Do you want to lose your fight-or-flight response? Is it even helping you?
Hey, beautiful human. It’s me, Rebecca Wiener McGregor, The Anxiety Eraser, and you are here for another episode of Effective Immediately, the show where we talk healthy emotions, mindset, abundance, leadership, and I give you a mindset shift that you can put into effect immediately.
So, okay, this one comes from a community viewer, a person in our community. They wrote in with a question, and I want to read it.
“I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety and frustration, and I seem to be activated all the time. Many times during the day, my heart will start racing, I’ll get sweaty, I’ll feel nervous. Nothing bad is happening around me. But I just can’t get myself to stay calm. Can I just get rid of my fight-flight response?”
Alright, the short answer is ‘no’. And here’s why: imagine you’re walking through the woods and you suddenly hear a loud growl. Your heart starts racing, your muscles tense up, you feel super alert. That’s your body’s fight-or-flight response kicking in. Okay? It’s like superhero mode and it’s there and designed for emergencies. Okay, when faced with danger, our body will gear up and it will either face the threat head-on, that’s the fight part, right? Or it will bolt away and run to safety as quickly as possible. And that’s the flight part. So, this happens because deep down we are wired for survival. So if you’ve been feeling any of this, feeling like this person who wrote in, where you can’t calm yourself down, you just wish that you could get rid of that fight-flight feeling, I want you to be so loving with yourself. So compassionate, because some part of you is trying to survive. Okay?
So the short answer, of course, to do we want to get rid of our fight-flight response is no. And it’s actually very helpful. It’s the alarm system for our body. So, as I just shared with you, it is the survival instinct that fight-or-flight, primal survival mechanism is hardwired into our biology. This has evolved to protect us from immediate threats in our environment. When we are faced with danger, this part of us will be activated, and it will help us either confront the situation or flee to safety. Therefore increasing our chances of survival. Okay? This fight-flight response will mobilize our resources. When activated, the fight-flight response will actually trigger a rush of adrenaline and other stress hormones. And this leads to an increased heart rate, heightened senses, and a rush of energy to our muscles.
You can imagine how valuable this is in a time of an emergency. This heightened state of awareness and physical readiness is actually extremely valuable to us. You can see why we won’t want to get rid of it. Okay? There are situations in which stress can be very beneficial. You can hear athletes using this activating this hyping themselves up even the way they speak to their teammates starting to try to activate this response so that they have the extra energy in their muscles, the extra awareness, their heightened responses, all of that. So you can imagine taking all that away, what could, what would be possible, what would be the thing that happens to your body?
Now, because this is also the fight-flight response can come out of nowhere, seemingly, when we’re dealing with PTSD, anxiety, panic, those kinds of things. You can imagine how frustrating it would be for a person to have this activated in them all the time. The thing is your body, my body, we are wired for survival. Our brain does not care about appropriate responses. It does not care about us feeling comfortable. It cares about our survival. It cares about keeping us safe. That’s the truth. The fight-flight response is crucial for our survival, we do not want to give it up.
So if you’ve been feeling activated, try to use the word activated instead of trigger, please. If you’ve been feeling activated outside of an actual event where survival, where your body needed that actual survival mechanism to keep you alive, then you may be dealing with some underlying stress from a past experience, or a group of past experiences. This can be anything from being made fun of in school, this can be related to the way your parents or caregivers treated you or didn’t treat you. It can be related to being embarrassed during a speech that you had to give and your body all of a sudden felt like it was getting nervous and shaky, and all the blood was rushing from your head. These kinds of responses come up so naturally because some part of you thinks that you’re in danger. The only reason that this is activated in us is that some part of us believes that we are in danger.
Now remembering this conversation we’ve had so many times, our brain does not care about our comfort. I know that’s a wild thing to say, isn’t it? Our brain does not care about our comfort. Our brain does not care about our joy. Our brain cares about keeping us alive. It’s our spirit that wants comfort. It’s our spirit that wants joy. It’s our spirit that wants growth. Your brain, our brain is designed to keep us alive. It doesn’t care for comfortably alive, happily alive. It only wants to keep us alive. That is the survival instinct that we have. This is good for us because when we are confronted with danger, when we are in a situation where we have to actually have heightened senses, we need that extra burst of energy in our muscles, we need to make fast decisions, we want our survival, our fight-flight mechanism to be there. Okay?
So give yourself a breath. Give yourself a break. If you’ve been noticing that this feeling has been coming up inside of you, where your heart races, your stomach turns, you get sweaty, something is activated within you, but there’s no danger around you, this is where you want to take a look at what’s happening inside you. Okay? Because here’s the good news. This is actually great news. If you’re dealing with feelings of survival mode being activated outside of an event where your body actually has a legitimate reason to be feeling like it’s in danger, then that can be helped. You may be dealing with some of the things I mentioned earlier, panic, anxiety, even rage, PTSD, you may be having responses to old experiences. And that’s likely what’s happening if you are feeling that fight-flight response happening but there’s no danger around you, your body is operating off of old memories. Your body is, your brain is, operating off of old experiences. Now what’s so important about this is that every time we are in an experience, our brain is looking for a past experience to use as a reference file of how to respond in the current moment.
So if you’re wondering, Why do I always get the same response? Why does my heart always start racing when I do this particular thing that’s not dangerous? Why does my stomach start to churn, even though I’m not in danger when I’m doing this talk in front of my team or I have to have a big conversation with someone, why does it get so scary? Why do I get feelings of fear? Why does my body get activated? It’s because your brain is operating off of old reference files. And what I mean by old is things that happened before today.
If you’re operating out of the present moment. Let’s think about this for a moment. If you’re operating from the present moment, and there is no present danger, and there is no reason for you to be alarmed, angry, (anger is the bodyguard, by the way), frustrated, panicky, nervous activated, etc., then you wouldn’t have any of those responses, right? But if you are in a situation where there are some emotional responses happening, some bit of your present circumstances that matches something that you had in the past, that activated a larger fight-flight, fear response, your body is going to look for a similar experience to draw from that. It’s going to take that whole experience, how you responded, in your physical being, your emotions, and even in your behavior and it’s going to bring all that into the present moment, and have you respond in that way. Because if it worked in the past, this is the brilliance of our brain, right? If it worked in the past, to keep you alive, it’ll likely work in the present to keep you alive. So your body will recreate those responses in order to keep you alive.
Now, what’s fascinating about this, is that some of the experiences most of the experiences will happen from the roots of our neural pathways, which were set in motion, were solidified before we’re eight years old. Isn’t that incredible? The things that you are doing now, the responses that you have now in your life, most of them were set up before you were eight years old. Sometimes do you ever wonder, like if you’re having an emotional response, but it doesn’t even feel appropriate for the age that you are, it feels a little bit immature? That’s because most of our responses were set up before we were eight, many of them before we were three years old. Then if we had other traumatic experiences, those helped to shape who we are as well. Because remember, our brain is not caring about happiness, our brain is not caring about our comfort, it only cares about keeping us alive. So it really focuses on any moment to look for past experiences, where you felt the similar feeling in a similar emotion in a similar circumstance. Even the room that you’re in, your body temperature, the people you’re around, the colors, the space, the humidity, the cold, or heat of the temperature of the air, everything in your brain will look for a past experience where you felt that feeling. And then take all of that information and recreate it in the present moment. That is how powerful you are. That is how powerful your brain is. Your brain is processing constantly, and looking for past experiences, to use as reference files to how to respond in the current moment.
Now what happens when we are in that panic state or we are quick to rage, or we feel like we’re having a response to past trauma, if you want to refer to it as PTSD, that’s fine. It’s because some part of us is still activated from that experience. Some part of us hasn’t really ever fully got out of that survival mode, that fight-flight, feeling, that fight-flight response. Sometimes far, far away from that experience. And I mean, duration of time, that experience could have happened in the distant past. Our body will hold on to that feeling until it feels like it’s an appropriate time to deal with it. This is why people in their 30s, 40s, 50s have such powerful responses to anxiety, and old experiences that they’ve had. And even just anxiety, feeling like it’s coming out of nowhere. Because once you are in a calm, successful, happy place in your life, your body believes that you’re out of survival mode and that you can actually deal with the repercussions, with the old feelings, with the responses, with the physical feelings of that old trauma and it will start to let that bubble to the surface.
Some people would call this, back in the day like when I was younger, they would call it midlife crisis where all these feelings would start coming up are about like questioning everything, questioning where we are in life, questioning what we’re doing, questioning if we’re good enough, if we’re worthy enough, why we can’t grow past a certain point, why we can’t find the love that we want to find, why we can’t allow ourselves a certain level of success or wealth or trust or visibility, or you name it, any limit that you can think of. It’s because our body is still trying to keep us safe based on things that happened to us in the past, we may not even feel like they are truly traumatic experiences, but our brain has different feelings about them. So you may think, ‘Okay, I had a really good life, I have a really good life right now, why is all of this stuff being activated in me? I can’t think of a single experience, where my body would say that I was in actual true survival mode’. Well, one of the pieces of survival is not being abandoned. Because if you imagine now, where you are on the trajectory of staying alive, if you’re abandoned from a primal place, okay, where you’re part of a herd, you’re part of a group, and you do something that could cause someone to reject you. So this is often something that happens to us when we feel anxiety or anger or frustration, we carry out those emotional responses as a result, for example of being bullied. That is a form of rejection, our body fears abandonment because being ousted from the herd would likely mean death. Remember, our brain is only focused on our survival.
So, if you felt any of these feelings, I want you to give yourself some love, give yourself some compassion. This is not about judging yourself. This is about looking at the data. Remember, we don’t judge we acknowledge we look at the data, we pay attention to what’s happening in our bodies. So we can live with the healthiest, most appropriate, most beneficial emotions. So imagining now, you look back at your life and you maybe have a moment where you felt rejected, you felt betrayed by a friend, you felt ignored by someone, you felt left out of the group, you felt like someone got more love or attention than you. It could have been a sibling, could have been friends. It could have been when you were really little, could have been in middle school. You’ll notice that some of those same experiences, and some of those same feelings will continue to be a theme throughout your life. Remember, this is just data, you didn’t mess up. This is the way your brain is designed to operate. It’s designed to take those old experiences and to help us to stay alive. So it uses those same responses. So you may feel like’ Oh, I’m always responding this way in this situation. It’s really frustrating me, I can’t believe that this is happening. I don’t understand why I keep getting this response’. It’s because your brain is trying to keep you alive.
Now, we can look at the emotional consequences of anxiety, of PTSD, of panic, of rage. The emotional consequence is that it tears at us. It works on our worthiness, our deservingness, our self-love, and our self-trust. The longer we have these stress responses, the more worn out our body gets. The faster we get overstimulated, the faster we get emotionally drained, the faster we feel burned out and we question whether or not we’re doing things right. Why am I not as happy as I could be? Why do I seem to always bump up against this limit whenever I’m making friends? Why do I not really trust people? Why is it easier for me to be alone, you can start looking at the data and looking at ways that these things might be showing up in your life now. Be very loving with yourself. I will tell you, you’re not the only one dealing with this. You know, we’ve talked about anxiety now for weeks, and the responses of our body and how our body loves survival mode. We’ve talked about this for weeks and weeks. There’s lots of data here to help you understand that you’re not doing anything wrong.
If you’re feeling, if you’re dealing with anxiety, if you’re dealing with old responses coming up, you’re not doing anything wrong. Your brain is actually doing its job. What we can do though, is if you are in a place where you’re ready to relieve, to release the old anxiety responses, that inappropriate anxiety, remember that means that it’s coming out of nowhere. There’s no immediate danger. Where you’re feeling anxiety, where you’re feeling rage, where you’re feeling panicky, where you are having even flashbacks to previous experiences, those can be released. Yes, you can learn to manage them. And if you want to, with the power of hypnosis, you can actually release them. You can go to the experience in that beautiful, calm, focused, relaxed state of hypnosis. Allow your body to release the emotions, validate, and honor the version of yourself that you were when that thing happened and your body will neutralize the physical response. Your brain knows how to heal itself to it knows how to keep you alive. And it knows how to heal itself too. So when you’re in these experiences, in your mind, in hypnosis, we can actually calm them down, shift the reference file, so that that experience, that file now has peace, ease, joy, forgiveness, maybe not always joy, but there’s a certain sense of happiness that comes in when you feel that you have neutralized the experience. When you’ve honored who you were, then you’ve honored the feeling. You’ve allowed yourself to feel what you need to feel so that your body can feel calm in that experience. That changes the whole reference file. Now there is the wisdom of the experience. You’ll never lose that wisdom. But you lose your release the physical response, the shakiness, the heaviness, the heart racing, the sweatiness, whatever it is that comes into your body when you feel activated.
Now imagine those reference files, feeling calm, feeling relaxed, feeling the wisdom. Then anytime your brain uses that file as a reference, you have that calmness. It’s not pulling you back to having you respond in that same way over and over again. Your body remains calm so you can make your decisions from this present moment. What’s actually happening, not what your brain is remembering happened in the past, but what is actually happening in the present moment. You use all the wisdom that you’ve gained throughout your life. You allow yourself to be in this present moment, and make decisions from here. Imagine how much easier it is. Imagine how simply you can make decisions, how the obvious decision will just show up because there is not that part of you pulling yourself back, causing you to question your trust of yourself and your decision-making skills. Noticing how simple it can be, for you to feel that inner peace in a moment when you have to make a decision. If to operate from right here, how much easier that will be?
So if you’re feeling this, give yourself lots of love. Give yourself lots of grace, and lots of compassion.
Allow yourself to think about what it is that’s happening to you in the present moment. Are you operating off of an old reference file that can be healed? Or are you operating out of the present moment, with the wisdom that you have throughout your life, where you’re operating from right here on what’s happening and what you want moving forward? If you’re not we can make adjustments, we can help your brain understand what you really want to feel, who you really are right now, the age that you are, the strengths that you have, your wisdom, all the best wonderful qualities that you have about yourself. We can help your brain understand that and then who you want to become. And allow yourself to be that person right now. It feels good, right? So if you’re noticing that you’re having that inappropriate anxiety, inappropriate responses to present moments where your fight-or-flight is activated without any danger, and you’re ready to have a conversation about how this can change in you. And we can calm it down in 90 days or less. You can book a call with me, a callwithrebecca.com.
Your Effective Immediately Moment of the Week
Now for your effective immediately moment of the week. Are you ready? Okay, the next time that you feel your body is reacting in a fight-or-flight response I want you to give yourself a breath, that you notice that your body is activated. Maybe you can feel that heightened awareness, you can feel your heart rate quicken, you can feel that energy coursing through your body. I want you to put your hand on your heart and ask yourself ‘Is this an appropriate feeling for my circumstances? Did my body have great reason to believe that I was in danger?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, thank your body for communicating with you. Thank your body for protecting you, thank your body for being there for you. Now, if you’re in actual danger, you might have to ask this question later. But it’ll help you differentiate the appropriate versus inappropriate fight-or-flight response. Okay, so you have that experience, you ask yourself,’ Is this appropriate? Did my body respond the way I would have wanted it to? Was I faced with something that my body would take as actual danger?’ If the answer is yes, thank your body. Thank your body for responding. It might be a moment when you are deeply startled, surprised, shocked. It may be a moment where you narrowly escape sideswiping somebody with your car or them sideswiping you. Right? These are the kinds of things that would immediately create a fight-or-flight response in you, this is why we don’t want them to go away. We want you to be healthy and be able to protect yourself with that heightened sense of awareness. Okay? If the answer is no, I want you to thank your body. Once again, you want to be in communication with your body and want to thank your body for having given you the most beneficial response that it could at the time. If your survival instinct was activated by a thought or seemingly comes out of nowhere that can be helped. So I want you to be so loving with yourself that your body just showed you, where you can shift, where you can grow, where you can learn to move past this feeling where you can actually dissolve it when it’s inappropriate. So either way, you get to thank your body for how it’s responding. You get to be super loving with yourself. And then you get to make a decision about how you proceed next.
I’ve helped many clients, almost 3,000, in the last 19 years to release inappropriate anxiety and survival responses that are leftover from past experiences. Most of the time in 90 days or less. Wherever you see me, wherever you see this message, you can send me a DM and ask about how we can get started or ask for more information. Or you can schedule a call at callwithrebecca.com to see if this could be right for you.
All right, be super loving with yourself. Take good care of yourself this week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday for another episode. Bye for now.
About the Author:
Rebecca Wiener McGregor, also known as The Anxiety Eraser, is a seasoned transformational hypnotist, trauma healer, and abundance coach. Since 2004, she guides visionary women to break free from anxiety, blocks, traumas, and fears, leading them to a life filled with abundance and purpose. Through her book “Loving Her” and work with conscious women executives, leaders, coaches, and healers worldwide, Rebecca sparks profound transformations, helping her clients embrace their true selves and create impactful, joyful, fulfilling lives.
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