Monday, July 14, 2008

The Fear Response

When we feel threatened, thousands of year of evolution tell us to fight or to run, to be afraid, to preserve ourselves at any cost. Even when the threat is imaginary. It takes about 20 minutes for an adrenaline surge to leave your system. This means that even when you perceive a threat that you can dismiss in one second, it takes about 1200 times that long for your body to be back to normal.

Emotions make it all even harder. Our brains tell us things based on what is familiar, giving meaning to scenarios that are new by remembering the old, filling in impossible to know information with phony details created on assumption. This often perpetuates the physiological response, making mountains out of molehills. Fun times.

Last night I was in a pretty dark place. When I wrote my post, my heart was beating fast, I was hot, I was keenly aware of how volatile I felt. I felt out of control. But I had some control. I knew my body was overreacting. I couldn't control my body's response to way too many stressful things at once, but I could control knowing that I was overreacting. In that moment I got away from my family and let my partner deal with crazy Pablo. I had the baby, but I hugged her and thought sweet thoughts about her to remind myself that usually things are fine and she is not always so fussy and high need. I didn't handle everything ideally, but I tried my best to overcome my adrenaline reaction. As a child of an angry parent, this is a pretty big deal. I am so much better than I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 1 year ago. But it is not enough.

There is no way to turn off the fear reaction once it has started. The only way to deal with the fear response is to not have it in the first place. Save the fear reaction for things you truly cannot control. Like tornadoes. Earthquakes. Creepy footsteps coming after you down an alley on a dark night.

I get really attached to my night time down time. When it is infringed upon, I feel threatened as if my life were at stake. Obviously this means I don't get enough down time. However, what really caused my suffering was not my time being threatened, but my attachment to all the meanings I had imbued that time with. One night of Pablo and Beebz having a hard bedtime simultaneously is hard, but not life or death by any measure. But since I had equated my time being cut into with me getting NOTHING, I saw it as much more of a threat than it actually was. And my fear response was triggered. And I suffered for it. We all did.

I need to take better care of myself, but there is just nothing for me to give to me. My allergies have me exhausted. The baby is quite possibly teething in addition to her stranger anxiety, so she is super grumpy and high need. Pablo is high need right now, possibly due to his sister getting more mobile and more interactive (ie more of a threat to his domain). My partner does what she can, but there is just not enough time. It is all so hard.

It is times like these that I really need to be meditating. It is times like these that I have no time for meditating. These days even ten seconds is too much.


  1. Whew! I'm right there with you, mama. Come over any time, we can let the kiddos run while we sip tea. (HA)

  2. Oh yeah!
    Recognizing it is half the battle, but the baby/ toddler years are rough. We're rounding the corner over here. I was getting really low last spring when my kids were one and three. It really just took time. Time to sleep, time for yourself, it will come.

  3.'re description of the your fear of losing your "me time" even just for one night really hit home with me. I can think back logically now to the nights when even with just ONE baby I saw this happening to me. He'd take more than his normal time getting to sleep and I'd start trying to rush him to sleep so I could get to what I needed or wanted to do, which just made everything that much worse, made him less likely to go sleep, made me even more upset I was losing my time...and down we went. It would be such a struggle that night but the next night it would be fine. And logically I'd tell myself to just calm down, tomorrow would be better, but my primitive mind wasn't having it. Anyway...Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one.