The Cusp of Change: Evolving Beyond Fight or Flee

Once again I find myself at the cusp of change. I can feel an inner stirring to evolve beyond my current emotional and mental reactivity. As I settle into the awareness of potential healing, I find myself glimpsing the familiar signs that gently nudge me along the way. Then again, maybe they’re not so gentle. Conflict, challenges, and imbalance can turn out to be guideposts that we initially mistake for obstacles. It can take expanding our awareness beyond our initial reactivity to see the broader view and potential for transformation.

My current theme revolves around gathering my strength and attempting to balance action with inaction based on a desire for peaceful resolution and transformation – in spite of a screaming ego trying to charge on. So, I ask myself: How do we respond appropriately to an experience that challenges us to balance ego, soul, and relationship needs? For me, this is particularly confusing when another appears to be unwilling to go beyond his or her defenses.

I’m not referring to times when the decision to fight or flee is more obvious like when our personal safety (psychologically, physically, or spiritually) is in jeopardy. The greatest challenges can be those that involve personal relationships that are centered in genuinely well-intended, loving, and mutually beneficial sharing.

I accept that conflict is a natural part of growth and life. For me, it’s not about placing expectations on myself or another to always be peaceful and loving. That is a fantasy that only serves delusion and denial. I strive for honesty. Yet, I also have to allow for those instances when openly taking responsibility for my behavior does not mean it will be met with respect and appreciation. More importantly, my personal ownership may even convey to others that they are off the hook for their fair share of the experience. This is when it gets tricky for me.

Do I defend, fight, or retreat? Is there another alternative to feeling like a doormat verses a pit bull? There has to be a more balanced approach; middle ground must exist somewhere. As I dig down to the root, several observations come to mind.

One: In emotionally charged situations, there may only be two reasonable choices – retreat (even if it’s for a short time out) or charge. Even if we silence our spoken words, we can still charge ahead internally. So, physical retreat may not be enough.

Two: If I feel like I have to make a choice regarding being a doormat or fighting for my strength, then the decision has already been made. I am already triggered and defending against pain. It’s not really about sending in the offense because the defense is already on the field. Which means.…..

Three: Even if we are able to be present enough to observe and respond more appropriately, there may still be a thick grey area that questions what serves the best interest of the relationship. There are three identities attempting to be heard: a personal one, the relationship, and the other being. What serves the best interest of one may be in conflict with the other(s).

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image by Sean MacEntee

How does all this relate to change? Frequently, the cusp of evolution is preceded by toxic release. Like the metaphor says: It’s darkest before the dawn. Transformation is birthed from revolution. Whether internal or external, personal or global, revolution involves rebellion. Upheaval is rarely a peaceful process. Consequently, the concept of peaceful transformation seems overly idealistic.

Our lives are microcosms that reflect the process of transformation. There are times when we may feel helpless, attacked, taken advantage of, and under appreciated. It’s precisely in those times when we can stop the script, and remember that we do have a choice. We can pause, breathe, and observe what we are defending against and remember the choice may not be to fight or flee at all. A healthier choice may be to simply observe the pain and not take responsibility for another’s pain. Then, the desire to conquer and persuade can give way to respectful coexistence in spite of some non-respectful exchanges.

It’s happening all around us. On a global level, economically, environmentally, and so on we are being called upon to change – to evolve beyond a way of being that is no longer serving the well-being of humanity and the earth. Our reflexive responses are serving up consequences that assist the creation of suffering.

My hope is that I can serve the process of evolution by creating space within myself to move beyond a limited fight or flee perspective. I’m not trying to do away with the response, but to simply make room for alternatives. I try to encourage a broader and more flexible approach to myself and my relationship with all things. I pray for respectful co-existence, healing, and faith in our ability to heal and transcend limiting perceptions. May we find strength to evolve.

© 2012 Sallie Odenthal

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