When difficult emotions come pouring in, we’re told that we have three options to cope with the threat of danger.
Fight, flight or freeze.
We can fight, which might mean crying, punching, grinding our teeth or other expressions of anger.
We can flight, which might mean restless leg movement, darting eyes or physically running away.
We can freeze, which might mean holding our breath, feeling an overwhelming sense of dread or, my childhood preference, playing dead, face down in the snow until they either pity you or assume you’re unconscious.
Fight, flight, freeze.
Those are the three most well documented responses.
However, there’s a fourth option people rarely talk about. My therapist taught me this many years ago.
I was going through a deeply anxious period, searching for tools to eliminate my stress, when he asked an unexpected question.
How good are you at loving your stress?
That opened my eyes to a new way of approaching anxiety. It taught me to make space for my fears. To respect them. Express gratitude towards them. Even start a dialogue with them.
Saying to myself:
Well hello there fear, nice to see you again. Thank you for trying to help me today. I think I may have found another way of moving forward, and I appreciate what you’re trying to do for me. Thanks for your efforts. See you next time.
It really works. Friending my emotions has been the single best strategy for diffusing stress in any situation. And it’s not some new age strategy for achieving pseudo enlightenment. The science has been proven.
Lodrick’s research on psychological trauma explains that friending is the earliest defensive strategy available to us. Throughout life, when fearful, most humans will activate their social engagement system. It’s their friend response to threat.
Like the child who smiles or even laughs when being chastised. To smile when fearful is likely to be an unconscious attempt to engage socially with the person causing the fear.
And so, when fighting, fighting or freezing responses aren’t available to us, we can always try friending.
Accepting difficult emotions as a part of us, deciding that they’re not something we need to kill, and then putting our arm around them and saying, thank you for sharing.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What kind of relationship do you have with your own emotions?* * * *
That Guy with the Nametag
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