, this is helped by the following factors:
- Running away burns adrenaline
- Fighting burns Adrenaline
- Freezing eventually subsides when the fear response does
Modern day however, we can’t Fight or Run and Freezing isn’t helpful either – anyone who is afraid of public speaking after a traumatic speech, where they froze will confirm this. We also are able to think about what happened in the past and keep bringing up the fearful memories and re-triggering the fear response in a way Ook and Co, just did not. So we are squarely in our own way. So…
What if I can’t do anything about the fear?
In many cases in the modern world, there are situations that are beyond our control, either because they happen when we are very young, or we are in a position where we cannot react as our ancestors would, our mind is aware of the danger – and this danger could be very real in the form of abuse, it could also be from witnessing domestic violence, cruelty, bullying or being very sensitive to events going on around you. Whatever it is, if you have a problem with it, its normal and it is okay. In this circumstance the fear can be stuffed down and buried, suppressed if you will. If this happens it lodges in your body somewhere, usually the gut, throat or chest, but it could be anywhere. Your body will do this to help you survive, there are circumstances that if you hadn’t “stored” the fear, you may have been unable to function and that could even have been terminal for you. Your body saved you. Unfortunately these stored fears – and from now on and for the rest of the site we’ll refer to the sensations as energy (this will help with some of the techniques we cover) – are still very much ‘alive’ and will rear up like something out of a zombie movie. All they want is to be processed by the body and released. This however means measurable amounts of discomfort. They can lead us into a spiral of fear, especially if we do not understand what is happening.
A note on food
Sometimes we have an inflammatory response to food and it appears suddenly in our life. I am not talking about well understood issues like peanut allergies and Coeliac disease that are medically detectable, but about those odd things that we suddenly cannot eat anymore. Because of the way our body processes fear and trauma, there is an outside chance that these are the cause of the issue. As you employ techniques to return to calm, you may find that foods that affected you previously do not any more. Conversely foods you may have been addicted to, you no longer crave. How could this possibly work?
Wendy is sat down watching her favourite soap opera, cup of tea in hand. She also has some particularly delicious rich tea biscuits on hand. She’s just taken a bite of a biscuit when the phone rings. It’s some tragic news and Wendy gets really upset and knotted up. She manages to finish her cookie while on the phone. A few week later she realises she been having stomach issues, bloating, pain. She tries the FODMAP diet and cuts out wheat. Suddenly her stomach issues subside. She is now wheat intolerant.
In this scenario, Wendy’s body registered the wheat in the biscuit with the trauma and Wendy has a reaction everytime she eats a biscuit. This is obviously not the same for everyone, but something to bare in mind.
The Fear Spiral
What goes in through your senses gets processed and if any part of what you sense is related to a danger response then your body will go into alert mode, it may be undetectable to you at first, and could be a physical sensation, a colour a scent, even a taste. It may trigger a worrying thought, you start worrying, out of nowhere. Now you’re stressed, your mind notices, it amps up the fear response, you may get more worrying thoughts, your body is really going now. This sequence can continue to playout until you have an emotional release like crying or a panic attack or you intervene with a modern technique.
How do I stop?
- Measure the fear on the SUD or SUE scale
- Employ a technique from the blog
- Measure on the SUD or SUE scale again
- Repeat until fear is gone and your SUD level is 0 or your SUE level is as high as you can get it