When fight and flight feel so much the same...

Justmehere

Sponsor
I keep experiencing panic/anger/frustration as very similar sensations and symptoms.

Frustration to me can be kept manageable with a few cognitive reminders, adhd meds (because I have well tested adhd), and what I'll call an, "oh well" statement. Or focusing on what I value more - people, flexibly, etc. so "oh well" about the other stuff.

Right now a few things are deeply spooking me. Trauma triggers and stressors.

The pattern is that I say no, someone pushes.... then I will feel ordinary frustration, or annoyance, hold the boundary, the other person will get angry, and snap, my my heart races...

If I can keep it at mild panic, but holding my ground and walking away, I'm good. I can knock down or ride out any feelings and carry on.

But when it's my heart races and I feel... it feels like fear but it's more tense... it's anger or even just a sensation of my heart racing and frustration.., then I implode on myself. Not at anyone else but just undone inside of me. I'll own that I rage at myself.

I keep thinking about the moment my heart races and it flips from fear or slight panic to this fear fueled frustration or anger. I think I'm trying to find control. Panic feels helpless and scary and ick, but anger is a nightmare of its own. I dump it all at myself and I can't seem to undo that part of it. I can't convince myself right now to stop letting my thoughts and actions run amuck with self hate... and penalizing behaviors... I'm trying but not winning that battle. I think I need to head it off at the pass.

I keep wondering if there is a way to shift to flight and less to fight?

Anyone else feel anger and fear in similar ways?
 

bellbird

Sponsor
I keep wondering if there is a way to shift to flight and less to fight?
As far as I understand, fight & flight (and freeze, fawn) in that sense are driven by the amygdala.
The distress signal sent by the amygdala to other parts of the brain evolved to be especially fast; conscious thought is much slower and often, therefore, much more useless in many of those situations. I'm thinking the kinds of situations where fight & flight are actually helpful (sabre-toothed tigers and more modern day variants, rather than those situations where it is actually more helpful to gain control in that moment as you say).

I think, therefore, the goal might not necessarily be to change from say a fight response to a flight response, but rather to work on reigning in your distress response overall. So that you have the control and mental space in those moments to flight based off a judgement call. Not just an amygdala-driven flight.

I remember reading/hearing (unfortunately can't remember where) that breath is our one avenue to calming down our sympathetic (fight & flight) nervous system. We can't directly calm down our heart rate or directly stop certain blood vessels from dilating, etc. But we can control our breathing.

I know breath-work can be a dicey area with trauma survivors though. So what works for you? What helps you to feel more calm?
Might be helpful to practice in moments outside of stressor/trigger exposure. To strengthen those neural pathways so that you are more quickly able to regain control following a stress response.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
I remember reading/hearing (unfortunately can't remember where) that breath is our one avenue to calming down our sympathetic (fight & flight) nervous system. We can't directly calm down our heart rate or directly stop certain blood vessels from dilating, etc. But we can control our breathing.
Just echoing this. It has been the key to my ability to remain essentially functional in public situations.
Anyone else feel anger and fear in similar ways?
I am finding that lately, I have trouble sorting out the difference between anger and fear. They seem to be linked as primary+secondary emotions. Like, I get afraid and then anger is an auto-follow, or vice-versa.

I have a good breathing habit built up that helps me deal with extreme sadness/grief/memory of pain - it kicks in almost before I'm aware that I'm getting upset. That just evolved after a good number of months, maybe a year, of making sure I used the tool regularly. I'm trying to build it into anger responses now, as well. I find it's somehow more difficult b/c my anger seems to be more tied to specific thoughts about what's happening...I dunno. Do you experience it that way, as a kind of inner narrative reaction to whatever's happening?
 

Friday

Moderator
I keep wondering if there is a way to shift to flight and less to fight?
Sure. Just experience it a few thousand times with the conscious purpose be to react differently. About a third of the way through, you’ll start getting the reaction you want occasionally, seemingly randomly, intermittantly. About 2/3s of the way through you’ll get the reaction you want most of the time. But by the end it’s a reliably trained automatic reaction.

I’ve found it works best in an immersion type situation with breaks to sleep only interrupted a few times a week. Whole process takes aboooooooout 3 months? (Panic attacks are much easier/faster to sort, and only take a few hundred panic attacks over 3 or 4 days, or a few dozen a day to shake out within a few weeks.) Non-immersion, of course can take years to get enough responses really logged in, to become knee jerk.

Something MORE VALUABLE, though, I’ve found is rather than trying to change the adrenaline response itself? Is to train in a pause that lets you assess and decide on a course of action.

Same sort of deal... it will take a few months / few thousand events to really train in that pause and rapid assess before acting... but the upside? Is pretty durn huge. Since you aren’t replacing one unthinking response with another, but adding a pause to direct and focus (or dissipate) the reaction itself.
 
For me i lost the flight response april or my last year. After a couple months i realized its the masks, i cant see facial expressions so any voice i hear that does not sound friendly my brain takes as aggression and i want to attack the threat. Then i get angry at myself for feeling that way and it spirals down. Then im angry in fight mode and use all my energy to try to control it. (I wouldnt be out if i didnt have a reason) its gotten old and tiring but i keep on keeping on. If i let it go to long i get a physical response where i feel like my body is buzzing or vibrating. If i reach that point and im by myself i force myself into flight and leave.

I know over time it will get better, i guess i just want it better now....
 
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