Tag Archives: reaction

There Is More Than Fight Or Flight

Most everyone is aware of the fight or flight response.  This describes how a person reacts to extremely stressful situations, such as being attacked.

Fight means you aggressively fight back, because you believe you can defeat the danger.  When it happens, you feel intense anger, may cry or punch people or things, you may grind your teeth & chances are excellent your stomach will be in knots.

Flight means you run from the danger, because you believe you can’t defeat it.  When it happens, you feel fidgety & anxious.  You can’t stay still.  You want to run for the hills immediately.

There are two other responses beyond fight or flight that are seldom mentioned.  Freezing & fawning are the other two responses.

Freezing means when you’re unable to act in these awful situations.  You can’t think clearly.  Think of a deer in headlights.  That deer sees the danger heading straight for him, but is frozen in place.  This happens when you believe you can’t escape or defeat the attacker.  Freezing literally makes you cold when it happens.  Your body feels heavy & hard to move, sometimes it can feel numb as well.

Lastly, there is fawning.  This happens when in an acutely stressful situation, you do your best to comply with their attacker as an attempt to save yourself.  Like freezing, it happens when you believe you can’t escape or defeat your attacker.  Fawning is a typical response of those who have been in abusive relationships.  People who fawn realized that fighting, flight & freezing didn’t work, which is why they resorted to fawning.  They found that concerning themselves with the well being of their abuser was their best chance at diffusing the situation.

While fight, flight, freeze & fawn are very different responses, they all share the same goal: to diffuse or preferably end the situation & protect yourself.  A problem is often people get stuck in only one or maybe two responses when each one can be helpful in different circumstances.  This is especially common in those with PTSD or C-PTSD.  The responses become habitual.  The best way I know to overcome this is to recognize what you do in such situations.  Considering how you acted, without any judgment of course, can help you to discern which acute stress responses you have used.  When faced with danger after doing this, you’re more likely to respond after a bit of thought rather than react as in acting without thought.

Another issue can be for those who have experienced multiple traumas.  We can perceive threats when there isn’t one.  It helps to learn to slow down your thinking a bit so you can decide whether or not the threat is real.  Taking a long, deep breath in then releasing it slowly only takes a couple of seconds, but it can slow your body & mind down enough to help you figure out the situation as well as the best way to respond.

Past trauma can affect your life in so many ways.  Learning to manage your responses can be one way to help yourself handle stressful & even new traumatic situations in healthier ways.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

When They Accuse You Of Being Abusive

One tool narcissists love to use is calling their victim abusive.  Whether overt or covert, this tactic is a favorite of the more extreme narcissists.

 

My overtly narcissistic mother & I were having an argument once when I was 17.  As usual for that time, she had been screaming at me, literally in my face.  Finally she backed off.  She then balled up her fist & pulled back like she was going to hit me.  I immediately closed my eyes & threw the first punch.  Even as dysfunctional as I was then, I was NOT going to let anyone hit me.  When I felt that I’d hit her, I opened my eyes.  She was shocked I hit her, obviously since I’d never really stood up to her before.  Immediately she said, “You hit me in the breast!  Now I’m going to get breast cancer & die & it’ll be all your fault!!”  When my father entered the room a moment later, he asked what was happening.  My mother started to cry (she can turn her tears on & off like a faucet) & said I hit her, failing to mention what she did leading up to that.

 

My late mother in-law was a covert narcissist & extremely good at the covert part, having everyone close to her convinced she was a great person.  She used to go through my purse every time I left it out of my sight when it was at her house.  One time when my husband & I were at her home doing some laundry, she snooped through my dirty laundry, coat pockets & purse.  She left $40 in my purse.  I got my husband alone & absolutely flipped.  I told him I was sick of her crap- there is NO reason for her to snoop through my things & I don’t want her $%^& hush money.  YOU talk to her- she doesn’t listen to me & right now she doesn’t want me talking to her anyway.  He did.  The little bit I heard of the conversation, she was whining about having “allllll this cash just lying around the house” & she didn’t know what to do with it, so she wanted to do something nice for me.  She claimed she had no idea why I was upset.

 

See what I mean?  Narcissists can turn themselves into victims in pretty much any situation, no matter what craziness they have done to you.  The worst part is while you are yelling or crying, they maintain complete calm.  This makes you look & feel absolutely insane.  Or, they pull out the tears, which makes you feel incredibly guilty.

 

When this kind of thing happens, remember, narcissists gain narcissistic supply from this sort of thing.  They feel powerful when they can make a normally calm person act crazy.  Strong emotions, whether positive or negative, make them feel powerful too because they know they have an effect on someone.

 

This is also good for them because if they can prove to you that you’re crazy, over reacting, etc., you will be willing to change your behavior.  You’ll be ashamed of how you acted, so you’ll be more likely to listen to the narcissist’s advice on how you should act.  This tactic makes a victim more pliable.

 

When you confront a narcissist, be as calm as humanly possible, asking God for help.  The more emotion they see in you, the more they will push your buttons & the more likely their victim side will come out.

 

And, before confronting a narcissist, think & pray.  You really need to pick your battles wisely.  It’s not a good situation- narcissists need confrontation to know they can’t get away with the things they’re doing, yet confronting them often is incredibly frustrating.  Sometimes, they behave worse after the confrontation because they know how to provoke a reaction from you.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health, Narcissism

Responding vs. Reacting

Good morning, Dear Readers!

As I mentioned in my last post, last Friday, my mother called, & as she so often does, attempted to push my buttons.  A part of me wanted to just jump through the phone & smack her.  I mean really- trying to shame me by acting like I’m the only person in the entire world who likes Stephen King’s writing just because she doesn’t like scary stories?  Sheesh..  how stupid!  Anyway, I refused to show her I was angry, because that only pleases her & makes her meaner.  Instead I either pretend I didn’t notice the snide comments, or respond calmly albeit a bit sarcastically.  With the Stephen King comments, for example, She ended her tirade with “I don’t know where you get your taste in books!  I don’t like anything scary!”  (she likes fluffy, light stories only) In a somewhat cheerful tone, I simply said, “You obviously don’t know any of us Baileys then.  There is not one Bailey I know of who doesn’t like scary stories.  Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker- you know, the GOOD authors.”  My mother responded by changing the subject.  HA!  She wasn’t amused that I didn’t respond in anger & I made a valid point.

My point of telling you this is that there is a very big difference in responding & reacting, & if you have a narcissist in your life, then you need to learn the difference!

What I did in the above story is respond.  I know this is a topic that comes up often (it’s an attempt to shame me for being different than her), so I have learned to prepare my responses ahead of time.  I maintain an air of calmness, even though inside I may not feel so calm, & speak my peace.

Reacting is much different.  Reacting is what you do when you don’t think or prepare ahead of timem.  When someone pushes your buttons, you react by yelling at them.  This is what narcissists want you to do- they feed off of the fact that they have so much control/power over you, they can make you so angry or even lose control.  If they can make you look crazy by yelling at them while they stay calm, all the better for them.  They get that power, plus they make you doubt your own sanity.

See the difference??

If you too have a narcissist in your life, then you need to master the art of responding & lose your reaction for your own mental health.  In order to do this, you need to know your narcissist.  What topics does she frequently bring up to hurt you with?  Does she use the same method with several topics?  How does she expect you to react to her antics- with anger?  Tears?

Once you know what to expect, that is half the battle!  From there, you can prepare various ways to respond.  I do this by asking God for help.  Help me to stay calm in her presence & help me to say creative things to let her know her game isn’t working- I’m not ashamed of myself for being different or feeling guilty because I don’t agree with her or whatever her evil goal is.  It’s worked wonderfully too!  Usually things just happen & I haven’t prepared myself other than to pray before seeing her.  My recent response to my mother’s nasty comments because I like Stephen King’s work was one of those incidents.  A few days prior, as I wrote about in this blog entry the other day, I learned that saying, “well ain’t that nice” was also effective, & it was also a spontaneous event.

Learning to respond rather than react has been very beneficial for me.  It has eliminated many topics that my mother used to use to try to hurt or invalidate me with.  It can do the same for you!  I doubt there is ever a way to completely eliminate all of a narcissist’s weapons of verbal destruction, but this one will eliminate plenty of them! I encourage you to give it a try.  What do you have to lose??

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health, Narcissism