Whew. I am generally a calm, cool, and collected person BUT whenever I have a potential confrontation, actual confrontation, or cause of concern related to my parents, my body immediately reacts. I get shaky, I feel sick to my stomach, I get out-of-breath, and my mind runs a million miles an hour. After decades of ...
- wondering when the next blow-up is going to happen or
- what I am going to be falsely accused of next or
- what is being fabricated about me now or
- having my parent(s) confront me with the next "we have to sit down an talk" scenario
... my body is sent into a tail-spin when my parents are discussed relative to me. This 'tail-spin' is fight-or-flight which is defined as the set of processes that occur in the body when it is confronted with some form of physical or mental stress. The nervous system signals for adrenaline and other hormones to be released into the blood which prepare the body either to confront or flee (thus, “fight or flight”). Changes in the body include increased heart rate, dilated pupils of the eye (to improve vision), and increased supply of blood to the muscles (to prepare the body for action).
I can carry on with life for a year (or more) without any situation causing fight-or-flight. Even as time has passed and even though I am at peace with my past, present, and future, whenever I get a phone call or email from a family member or friend regarding my parents relative to me, my body reacts. With daily life, I am not stressed. I don't have anxiety. I don't panic about situations. I am a very confident, happy, level headed individual. Then, without warning, one of those calls / emails occurs, and I am shaky and nauseated.
Why would my body react in such a way? In short, my body has been conditioned to respond to this specific stimuli due to lack confidence, trust, and unconditional love from my parent. Note that:
- If one has confidence in a relationship, fight-or-flight would not occur with confrontation or contact.
- A relationship based on trust and unconditional love would not elicit the reactions of fight-or-flight when a confrontation arises.
So, when a relationship is abused by years dysfunction, toxicity, carelessness, and selfishness, trust in the relationship is damaged. Respectively, lack of confidence in the relationship is a result and the reaction to confrontation is fight-or-flight. Trust is directly correlated with confidence, and when confidence is broken, confrontations and simple contacts are interpreted by the body as immediate danger.
I have had one too many shocking situations with my parents that body's natural reaction to their contacts is fight-or-flight. I don't trust their intentions or even each of them as individuals. Additionally, I don't have confidence that their intentions are unconditional or unselfish. Due to the erosion of this confidence and trust, my body immediately jumps to fight-or-flight with confrontations and simple contacts. For me, the fight-or-flight response resulted from:
- Years of 'deep sixing' what I witnessed and experienced as a child
- Years of emotional and verbal abuse including Parental Alienation Syndrome
- Decades of situations blowing-up in my face at the hands of my parent(s)
- Decades of stepping on land mines and going through traumatic situations with my parent(s)
- Decades of walking on eggshells and trying to keep peace with my parents(s)
What's interesting is my MIND (psychological) knows that everything is fine-- that I am safe, my child is safe, my husband is safe. I KNOW that nothing horrible is going to happen to us. However, my BODY (behavior) is set off, like an alarm, and automatically sends adrenaline surging. Our body cannot always tell the difference between real and imagined threat. Therefore, when we interpret a situation as threatening, our body responds as though the situation is dangerous even if it really isn't in reality. Once my body calms down, I have a chuckle as I realize how my body just takes off without me as a result of all I've endured in the past. My body interprets my parents as an immediate danger.
Does anyone else have this response? How do you cope when these situations arise?
I don't experience this heightened response often, so training myself to not react is challenging. I practice the following in order to eliminate / reduce the fight-or-flight response:
- Practicing visualization and having my body not react stress-fully to these random contacts about my parent(s)
- Talking out the scenarios with my husband.
- Manipulating my breathing by changing the rate at which I breathe, whether I breathe shallowly or deeply, and whether I breathe through my mouth or nose. By manipulating how I breathe, it is possible to slow down and even reverse the fight-or-flight response.
- Controlling the level of tension in my muscles. For example, by creating a fist, make the muscles in my arms tighter. What is more difficult, but not impossible, is to make my muscles more relaxed. With practice, I relax not only the muscles in my arms, but muscles in my shoulders, back, jaw, face, and other areas.