Frozen in fear there I was, as a child at the top of the 13 stairs, yes, ironically, 13 stairs, as if I needed to add to my anxiety. My eyes looked, even though they could not see through the pitch black abyss of the vacant staircase. I knew the light switch to light my path was at the bottom of the wooden worn stairwell; eventually, I would shake my head too and fro to release myself from that frozen state and then I would run as fast as my feet would carry me. I don’t remember even feeling the stairs, surely I was floating; because the the next thing I remembered was the light coming on. Of course the light came on because I had arrived at my destination, the bottom of what I considered, the abyss, and I had hit the light switch, and finally took the much needed breath that brought me back to reality.
Why do we freeze when we are afraid, well there is a plethora of scientific reasons but in layman’s terms; freezing in fear is a natural mammalian instinct and life preserving instinct, and left to flounder on its own it will manifest as anxiety. Anxiety is in fact created to keep you safe, I know, I now, I said the same thing, “whatchu talking bout Willis” , no way, yes way.
Dr Purves (pronounced “Purr- viss”) tells us that anxiety is the outcome of the “feeling or perception of fear” he goes on to say that since we cannot visually see this perception, we still have the ability to feel it. Dr Purves likens this to the wind “you can’t see the wind, but you can feel the effects of the wind” The long and short of it is that we we cannot do anything about the immediate threat that our brain has perceived so we then panic and thus we have anxiety.
Remember the story of the three little pigs, the Big Bad Wolf was their source of anxiety, he was the wind that was relentless in his pursuit of them and used his “wind” to get rid of their safe place, their houses. The Three Little Pigs could not rid themselves of the wolf and his wind; so they built their houses to protect themselves from him.
We can do the same thing when we feel anxiety, we have to stop our brains perception of the threat and train it to think differently, obviously we can’t just tell our brain, “oh just stop it”, no more than the pigs could tell tell the wolf to do so; so they built a barrier to protect themselves, this was there coping mechanism. Dr. Purves tells us than “when your body fights you, you have to find an alternative way to stop your body from fighting you” this will be your coping mechanism. By now you are probably saying well I already know this, or if not than your saying, wow, it all makes sense now. Either way speaking from personal experience creating coping mechanisms, otherwise known as grounding as a matter of reinforcement, which takes practice and time like all things worth accomplishing do, (easier said than done, I know!!)
It is also good to be able to understand where you are presently in your anxiety, are you, a little uneasy (1) or in full-blown crisis mode (10). I remember going from 1 to 10 within milliseconds sometimes until I started doing research to try to understand what was going on in my head; yes I felt like I was losing it, and would surely never ever recover, but yet I am writing this so in-fact, LOL, I did!!
The biggest reason I started this blog/site is to help those out there that feel alone with their very strong emotions and as I did, and sometimes still do, just have no clue what to do with these emotions. Should I fly, be frightened or just freeze and hope the threat will go away; my research has helped me be able to cope better. That said it is a process there is no “one size fits all”, as much as we would like there to be; but would we really, we are all unique in our abilities to feel things unlike so many others; and I personally don’t want that to change!