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The Impacts of a Truth

Flight, Fight or Freeze - which is it?

By KJ AartilaPublished about a year ago 3 min read
The Impacts of a Truth
Photo by Scott Carroll on Unsplash

The Impacts of a Truth

Looking at my reactions reflected in the eyes of an animal is a bit disconcerting, and uncomfortable, but it’s amazing, also, in how much it mimics human relationships. I'm a horse girl. I've been around horses all kmy life. This is the question I was asked to refect on:

When it comes to fear (which could mean not so much afraid, as challenged), is my first reaction a flight, fight or freeze response? How is that reflected in my horse (and human) relationships?

I think it has changed over time. I remember when I was a child, and as a young adult, my response was to freeze. My mind would go blank and I would essentially forget everything and not know what to do. Think “deer in the headlights.” This showed itself with my equine interactions as their taking advantage of me. They didn’t trust me to be their leader in challenging situations, because I lacked confidence in my own abilities. Instead, they felt the need to take over leadership.

As I got older and developed a bit more confidence, I fell into more of a fight mode, as in “my way or the highway.” It meant that if the horses questioned me, I would force the correct option on them until they submitted to my rule. Like a boxer in the ring, you want to establish controlled respect in the first round. This often led to obedience, but not loyalty.

Now I seem to deal with my fears by embracing more of the flight response. To me, this means that I am more apt to distance myself from a frustrating situation than fight it. I don’t feel I’m “running away” per say, so much as declining to put forth anymore effort. It doesn’t open the door to trust. I see this response mirrored in my horses when they choose to just leave me instead of doing what is asked. It means they don’t really trust me and I think it’s probably because I don’t trust them to do what’s asked. Why would they want to? They are responding to my energy, and fulfilling my expectations, which are that they won’t want to be with me. I am not worthy of their effort and attention.

Ouch! That’s a realization I wasn’t expecting,. But there it is. Now what? How shall I deal with it?

“The best way out is always through.” — Robert Frost

Well, for starters, I think I need to be more present in the energy I’m putting out - practice being aware of, and changing, my expectations. And decide I am worthy. That’s tough! How? I’m not sure. Where do I even start? I didn’t even know I felt that way, but I do. It makes sense.

What will happen when I do embrace my worthiness?

The benefits will be a better relationship with my equine partners because they will trust my authenticity - my energy. I want that.

How does it affect my life outside of horses? What will be gained by improving my feeling of worth?

  • better relationships with husband, daughter and anyone
  • improved lifestyle habits to reflect my feelings of worth
  • clarity & motivation to follow my path successfully

Thanks for reading! What is your go-to response to a challenging situation- fright, flight or freeze? How has it changed? How does it impact your life? I encourage you to think about it deeply - even write it out. Looking at ideas openly and honestly is how we develop self-awareness and creating the lives we wish for, especially when hit makes us uncomfortable.

(This is NOT a cry for sympathies or words of encouragement to validate my worth, it’s just a rambling discovery of self which I wanted to share in hopes others can take the time to find their own “AHA!” moments. They often come to light in unexpected moments, and we can gain a lot from the insights if we pay attention.)


About the Creator

KJ Aartila

A writer of words in northern WI with a small family and a large menagerie.

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Comments (9)

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  • Andrei Z.about a year ago

    Very nice and thought-provoking essay!

  • Rick Henry Christopher about a year ago

    Very interesting insights. My response is fight but not in a hostile or pushy. But in a learned and love filled manner. I do not give up.

  • The Invisible Writerabout a year ago

    I love horses, grew up around them. I regret that I’ve only taken my kids to ride a couple times. This was such a good article. Great job and loved the Robert Frost quote

  • Gina C.about a year ago

    I really love reading your thoughts, Keila! You are so introspective. I've always loved horses but have never had the chance to really be around them. I think it's really beautiful how you reflect on the energy you're giving out by the way the horses respond to you. I love the idea of being present of the energy you're giving out. Truly beautiful thoughts. ❤️

  • Loryne Andaweyabout a year ago

    I never knew you worked with horses. I haven't really been around them much but I would like to interact with them at least a few more times. I'm not sure of my fear response. Most likely fright, flight, then fight if need be. Thanks for sharing this :)

  • Paul Stewartabout a year ago

    I won't go into my response right now, cos I really need to think about it more. Whether it's fright, fight, or flight. What I will say is, this was a very encouraging and interesting read. I love how you are always self-analysing yourself as that's braver than never changing. I just always enjoy your viewpoint and take on things. Well done, Keila on another relatable and well-written piece!

  • Mariann Carrollabout a year ago

    Beautiful and honest. Horses are very sensitive to people mood . We are worthy to be happy and having our own boundaries. We know what we will tolerate or not tolerate. As we get older we try to avoid drama of life. Hearted . Very relatable 💗

  • I tend to go into fight mode if it actually matters to me but flight mode of I can't be bothered with what happens. Freeze mode when I'm faced with something that caught me off guard and then followed by fight or flight depending on if it matters to me. Great article!

  • Emily Marie Concannonabout a year ago

    Wonderful piece! Especially love this part : "They are responding to my energy, and fulfilling my expectations." I always feel animals know what we're thinking in some way

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