Playing Dead - The forgotten acute stress response

You've heard of fight or flight, but no one realizes there's a third reaction that is much more common in humans, yet rarely spoken about.


The occasional photo of me in a wig... Don't get used to it

During this really strange time I've had a moment to reflect about my natural response to things vs. my enlightened response. What I've been experiencing the past couple weeks during the global pandemic, is a trigger of my natural response, my default, my ego, which is neither fight or flight but actually playing dead. I want to share my reflection and view in hopes that maybe you can begin to articulate your own experience, if you, like me, are currently playing dead, and didn't even realize that's your natural response. We don't talk about playing dead much, especially because fight or flight are much more common in the animal kingdom. A bear pops out of the woods and the prey either tries to match its roar or darts off to hide. But a select amount of animals when faced with the same hormones of fight or flight go into shock, their body locks up, their respiratory system shuts down, the emit a foul odor to replicate decay, and they freeze, sometimes for hours at a time, hoping that the predator will find a meal elsewhere after not having the proper thrill of a hunt. This is me. This is my survival story. When mom or dad was mad, I froze, tried to make myself invisible by not making a sound. get small, no sudden movements, maybe even crack sarcastic jokes to make them laugh or think I'm rotten. This is my natural reaction. Even in my adulthood as I experience relationships, in a time of tension, I am not one to yell or storm out but rather shut down maybe after a few laughs. Play dead! Then they won't have any fuel to add to the fire! See, if you leave, they can say you're a coward and you abandoned the fight, and if you fight, they can say you're abusive, and that you've got some nerve, so how 'bout you just shut up, play dead, and they can't say shit. That's my thought process. It's not that I'm a bad fighter, I actually am quite scary when I go with that acute response. When I've decided to fight I'm pretty unstoppable, however, ask me to fight and I just don't see the value. It's not that I'm not a good runner, I can hide very well, and when I choose to run, I run far; you will not hear from me. I will be on the other side of the country by the time you've stopped yelling. There's something about playing dead that I'm more accustomed to. You see when you play dead, lock up, stop moving, stop breathing, you have more options and there's a processing time. The problem does not disappear right away, the bear trots over and sniffs around, it might paw at the body and lick it roll it over onto it's back. While that's happening, the animal has time to make decisions. While the snout of the bear is in the belly of the possum, the possum can attack the bear right where it counts, switch to fight, he can run and catch the bear off guard without the original adrenaline rush of when he first spotted his meal, (which is what drives his eating habits), or he can continue to play dead in hopes that the bear moves along and decides this meal might be poison. This acute response system is different from my enlightened response, which is when my higher self, not my ego, is driving. In these responses, I am much more calm, far more positive, and my process is far less cynical than it is when I play dead.


My enlightened response to a conflict may be, - Acknowledge the problem - Ask what it is teaching - What is you internal guidance telling you to do - Are you conflicted? - Is that conflict egotistical or spiritual? Meaning is it coming from my ego or spirit. - Decide to keep learning from this challenge or to set it free. Playing dead might look like this, - Disbelief. Wait... what? Really? Is this for real? - Do nothing. Watch the car accident. Don't look away because I can't. I'm taking notes. What should I do? What should I not do. - A cynical inner dialog, (This is the foul odor part) A lot of "You gotta be fucking kidding me" "It just never ends" "Well guess I'm taking life's dick again." Maybe some comedic relief. Point and make fun, sometimes of myself and the situation. - Retreat into hole to lick wounds. OR sometimes suicidal ideation. Depression. - Once the "bear" leaves, I may snap out of it or I may coast off the grid for a bit. I think that it's important to note, one is not better than the other. Of course we'd like to act from an enlightened state all the time, but in reflection I think that it's different when you've experienced something before vs. never experiencing something before. I've never been through a global pandemic before. It's only natural for me to resort to my ego and experience something for the first time. I've lived through recessions. I've gone without food. It always turns out fine. I can tell my ego to "pipe down, we've survived this before." in the face of an economic crisis, but I haven't ever been told I can't go out because of an invisible predator. I have never been told that I could be spreading lots of things to lots of people and they could die. I've never seen a government demand several things shut down people stay inside, and law enforcement ordered to enforce quarantine. This is all new to me. So forgive me, forgive yourself, if we don't feel like making, like creating. Forgive me if right now, I am watching the car burn, I am pointing and making fun, and I am frozen-- waiting for the bear to move along. Forgive me if the lady is silent, and it's the lion looking through. Forgive me for I am human, and my human is scared. It is only my survival.

27 views