Fight, Flight, Freeze, Over-function

I’m thinking right now, bouncing around ideas re: the physical pain of emotional barbs. I say barbs for lack of another suitable word, but what I mean is I’m thinking about the literal pain, like the result of a hard work out or a fall- sometimes a dull soreness that aches when you move, sometime a searing pain,  as though you’d sprained or broken something.


Right now, because of a particular unit we are studying in school, and because of some relational patterns I’ve been observing around me. I’m noticing how one big emotional blow can be akin to sustaining injuries from a bad car accident.  And a slow, steady stream of subtle (or not so subtle) negative messages can be like drinking small amounts of poison with your coffee instead of creamer.


But the difference I’m noting, mainly, is that strictly phsyical injuries have a pretty standard, steady rate of healing. For the first few days after a surgery things FEEL worse, but left to it’s own devices, the body heals.


But left to it’s own devices, the heart self-destructs. It replays the moments of hurt, the words that stung, the times and memories and continue to re-inflict wounds. Left to it’s own devices, the heart will blame self or others, and then punish accordingly.


Yesterday in class, we were taught about Bowen Relational Theory (not a theory I completely hold, but like all theories, one with helpful parts to take away) and that under this theory, people have four basic reactions in “survival schema” (so, when you get so stressed that you go into survival mode).  They are:

  • fight
  • flight
  • freeze
  • over function
It’s worth noting, however, that “over function” is a standard M.O. in Western society, especially in America and we don’t usually see when we over function because we think of it as normal.
The thing about these four reactions, though, is that none of them bring healing. When we go into survival mode we are still, however ineffectively, fighting our own battles. And we will not win them. Not with any win we want.
When we fight we may dam up the hurts coming against us, even stop new ones from being able to come, but we also INFLICT pain on others. So we don’t truly deal with our pain, plus we make it worse for someone else.

WOUNDS, pplfriends, wounds.

when we escape (either physically or just emotionally) we are avoiding, not fixing the problem. And dag-nabbit if those pains don’t find their ways back to us, no matter how far or hard we run.

maybe the only time when "flight" is a healthy option: when you're being chased by a lion (and you aren't one)

when we freeze, it’s like giving up. Sure it’s a choice but it’s not a choice that fixes anything.

get it? they are FREEZING! (it was an unintentional animal theme)

and when we over function I can garauntee that we aren’t functioning WELL. I’ve learned the hard way that most things I just get through would be better if I’d not engaged them at all. Yeah, you heard me, a not-checked-off-to-do-list is better than a poorly-checked-off one, especially if these are human beings you’re dealing with (employees, clients, kids).

please excuse the nipples. as they are male, i thought it okay. #doublestandard #blogforanotherday

So what’s our saving grace? When we’re hurting from big bad emotional pain or little  steady emotional pain or emotional pain that we can’t even identify, if all of our instincts lead us to ineffective patterns, what do we do?
We don’t follow our instincts, we don’t leave our hearts to their own devices: we follow God. Or to first-person this bizz:
I can let HIM fight my battles (like Moses teaches, we need never be afraid because by definition when we follow God, He goes ahead of us).
I can cease to flee situations and instead confront them with Godly attitudes and a humble heart, knowing he gives me the strength and security to do so, and knowing no matter what the outcome, my worth is secured in him.
I can keep going,  knowing that no matter what it looks and feels like, I have the victory in Christ. 1Corinthians 15:58 sums up the whole “staying still and moving foward” thing like this:
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Standing firm without freezing up*, moving on with being blown away, in fact, being IMMOVABLE in the Lord. And zing-boom, the same verse also hits on overfunctioning. Look again, “always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain.”
Even when hit with the hard blows of emotion, I can continue abounding in the work OF THE LORD, which includes loving him and loving others in whatever way he leads me. It also include SABBATH REST! Hallelujah, what a savior, to include REST in the work he gives us ;)

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