The Armoured Body
It seems, though, even this simple body discharge has become somewhat more complex throughout history, evolving in time, and creating its own unique coping mechanisms.
In the last couple of hundred years or so, more often than not, in the face of a threat, it is considered neither proper nor appropriate to either fight or flight.
So this natural Autonomic Central Nervous System function has therefore transformed and transmuted to incorporate stress responses which may on the surface seem more socially acceptable, however are generally even more physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually damaging.
These stress responses can be categorised as the following: fight, flight, freeze, feed and fornicate.
– Fight: the urge to attack the potential threat
– Flight: the urge to run away from the attacker
– Freeze: fear to do either so holding feelings and suppressing them into the body’s tissues
– Feed: the urge to consume and/or control either actual food or general “stuff” e.g. hoarding
– Fornicate: the urge to release stress through sex, masturbation and/or pornography – often violent or violating.
The first two responses are as nature intended. Faced with a life threatening situation adrenaline or nor-adrenaline is secreted into the body via the adrenal glands and the body is mobilised to either run away or fight back, therefore the stress response is released and through the process of shaking, after the fear has subsided, the stress hormones are discharged.
However, as these so called “life threatening” situations which activate stress hormones, have become less and less dangerous throughout time, and are these days less aggressive and just more plain annoying, it is generally seen as inappropriate to behave with a fight or flight response.
– the neighbours loud noise/dogs/kids
– the paperwork with a deadline
– the bank account balance
– the pressures of family
– the mortgage/rent
– the traffic etc.
In fact it is VERY rare to experience a life threatening situation these days. Most of us are lucky enough to only experience a true or real threat only once or twice in our entire lifetimes.
Yet, the sad truth is that many of us are living in a state of stress response most of the time and in this state of fight or flight a number of things happen physiologically as the body prepares for action:
- Increased strength of skeletal muscles – creates muscular tension
- Decreased digestion and digestive secretions – poor digestion
- Reduced intestinal movement – poor elimination
- Increased heart rate – heightens blood pressure
- Increased sugar and fat levels
- Inhibits tears
- Relaxes the bladder
- Dilates pupils
- Increases perspiration
- Increases mental activity – monkey mind
- Inhibits erection/vaginal lubrication – low sex drive
- Dilation of bronchi in the lungs – shallowness of breathing
- Constricts most blood vessels but dilates those in heart/leg/arm muscles
- Over activity of adrenal, pituitary and thyroid glands
So, prolonged arousal, over a period of time of these functions can also cause reduced immune system function and hypertension.
When this fight or flight function is not allowed or appropriate, usually starting when we are very young and vulnerable (as we are being reprimanded or held under physical arrest by a parent or teacher etc.) we more commonly go into a response process known here as: Freeze.
We hold. We hold back. We suppress. We swallow back feelings, sounds, emotions and cries. We want to shout and scream and jump up and down. We want to say “no”, “stop”, or “it’s not fair”. But we squash our feelings deep down into our bodies, our muscles, our organs, and even into the very cellular structure of our being.
And cells have memory. So, as well as being in a constant state of stress response, with poor digestion, shut down elimination, overactive brain activity and shallowness of breathing resulting in weakened immune system function and hypertension, we also carry with us the energetic memory of being weak, vulnerable and scared, held in every body system:
– The muscular system: physical tension held in the muscles, ligaments & tendons
– The digestive system: poor digestion due to holding patterns through fear
– The respiratory system: shallowness of breathing creates further holding
– The cardio-vascular system: constriction of the veins/arteries causes high blood pressure
– The nervous system: over active stress responses causes hypertension & inability to relax
– The endocrine system: an over worked system often resulting in burn-out (esp. adrenal)
– The reproductive system: holds fear/emotions and perpetuates stress release via sex
– The immune system: an over stress immune function cannot get up the energy to work efficiently protecting the host from invaders such as the common cold/flu
People are often therefore left without the ability to function in an optimal way. In fact the average person probably has no idea of the well of potential every human body, mind, heart and spirit is capable of.
It’s considered “normal” to live with headaches, acid reflux, indigestion, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol, as well as insomnia, depression and panic attacks etc. If a person manages to live a life free from these ailments they are seen as “lucky” rather than assumed that it may be due to lifestyle, personal development and discipline.
Even when approached many doctors will tell you “I shouldn’t worry too much about diet/lifestyle, just give the medication time to do its job properly” – usually resulting in a host of other negative side effects.
So, our bodies have become armoured. We metaphorically, energetically and literally build a wall around ourselves and then we wonder why no one can penetrate us. No one can reach us. No one can move us or touch us or love us. And we don’t love ourselves. So, even and especially within our closest relationships: partners, children, parents, siblings and friends, the people we are meant to care about the most and show the most love are often the ones who receive the worst aspects of us.
We grow up being “triggered” by any situation which reminds of how it felt to be vulnerable and through time we become hardened to the difficulties of life. We decide we aren’t going to allow ourselves to be hurt anymore; we put up barriers, armour our bodies and forget how to be open, soft and vulnerable.
From this frozen state of fear, held muscles and emotions, we usually go further into states of stress response.
The next is by feeding our fear, to further suppress held emotions. Either by literally eating food or drinks packed full of high fats and sugars (which our bodies naturally crave especially due to fear of lack, which is uncommon in today’s western culture). Usually these refined foods also contain large amounts of chemical additives/preservatives, herbicides/pesticides, colourings/flavourings etc. which create further holding patterns in the cellular structure as our bodies produce large amounts of fat cells to protect itself from the destructive free radical damage done by the onslaught of these un-natural chemical culprits.
And if we aren’t consumed by the urge to feed our need for instant oral gratification and further numb ourselves by swallowing back uncomfortable feelings, allowing these urges to control us to the point of addiction of many substances such as fast food, coffee, chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol, we may otherwise turn the control on its head and have an uncontrollable urge to starve ourselves, to watch every mouthful and count every calorie which runs passed our lips, a further distraction from the root of the original pain.
Or if it isn’t physical food which controls us then it may be another addiction we are consumed by through our need for consumption. Buying “stuff” such as: shopping for our homes, shoes and handbags or hoarding: newspapers, magazines and general rubbish. It may also be drugs either legal or illegal which take us out of our normal state of brain activity and momentarily alleviates the difficulties of coping with everyday life, yet creating a further lack of direction and/or clarity; as well as the actual physical damage done especially to the brain and nervous system activity.
The final response to extreme states of stress is the urge to fornicate. Sex has become a commodity whereby people are bought and sold into an industry full of violence and violation of women, men, children and our greatest and most divine aspect: our sex. This pro-creative act has become little more, for many, than a quick tension release, fantasy fuelled, friction based, sneeze of an orgasm or ejaculation, where for the most part the perpetrator isn’t really even present in his or her own body as the act is taking place; usually indulging in a over-active brain based fantasy or staring into a moving image on a screen. This very blessed act which has the potential to connect us to ourselves, each other and the very universe has been reduced to a meaningless and/or drunken fumble under the covers, more as an urge which must be satiated, than as an opportunity to expand our very consciousness. And yet another way in which we numb our bodies and find solace in a momentary instantly gratifying act to forget our misery and suffering for a while.
And so we numb:
– With food, alcohol, sex, medication, drugs and addictions
– We make the uncertain – certain, with religion/politics: no more great mystery
– We blame: “I’m right – you’re wrong!” or “it’s all your fault”, avoiding responsibility
– We perfect – ourselves, our children, our homes, our bodies
– We judge and compare – ourselves and others
– We pretend – that our actions don’t affect a part or the whole world: oil spills etc.
– We forget – that our mini microcosm is indeed a reflection of the whole macrocosm
Yet we have the opportunity to be radiantly alive and glow with an iridescent and divine light. This is our potential and our birthright!
– Eat fresh!
– Believe “I am enough”
– Love with a whole heart
– Start listening: be kind and gentle
– Let yourself be seen/be vulnerable
– Practice joy & gratitude especially in times of lack or fear
– Stop blaming others – take full responsibility for what happens to you in your life!
Jess Aniscough. (2012). Chemicals are making us fat. Available: http://www.thewellnesswarrior.com.au/2012/09/chemicals-are-making-us-fat/. Last accessed 24th July 2013.
Neil F. Neimark, M.D.. (2012). The Fight or Flight Response. Available: http://www.thebodysoulconnection.com/EducationCenter/fight.html. Last accessed 24th July 2013.
Brene Brown. (2010). The Power of Vulnerability. Available: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html. Last accessed 24th July 2013.
JOHN M. GROHOL, PSY.D. . (2013). What is the purpose of the fight or flight response. Available: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/12/04/whats-the-purpose-of-the-fight-or-flight-response/. Last accessed 24th July 2013.
Marie-Louise Oosthuysen de Gutierrez. (2012). Brain Evolution.Available: http://www.neilslade.com/Papers/stimulation.html. Last accessed 24th July 2013.
Volume 15, Part 2, Pages 3-470 (2005)