+ Stimulus: Any novel or noxious event + Sensations: Our collection of information through our senses and transmission of that signal through to the central nervous system + Autonomic arousal: Heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, internal temperature, blood flow shift, and so on + Hormonal arousal: Release or dump of various chemicals into the system to supercharge the system to fight or flee + Feelings: Each pattern of tension, breathing, structure, and chemical blend becomes a particular feeling; one is happiness, one sadness; one is frustration, one exhilaration; one is anger, one lust.
+ Impressions: Each feeling is categorized by similar experiences. When we have one feeling, it is anchored to similar experiences. We judge an event by the feeling we have, and those judgments categorize our experiences. + Thoughts: As we make instant judgments, we react by creating inner discussion regarding our impression of what we have just experienced. Some thoughts are negative, some are positive; each, of course, is dependent on this process. The notion that feelings come before (and create) thoughts is the first that comes to mind! But that’s only the first hal£ The second half of that statement is our muscle tension, structural alignment, and breathing come before (create) our feelings. We’ve all heard the saying “If you want happiness, then smile.”
But that’s not the most impacting, most humbling, most numbing admission. If a dangerous stimulus elicits this process, producing a response, and if that stimulus response is conditioned, and if we adapt and progress upon that conditioning, who are we that is not a mere reaction to that stimulus? Who are we that is not that addictive compulsion to knee jerk events?
If we are not that reflex, not that pattern of tension, not those dumped chemicals, not those phantom pains and feelings, not those impressions and not that dialogue, and not those knee jerk reactions to those stressors, who are we?
Who we are and what we are capable of achieving lie beneath that process. Who we truly are, our natural abundance, talent, and genius, lies concealed by that conditioned fear reactivity. Who we are is what is left when we burn away the slag that is our fears. Who we are is the slab of marble. Remove everything that is not our greatness. What remains is our flow. Fear reactivity refers to the conditioned reaction to stress, shock, or trauma. It embeds in each of us; no one escapes it. And in the modern world, we are beset with stressors like at no other time in history. Worse still is that we biologically cannot differentiate between an emotional! symbolic threat and an actual physical threat. If a boss or coworker is belligerent in our face, screaming at us, we become aroused (without proper training) in the same way that we would if someone held a knife to our throat.
We haven’t evolved to accommodate our new postmodernistic lifestyle. We’re Stone Age bodies living in a digital world. Our physiology differs not at all from when we chased down woolly mammoths and gathered berries. We still have the potential to track game and gather food, but we don’t have a way to release all that stress, and we don’t have a way to distinguish between true threats and false threats or distinguish between evidence and, as the anonymous acronym states, FEAR – false evidence appearing real.
The true villain is the nature in which we learn. Any activity that is sustained we adapt to. We become more tolerant of that level of activity. This includes stress, shock, and trauma – which account for debilitating conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PSTD is traumatic stress that has not been relieved through a working through of trauma and is of sufficient severity to decrease a person’s ability to function in life. (Babette Rothschild, The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment.)
But the hazard to our lives comes from this ability of our organism to adapt to any situation. We can adapt to overeating or undereating, lethargy or liveliness, peak or valley. The more we do something, the more we adapt to make that action repeatable. The good thing about this is that we progress in strength, health, fitness, happiness, and performance. The bad thing about this is that we progress in weakness, disease, fatness, unhappiness, and poor performance. The most important thing to remember is that they are all outcomes. We choose to attach negative and positive associations to these outcomes.
However, at any time we can change them, by beginning anew, by breaking the pattern and altering our behavior. Baby steps. But before we go into how to interrupt patterns and reframe them positively, we must see the most detrimental effect fear-reactivity has on us. At any point in our lives, there are events and situations that cause within us differing intensity and duration of stress; consider it a continuum from low to medium to high stress, depicted in the Stress Arousal Scale.