When faced with a threat our reptilian brain kicks in and throws us into flight fight or freeze mode. This is an automatic and instinctive response built into us from millennia ago when we had to scavenge for food and fight off lions to survive. The problem today is that this response still exists in us even though we very seldom need it. Don’t get me wrong, if someone is mugged in the street it is a very useful reaction – essential for survival even – but often this fight, flight or freeze response is activated when we perceive a threat, regardless whether one exists or not.
For example, if I am at a party and I don’t know anyone, a fight, flight or freeze response isn’t really helpful. Likewise if someone makes a joke and I think it’s about me and jump straight into fight mode, what happens if it comes to light the joke was actually nothing to do with me? What happens when the treat that we perceive isn’t real?
Below are some questions to help you assess whether your anxieties and fears are based on real threats or not:
- Is it possible that I have misinterpreted the situation?
- Is it possible that I have misunderstood what has been said?
- Is it possible that my perceived threat actually doesn’t exist in this circumstance? (E.g. everyone I don’t know at the party is welcoming and friendly)
- If there is danger have reasonable precautions been taken to limit it? Do I find these precautions acceptable? Are there any facts that will ease my concern? (E.g. rollercoaster ride safety standards)
If there is any chance that your anxieties and fears are not based on real threats then you can try to avoid jumping into fight, flight or freeze mode by rationalizing that your fears are probably exaggerated. You can also limit your anxieties and fears by making a contingency plan for how you would react if your anxieties and fears surfaced. To construct such a plan, aim to answer the questions below but remember not to dwell on the contingency plan as this may feed into your fears, simply make one and then refocus on the task at hand.
- What is the worst that could happen?
- How could I deal with this if it happens?
- What could I do that I haven’t done in the past in response to my fears?
- How can I limit my anxiety if the worst were to happen? (I.e. bring a friend)
How do you usually tell if your anxieties and fears are based on real threats? Have you ever thought about it before? What are your anxieties and fears? Will you ask yourself any of the questions above? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community.