Both body and mind
respond to stressors in very similar ways. The four responses to stressors
include the two well-known resistant forms called "fight" and "flight," as well
as two lesser known adaptive forms called "peace" and "play." Each of these are
natural responses that can be applied in positive ways, and each one of them
also has negative potential. In the modern world, the use of the first two has
been exaggerated far out of proportion to their potential benefits.
"Fight," as can be
guessed, is a stress response of trying to push away a stressor, trying to
forcibly change it, or trying to destroy it. Physical examples would include
hitting someone who bothers you, making an active child sit still for your
convenience, or tearing apart a book that you don't agree with. Mental examples
would be arguing angrily against an idea you don't like, criticizing someone to
make them change their ways, or gossiping about someone in order to ruin their
reputation. The two main problems with the fight response are that it tends to
cause so much tension that your own dynamic system may become unstable, and it
tends to increase the resistant behavior of any other dynamic systems you are
fighting. In other words, when you use a fight response as a reaction to other
people, oddly enough they tend to fight back.
"Flight" is a
response of trying to run away from a stressor, trying to avoid it, or trying to
suppress it. Physical examples of interest to us here would be running away from
home because you feel unloved, becoming an alcoholic so you don't have to deal
with emotional conflicts, or forcing yourself to stay in a relationship that you
don't like. Mental examples would be using meditation or day-dreaming to escape
from your problems, distracting yourself with television so you don't have to do
things you don't want to do, or pretending to be indifferent when you are
hurting inside. Like the fight response, flight generates tension that may make
your system unstable. Unlike fight, the flight response tends to create a
barrier between you and other people, making them even more likely to draw away
Flight and fight
responses are very often mixed in a single system. The urge to hit someone in
anger may be suppressed by fear to the point where a person might develop
bursitis in his or her shoulder. A fear of expressing anger may initiate
epileptic seizures or ritualistic behavior. A human dynamic system that is angry
at itself and that fears itself at the same time can produce devastating
consequences for health and well-being.
response is one of tolerating the stressor to the point where it ceases to be a
stressor, or of integrating it into the system for the same effect. Physical
examples are the way we stop noticing a bad odor after awhile, easily setting an
extra place at the table when a friend brings a stranger to dinner, or willingly
eating a food you don't like because of its nutritional benefits. Mental
examples are the adjustment we make to a friend moving out of town, deciding to
let your children decorate their own rooms, or accepting a new son-in-law or
daughter-in-law into the family. Because the Peace response is adaptive and not
resistive, any tension provoked by a stressor tends to be quickly dispersed.
However, it may be possible for tolerance or adaptation to people or
circumstances to go so far as to threaten the integrity of the system, in which
case Fight, Freeze or Flight may kick in for subconscious self-preservation, such as
when another person's behavior becomes so destructive that a Peace response is
no longer a viable option.
The "Play" response
is one of temporarily or permanently using the stressor to benefit the system,
in which case it also ceases to be a stressor to any great degree. Physical
examples are using a physical handicap to inspire others with the same problem,
turning physical exercise into an enjoyable habit, or making a game of hard
work. Mental examples are learning how to heal your illness, writing a book
about a personal crisis, or turning your anguish into art. The only potential
negative effect of the Play response occurs when you cease to enjoy whatever you
are doing. That is when Fight or Flight take over. In the business and
professional world today this is referred to as "burn-out."
The first two
responses result in a great deal of temporary or chronic tension, and the second
two do not. Everyone uses all four to some degree, but most societies today
emphasize the development of fight or flight skills much more than they do those
of peace-making or play. According to my theoretical structure all four are
natural responses, and each has their proper time and place to be used. However,
since most of our personal and social problems come from an overuse of fight or
flight, a lot of the information in this book will be directed toward healing
the effects of that overuse.
Three Types Of Stressors:
Stressors that affect the body or the mind are always energetic in nature. That
is, it is only the energy evoked or provoked by the potential stressor that may
cause a stress reaction. A hammer will not produce a stress reaction just by
being a hammer. If it is wielded against a finger purposely or accidentally it
probably will, or if it raises up an energetically traumatic memory it probably
will, but if it just casually lies about in a calm state of hammerness it
probably will not.
Also, the personal
perception of the strength of a stressor depends on the current stress state of
the system. The more stress a system is currently experiencing, the more easily
it may respond to any additional experience as a stressor. At one time in my
life when I was in a state of extreme stress I had to keep my eyes closed,
because even the sight of all the objects in a darkened room was too much for me
to bear. In that case it was not the objects themselves, but the energy of their
dim, reflected light that I could not stand.
There are three
general types of stressors that we respond to: Physical, Emotional, and Mental.
The most important thing to understand about stressors is that, regardless of
their origin, they always stress both our physical and our mental dynamic
systems according to how much we resist them.
are the things that directly affect us through our physical senses of sight,
sound, touch, taste, and smell. Emotional stressors are the so-far unmeasurable
energies of other people's emotions and the energetic effects of our own
emotions. Mental stressors are the thoughts and ideas of others as well as the
ones we produce ourselves.