Our brain is such a powerful tool. It keep us alive, safe and protected. Its main job is to make sure that we keep breathing just one more second. It's the blackbox of our complete system. It holds all the memories, feelings and secrets of our entire life.
At the bottom of our brain, we have our brainstem (reptilian brain). This part of the brain controls our automatic functions and energy regulation among many other things. In the middle of our brain, we have our limbic system (mammalian brain). This part of the brain is constantly scanning for danger, deals with our feelings, emotions and creativity and is ready to jump into action and protect us at any given moment. At the top of our brain, we have the cerebral cortex/Neocortex. This part of the brain deals with abstract thinking, language and logic. (Shout out to my brain geek colleague Robyn Gobbel for letting me borrow her brain image. Follow her at https://www.gobbelcounseling.com/).
When our limbic system, which is constantly scanning for danger, perceives an action, words or situation as a threat, it kicks into action, pushes the neocortex out of the way and takes control. To keep us safe, it goes into fight/flight/freeze mode. It Flips Our Lid! Our actions or words might not make any sense since our abstract thinking from the Neocortex has been disengaged.
In fight mode, you might argue back, be defensive, feel anger/rage, be impulsive, have an attitude and even engage in a physical altercation. In flight mode, you disengage, search for a safe space and usually leave the area the space. In the freeze mode, you feel numb, disconnected and empty. Your body might be present but you mind has left the building. You might feel in such level of fear, that you can't move or make a decision. This is the way the limbic system keeps you safe. Even though these reactions might have kept humans safe many years ago, these self defense mechanisms are not the healthier way to respond to our current threats.
In order to calm our limbic system and engage our neocortex again, we need to help our brain feel safe again.