The brain has three basic stress responses. Fight, flight, or freeze. It's important to pay attention to how you respond when exposed to triggers because generally, one of these three responses will be present. If you read my previous post about my experience with the balance logs at the mud run, my response was a freeze response because of the flash images I was seeing. You may be asking yourself, "Why is she calling them flash images?"
I do not consider what I saw at that particular moment a flashback. It was certainly a "fear" of re-injury, but it was not a direct re-experiencing of what happened to me or what I perceived happened to me at the time of the original injury. Genuine flashbacks were of a much more intense and very real nature when they would happen. The "flash images" as I have coined them during the mud run, for lack of a better term, were simply a fear of something happening again. They did not bring me back to the experience of the original injury. I remained present in the moment.
During flashbacks, I was never present in the moment. I was not aware of my surroundings, nor was I able to acknowledge any type of focus or have the ability to "talk myself out of it." Strategies for flashbacks came well after they had taken their toll on me and that's a story for another post.
What does the fight response look like when in a situation where someone feels threatened? Well, it can look like a lot of different things. It can be a combat situation, certainly where a police officer, soldier, or other is "on-guard" and at the ready to fire back. It can also show up as something as "simple" as defensiveness, a bad attitude, sarcasm, impatience, or irritation. It can also include serious "fight" responses such as physical violence or aggression.
What does the flight response look like? It can be jumping behind a sandbag for cover. It can be walking out of a room that is too crowded because you feel like you are going to jump out of your own skin. It can be turning your back on someone who is talking to you or completely disassociating from a conversation. It can be isolation. It could be ignoring phone calls from someone who stresses you out. It's a protective mechanism, just like the fight response.
What does the freeze response look like? It is the inability to fight or flee. The body freezes. The muscles in the legs feel like they can't pick up and move. Have you ever been caught off guard when someone says something to you and you have no words to say back, yet you continue to stand there? If you have ever seen a bunny in the wild, they freeze if you get near them. They freeze hoping danger won't find them if they are still enough.
It's interesting when you begin to pay attention to how you respond to different triggers. Try it. Next time a trigger shows up, notice what your natural response is to it and you'll be able to identify whether it's a fight, flight, or freeze. Understanding how you respond to something is half the battle when it comes to triggers.