Our nervous systems reflect what is going on around us and within us. We can all have days when we feel:
- frozen, numb, shut down and simply can’t get out of bed. That’s our Freeze response.
- reactive, irritated, and just want to swat away all those things that are so annoying, or we want to run away from them. That’s our Fight/Flight response.
- present, calm, clear, engaged and alert and are able to take on anything. This is our optimal level of functioning, and our social engagement system is activated. This is also called our rest, digest and repair state.
If I asked you on each of those different days what would your view of life be in the moment? What would it be? |How we act, react and perceive the world around us depends on what part of our nervous system is activated.
- In Freeze: Life is impossible. The world is dark. Attitude: I can’t. And we do not act. We freeze or shut down.
- In Fight or Flight: Life is irritating, frustrating, demanding. The world is overwhelming and chaotic. Attitude: I can. But our actions come from old unconscious patterns driven by anger or fear.
- In our Optimal Level of Functioning: Life is meaningful. I feel at ease, empowered and connected to others. Our actions are conscious and are informed by our thinking brain. We are more resilient to daily ups and downs. This place of resilience is also called our Window of Tolerance.
We often have days where we ask ourselves “what made me do that? It didn’t make sense at all! And why do I always react that way? I want to stop doing that!” And we then follow that with some kind of judgement – of ourselves or others involved. Some of us blame others for our reactions and some of us blame ourselves. But there is a bigger picture in action here. If we are in fight, flight or freeze, our actions come from an unconscious, defensive place. And these actions don’t always have the result we want – they can keep us locked in a defensive dynamic with life and the people around us.
These last two years have magnified this experience for most of us. The constant stress and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic has increased the pressure on our nervous systems. Many of us are in chronic stress and are bouncing between fight/flight and freeze, with little time spent in a peaceful and easy state.
Lockdowns and the many defensive requirements of our present society are reflected in our locked-down nervous systems. We may bounce between our freeze reactions where we sleep late, overeat, overdrink and watch too much Netflix to feeling anger and rage at those lockdowns that make us feel like prisoners being punished. Is it any wonder that we are experiencing such chaos around us? We may not spend any time in our Window of Tolerance.
From our past experiences, we all have our own unique perceptions and beliefs about how we need to be and act to feel safe and acceptable in this confusing world. Many of these beliefs and actions come from an unconscious need to defend ourselves. It is only when we become conscious of these conditioned beliefs can we make more informed and empowered choices about how we want to be in this world. We can spend more time in our nervous system’s optimal level of functioning – our social engagement system.
From this place, we can shift from defensive perceptions and actions and open up to seeing our fellow humans with compassion and understanding. We can connect and work in cooperation and collaboration to support ourselves and our communities.
One of my favourite pieces of wisdom from Wayne Dyer is “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. And this is exactly what happens when we are able to shift from our defensive nervous system to our Window of Tolerance.
I am grateful every day for Conscious EFT. It has helped me to recognize when I am in defence mode and come back to being centred and grounded in my Window of Tolerance. From here I can feel more compassion for myself and others, and can see how to move forward in ways that create more safety, respect and much more joy!
Wishing you all more peace, compassion and an inspired vision of how we can support each other in healing from these lockdowns.