Here at Lambs to Lions we are proud to introduce our newest client – Simon Morrell, a man of great strength, humility and kindness. Watch out for his future children’s books.
Now on with Simon’s excellent blog. Hope the pot of tea is ready #itsallaboutthestory
We have all felt it. That feeling you are taking off, moving fast, sometimes too fast. As you take off your heart rate soars, blood pressure rises but you aren’t the pilot in this plane so how could you possibly be in control of it? There is nothing in your power you can do in to stop the crash landing, the inevitable damage, the horror, the tears, the screams and the fear. And then you realise that is all this is. This plane journey is just fear.
Your fear may be tangible and in my own experience that is the type of fear that is easiest (easiest, not easy) to deal with.
As terrible as it may be, one of our biggest fears is obviously becoming a victim of violence (believe it or not, some credible schools of thought suggest the number one fear is embarrassment), but violence is a visible fear (usually).
We see it unfold before our very eyes and as it plays out, so our fears develop their own role. A dry mouth prevents us from giving the sharp but calm retort we require and so we ‘wild side’ it and raise our voice. This is a two-fold thing; one to frighten off our attacker by sheer aggression and on a sub conscious level to alert others, for others may come to our aid.
Our arms splay and this is Captain Caveman putting in another appearance as he is telling us to make ourselves look big, size being a deterrent to our foe.
Of course naturally blood pressure increases in relation to the level of threat and with the increase comes the rapid heartbeat pumping us full of adrenalin, the equivalent of putting fuel in our vehicle to drive us away from the scene at speed.
Finally action, literally fight or flight. Flight always being our first choice but if not one we have (cornered, surrounded or trapped) then we will, out of sheer instinct, try and fight our way out of the mess we find ourselves in.
But now ‘all the above’, but remove the attacker, take away the violence and put in us an everyday situation. What have we now?
In a world that seems to increase our stress levels on an hourly basis, we can find ourselves faced with a fight or flight situation without a situation that requires either. There is no one (tangible) to fight and no need (seemingly) to take flight.
So what exactly do we have? Well remember this; an adrenal response is just an adrenal response and as horrible as it may be, that in itself cannot actually harm you. Upon first realising this next fact it took me a while to get to grips with it; Our bodily reaction to a violent attack is the same reaction to taking a driving test but the scales between the two are worlds apart.
We may be nervous for our driving test (or any other non threatening event) but frightened out of our wits of the attacker in front of us, for he has nothing but bad intentions. However Mother Nature does not discriminate in her response and the chemical releases are the same save for the different levels/amounts.
We have the same butterflies (crocodiles in an attack situation), trembling limbs (earthquakes), dry mouth (sandpaper tongue); the list goes on but the extremity of each reaction is in direct response to the extremity of the situation.
So what happens when we can’t distinguish between the two? What happens if on some level we confuse the feelings of nervousness for acute fear? We overreact. We blow things out of proportion.
There are plenty of words for this condition but I’ll use the ones most people are familiar with; we have a panic attack.
The first time I had one as an adult that I later recognised as such was when I was nineteen and on holiday in Florida with my girlfriend. We were passing the time on our last day in a mall whilst waiting for our flight home. I suddenly started to feel unwell and felt I was going to pass out. My concern immediately deflected to Julie. If I became unwell what would happened to her?
Of course the ‘What ifs?’ in a stressful situation immediately released that damn adrenalin which increased my heart rate and so my next ‘What ifs?’ became the terrifying ‘realisation’ that I was having a heart attack.
Remember, we were a very young couple on our first holiday abroad together, thousands of miles and a ten hour flight from home. We knew no one in America who could help us or so I thought, and so what would happen if I just keeled over in the shop?
What would happen to Julie? How would she get home? Why am I shaking so much? Why do I keep dry heaving? The questions rushed through my mind, causing bewilderment, more fear, an ever increasing belief I was to die with every thought.
Of course all this did was add to my adrenal response blowing it all out of proportion to what in the end, turned out to be Florida flu. After all that anguish, making it to the airport to be taken to an emergency response room and hooked up to monitors, and all it was – was flu. Try telling that to my overworked imagination. Indeed an adrenal response out of proportion to the actual situation
So my initial over reaction to stress caused it to be almost the same as someone facing a knife-wielding maniac. And yes, I have faced one.
As someone who has, in the past been disabled by these beasts (and honestly, I must say yes from time to time I still experience them), I am now determined I will no longer allow them to control my life and the way to do this is awareness, education, practice, immunity and more of the same.
Looking back though, my first panic attack happened long before I knew it, long before I recognised that a panic attack is a massive dose of fear.
I was only a kid, a nipper, a small child with the confidence of zero. My first bully brought his hatred to me and of course it triggered fight or flight. I was five. I had no clue what this was having read no more than the Saturday morning comics at the time (education would come later).
A bullying father and non-supportive mother did not help matters as I failed to get to grips with my flight. Fear can produce a vivid imagination and mine was so big that at the age of twelve I became convinced I was going to be possessed by the devil after being allowed to watch the film, The Exorcist.
I later learnt that this is called attachment in that we are in flight, but for no apparent reason so our wild brain must find a ‘logic’ to put to the fear, something we can use to almost justify what we have. Mine was simply that I was to be possessed by Satan, a bewildering and terrifying experience for anyone, let alone a kid.
The link between this and the latter incident in Florida was quite simply fear producing Adrenalin, thus fight or flight but nothing really to flee from save my own thoughts.
So we naturally experience to differing levels, the same gift from nature when violent confrontation visits upon us.
I had the same feelings when at the age of sixteen, years of merciless bullying graduated to violent assaults with one hell bent youth launching a six month campaign of brutal hate upon me. It gave birth to a dreadful event that stays with me to this day, (and inspired me to pursue a career as a Martial Artist and fighter) when he tried to attack me with a knife which saw me fleeing through the streets with him in hot pursuit.
As he launched his war cry, I was alerted to the knife by a passerby. My body was flooded with adrenalin, cortisol and all the others cocktails that mass fear produces. They enabled me to take flight at a pace I have never set before and, despite legs like jelly I made safe passage home. The fear was literally my fuel and my physical reaction to it was birth up by said flight.
The whole terrible episode came to a frightening crescendo when he tracked me down to a local football field, climbed a tree next to where I stood in goal (yup, they always put me in goal) and made ‘ape like’ noises in an attempt to intimidate me. It worked.
A family member heard of the matter in progress and made his way to the field for a confrontation. It was literally a Mexican stand off with neither one giving ground in a show of Alpha Male behaviour.
The matter ended with no physical action but chilling words from my nemesis;
“When he is eighteen, I am going to find him and kill him.” With that he simply turned around and walked off as I was driven home.
The lack of physical release i.e. fight or run, did not lend an escape to my chemical fear and I found that particular aftermath even worse to handle than the knife incident.
With adrenalin still making its way around my veins, my body shook, I became panicked and self doubt filled my head.
Nowadays (and in conflict events that occurred later on in my life) if thankfully no physical reply was needed on my behalf, but the chemicals were still present, I had the knowledge to hit a bag, grab a training partner and spar, wrestle or similar. If no partner was available then a run would do the trick and within a couple of hours my fear was spent, put to bed with another experience to share.
But in everyday life we don’t have conflict but still have events that trigger the same responses. You can’t for example, half way through your driving test, pull over, jump out of the car, push out one hundred press ups, get back in and do a three point turn. Well you could but I doubt you would pass.
Maybe an exam is on the horizon, a job interview, anything that is an important mission for you but has to, by default, bring nerves. How do we combat that?
Events in the future we have knowledge of, for example an interview in a week’s time will bring slow release adrenalin, as opposed to a shock which brings fast release adrenalin so it is slow release I’ll talk about.
*Self positive talk; tell yourself your strengths, remind yourself of what skills you bring, how far you have come to get this interview. You must be worthy if you have gotten this far. Counter any negative self talk with a positive retort.
*Breath deep; one of the most effective ways to slow adrenalin, including panic attacks is to breath deep. Ten seconds in, hold for ten, ten seconds out all accompanied by the positive self talk.
*Visualisation; in your mind’s eye see yourself in the interview, hear your self answer the question with confidence, holding your own and presenting yourself well. What we visualise we get so don’t allow any negative images of yourself.
*Consequence; what happens once the interview is over? I tell my students before a tough grading that either way, in two hours time this will be over. What the consequences are is up to them but I want them to see that tomorrow they could be showing relatives and friends their well earned black belt certificate. See themselves going about their daily life in a new role, that of a Dan Grade.
We can achieve anything through fear as long as we recognise it’s value. Violence or valour, don’t confuse the two and react as necessary for all it took was just flight.
By Simon Morrell
Simon Morrell is many things – Award Winning Martial Artist, Fighter, Instructor, Author, Podcaster, Blogger, Film Maker…SURVIVOR. Follow Simon on his ever expanding, incite full and exciting journey on his website simonmorrell.com