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  • Sona Parmar

A Little Altitude

Fight, flight, freeze, fawn - the stress response. It’s our caveman hardwiring to get us out of a tricky situation (namely a lion chasing us). I think I’m pretty good at it.


My default is to run. I don’t want to be dealing with uncomfortable situations. Or I freeze temporarily and surrender (fawn) to the situation. But it’s not the good kind of surrender that we talk about in spiritual circles. It’s the white flag kind. Ugh.


And then there’s all the judgment I have about which reaction I do have.


I would so much rather pause, and respond with clarity.


So when a teacher of mine talked about the “fight, flight, freeze, function” response, I took note. Function? I had the option to function in a traumatic situation? Really?


All the books say that we don’t, not really. We get into our reptilian brains and make the best decision we can in order to survive. It’s like functioning in a dysfunctional way, because the decisions you make when you are highly triggered, fighting for your life, aren’t the decisions you’d “normally” make.


But there was now this option to function.


It reminded me of story of the four minute mile. It had been said that it couldn’t be done. It just wasn’t possible. And then one fine day in 1954, it was. The record was broken.


And then, within a short period of time, a whole bunch of other athletes did it too - this thing that had been “impossible” for ages (now even some really good high-schoolers can do it).


This means that I can function when I am stressed, when I am in what I perceive to be a traumatic situation. I don’t have to regress, I don’t have to get skittish. I can function. It is possible.


So how, pray tell, do I do this? By getting a little altitude.


I imagine rising up above myself and seeing the big picture. I’m not trying to see what the other person thinks (people-pleasing beaten, yay!), nor am I scrambling trying to evaluate what the logical course of action is (bypassing my head saying “run Forrest, run!”). Rather, I am pausing and thinking about what the old man in the sky might say to me.


Ah yes, that guy who’s always there.


It’s so very reassuring to know this.


Maybe what I like most, is that the burden of responsibility is no longer on me. It’s so tiring being an adult all the time, and having to have my shit together (when quite frankly, my shit is very often quite far from being together).

And so, I remember a little prayer from Teresa of Avila: “Hover over me, God. Pour grace all over me.”


I think this is all I need.


A little prayer. A little altitude. A little functioning.


I can do this.



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