Since the beginning of our learning about personal motivations and behaviors, we’re taught about the fight or flight response to threats, fear, trauma. We’ve all heard it. Some of us are fighters, some of us are flight-risks. Some of us swing back and forth between the two like it’s our own personal extreme sport, always experimenting with new ways to untangle ourselves from things that are uncomfortable at best, threatening at worst.
There are obviously times when fleeing is the best option. House on fire? That extra adrenaline pump into your veins might help you get your ass out of harm’s way. Giant grizzly bear tearing down the trail you’re jogging? Might want to learn, quickly, how to scale any nearby tree.
On the other hand, sometimes fighting your way out of a situation–or confronting the source of stress or conflict–is the best way forward. Fleeing is going to make it worse, or make your blood pressure explode your eyeball. Fight, fight, fight until you get closure.
And that’s it. Those are the two choices we’re given to deal with those moments that seem inescapable, unbearably imminent. The moments that make your pulse pound and your gut clench.
But sometimes you can’t outrun a thing. Sometimes you can’t fight it or wish it away or ignore it. When I was in the throes of grief, mourning the loss of my mother, and trying to fight my way around it, and failing, over and over again, thinking if I just cried hard enough or went to sleep long enough or got drunk enough, I could get away from this terrible feeling. I could make it go away. Then one day I remember hearing–well, maybe not hearing, more like feeling–the words: Be Still.
That was it.
Sometimes the flailing is what makes it hurt worse, makes you sink faster, makes you unable to see the footholds around you, makes the water too choppy to navigate.
When you’re little, your parents tell you while you’re out in a crowded shopping mall, or Disney World, or Wal-Mart on a Sunday night: “If you get lost and can’t find us, stay in one spot.” If you keep moving, you’re too hard to find. If you keep moving, searching for the relief of being found again, you’re actually being counter-productive.
Sometimes the best thing–the only thing–you can do, is to be still and let the hurt come. Sit there and feel it, get to know it, figure out how to carry it around with you until it’s not as noticeable anymore. Befriend the pain.
Stop your flailing and fighting and running.