After being robbed several years ago whilst on holiday overseas, Paul has been anxious and nervous about it happening again. He is aware of this anxiety, and one night before heading out to a bar with friends, Paul reminds himself that he is not overseas but at home where he is safe.
Whilst out Paul feels somebody brush against his back pocket where he keeps his wallet and phone. Immediately Paul’s emotional brains thinks there is a threat (robbery) to his safety, and begins to go into a ‘fight or flight response’.
However, before Paul’s threat response goes too far, he is able to calm his emotional brain down by engaging his thinking brain. He engages some calm breathing techniques and gently talks himself through the event. Paul calmly steps back, looks around and makes a judgement based on what he sees. He realised there is no threat, the bar is crowded and someone just accidently bumped him. Paul can feel his blood pressure decrease, and his heart stops racing and his muscles relax. Paul turns back to his friends and resumes the conversation.
In this example, rather than fight or flight, Paul has responded logically and rationally.
a) What were some of the signs that Paul’s was using his thinking brain?
b) Can you think of any other ways Paul could have responded to the situation?
Now using the workbook, a pen and pad, or your computer, think of a time in your life when you recall experiencing the fight or flight stress response.
What is the most vivid thing you recall about that experience?
Do you often overreact and let your emotional brain take over in times of stress?
What behaviours do you use when your emotional brain is in charge?