Mental Health

On Reacting (fight or flight?)


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“When our heart is threatened we respond in one of two ways. We either run or– We attack. There’s a scientific term for this. Fight…or flight. It’s instinct. We can’t control it. Or can we?” (Grey’s Anatomy).

I am a person who likes to feel some sense of control–maybe I have control issues–but all I know is I do not like to feel as though I am backed into a corner.

I do not like to feel powerless. And, most importantly, I do not like to run.

When someone hurts me, and I mean truly and deeply hurts me, I feel threatened; I get scared and in this moment I feel I have one of two choices. We all know what these choices are, we learnt about them in High School biology: Fight or Flight.

Let me just say that I am not one to run when I am scared – I prefer not to cower away – so that leaves me with one option: Fight.

Being a writer, I feel most of my power comes from words. In these moments of fear my words become my weapons: I aim, shoot, and sink. And if my ‘attacker’ (if you can call them that because at this point I am usually the only one attacking) does not back down, I reload. As Sarah Palin says (and please don’t judge me for quoting Sarah Palin!): “Don’t retreat, RELOAD.” So that’s what I do until I feel the threat is gone and I have won – oh strong, powerful me!


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But is this really the only way to be strong? Is there really only those two options: Fight or flight?

What if there is a third?

What about standing your ground – not attacking, but not running either?

What if you can just stand tall, remain strong in who you know that you are and not back down, but not attack. Is this not what they suggest you do if you encounter something like a bear? Could it be that there is a lesson to be learnt from our nature-trekking friends?

This is what I’ve learnt – running does no good, but fighting doesn’t do much good either. When you run, you make yourself feel weak and defeated, or, even worse, you allow yourself to keep getting attacked.

And when you fight, well, you either provoke your attacker to fight back harder – which is never a safe thing – or you beat them to the ground and ‘win’, but at what cost? Even if the person ‘deserves it,’ do you really want to compromise your own decency that way? Over them? Is it REALLY worth it?

The thing is I know who I am. I am confident in who I am.

I am not perfect (far from it), but I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses.

And so I have no need to run, but I also have to need to fight because I am ME and I don’t need to compromise that. And when someone hurts me, I don’t need to attack; I don’t even need to feel threatened because they can’t get to me – they can’t attack who I am. And the only way that they can begin to destroy me is if I let them make me feel threatened, if I let them make me choose to forget my decency and I choose to attack. Only then can they actually pose a threat to who I am.

So really, I am in control and I can choose how I wish to react. I can choose, rather than running or fighting, to stand tall in who I know I am and remain strong in that – staking my ground, neither running nor attacking, but simply being me, being the person who I know I am and who my people know I am.

That is the third option.

What will you do the next time you feel threatened?

Lauren is the Founder and Editor of Libero. She started Libero in April 2010, when she shared her story about her struggles with an eating disorder and depression. Now Lauren uses her writing and videos to advocate mental health and body positivity. In her spare time, she enjoys makeup artistry, playing Nintendo, and taking selfies with her furbaby, Zoey.

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