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Fight or Flight Response

Dealing with an Abusive Relationship

Have you ever been in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship? Did you agonize over whether to break away from it or stay and try to work it out? If you have been faced with such an ethical dilemma, then you were in the midst of the phenomenon known as the fight or flight response, also known as the acute stress response.

The fight or flight response refers to a physiological reaction that occurs in the presence of something that causes great fear, either mentally or physically, and uncertainty how best to respond. Our response represents the choices that we have to deal with the problem. We can stand our ground and deal with it as best we can or disassociate ourselves from the situation.

The fight-or-flight response was first described in the 1920s by American physiologist Walter Cannon. Cannon realized that a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body helped to mobilize the body’s resources to deal with the threatening circumstances. In response to acute stress, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulate the adrenal glands triggering the release of adrenaline, which results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. After the threat is gone, it takes between 20 to 60 minutes for the body to return to its pre-arousal levels.

According to Dr. Margaret Paul, creator of the ‘Inner Bonding’ technique, when conflicts occur in relationships and the fight or flight response triggered, we can use the technique to deal with the root causes of anxiety, depressions, addictions, and failed relationships that inhibit personal and spiritual growth and satisfaction. It teaches us to love ourselves rather than continue to abandon ourselves, how to move beyond emotional dependency and attain emotional freedom, how to heal the underlying control issues – stemming from self-abandonment – that destroy relationships; and how to maintain a strong connection with our personal source of spiritual guidance. It enables us to find and use our inner strength to live life to the fullest, reach our full potential and become all we are meant to be.

The following is a story about Callie and Billie. Callie was in a committed relationship with Billie. They depended on each other for physical and emotional support. There were no children. Since losing his job, Billie had become more critical of Callie, who was now the sole supporter, and aggressive when differences of opinion existed. Callie grew increasingly concerned about Billie’s behavior and frequent outbursts when things didn’t go his way. She spoke to Billie about her feelings but he was dismissive. Still, she continued to hold out hope that her partner would change. Abuse

The situation wasn’t changing and Callie knew she had to do something about it. Her greatest fear was the way Billie might respond if she leaves. She feared for her safety.

To cut to the chase, Callie started to doubt her self-worth. She had let Billie define who she was. She had become abrupt with friends and co-workers because she was constantly on edge. Her growth as a person had been stunted.

Callie had finally reached her breaking point when another incident occurred where Billie’s behavior turned violent. She then decided to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which got her in touch with her State’s Office of Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She left Billie; started a new life; and was starting to recover from the emotional scares and doing well.

Abusive relationships tear us down from the very essence of our being. There is no reason for it to ever happen. Typically, the abuser is angry about who they are or some incident(s) and take it out on the person closest to them. If you’re in such a relationship, get help right away. You need to break away from the relationship to work on yourself in a supportive environment. Your goal should be to reclaim the goodness inside you. Be the person you had always been but for the abuse.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 26, 2019. Visit Steve’s website and sign up for his newsletter. Follow him on Facebook and “Like” his page.