Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fight or Flight?

I received an email this morning that contained the following quote:

Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavor, courage that cultivates the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions. --Aung San Suu Kyi

At no time in my life have I ever been described as fearless. I am far from it. Most of my life has been ruled by fear. Fear, though, is not a bad thing. Fear is the healthy, necessary reaction to a perceived danger. So where did I go wrong? I see two things.

The first problem is that I interpret too many things as "danger". The best example is fearing what others think of me. I have spent far too much time and energy fearing that other people will think poorly of me. For any number of reasons. Living in fear of a "negative review" is not a healthy fear. And that's a hard habit to break. Trust me!

The second problem, regardless of the source of the fear, is my response. We have a biological response to stress, Fight or Flight. When we perceive a dangerous situation, the fight or flight response prepares us for whichever we chose to do. Do I stay and fight, or run like hell? On a psychological level, I have conditioned myself to run like hell. Or more accurately, make a concerted effort to avoid situations that might lead to a "dangerous" situation.

I still don't put myself into situations where I see certain risks. I play my cards close to the vest until I have a relative guarantee of safety if I show them. But what I try to do now is change my "flight" to "fight" when I have a perceived fear.

I have recently spent A LOT of time studying for The Test. It's scary, and for a lot of reasons that wouldn't make sense to many people. Many times I have become so completely overwhelmed I considered just quitting and never taking the test. That is exactly what I would have done five years ago, had I ever dared to even take on such a challenge. Instead, I let myself have my "panic response" for a day or so, then dig in.

Sometimes running away is the right choice. But for me, running that much didn't give me great legs or increase my aerobic endurance. It paralyzed me.

I don't think I'll fully be able to stop interpreting things has "dangerous" when they aren't, so instead I work on recognizing I'm scared to death, and pushing through it. I refuse to be a coward any longer.

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