The human body responds to the world around us – physically, mentally and emotionally. When we experience stress in its many forms, our bodies respond primarily by building tension in an effort to protect our vital body and brain functions. The best known of these stress responses is called the ‘fright/ flight’ response.
‘Hardwired’ into the primitive reptilian part of our brain are finely-tuned survival reflexes. In times of mental or emotional stress, our body shifts into survival mode. Muscles tighten, blood flow and energy are diverted from normal function into your heart and muscles and adrenalin puts the brain on high alert. These responses (plus many more) are signs your body is preparing itself to either run away or ‘fight’.
An important part of these responses is that they also help us cope with the emotional content and information associated with the stress. Times of stress may not be the best time to fully feel or express emotion. For example, if you’ve had a nasty car accident or your house has caught on fire, a great survival tactic is to ‘bottle up’ the feelings. We want to be able to think rationally and react quickly in these times, rather than have the confusion or distraction of our emotions. Our body and brain do us a big favour by disconnecting from the emotions and storing them for us to deal with later.
In this way we construct our defence patterns. As humans we ‘bottle up’ feelings in times of great stress as well as seemingly small stresses, when emotions feel overwhelming or when we need to ‘keep things together’. As these tensions build up in ‘layers’, we develop patterns of reacting to even minimal stress with the same defensiveness. Over time, this has significant ramifications physically, physiologically, mentally, emotionally and energetically.
As tension builds up in our body, our organs can shift their function towards survival mode (increased adrenalin production, reduced blood flow to the digestive tract, increased blood pressure, etc.). Our ability to feel and express emotion becomes restricted and we find ourselves reacting out of past stresses to every new stress that comes along.
Where stress and defensive patterning reach the point where we can’t absorb any more, even a minimal stress can be enough to send you into overwhelm. This is when pain or other symptoms often begin to surface.