The following has been inspired by Pete Walker’s book, and I hope it will help you start to work out what ‘stress response’ is your most dominant way of responding to life’s difficult challenges, stresses and people.
Once again, when people experience a lot of trauma or absentee parenting, especially in childhood, it can hard-wire their brains to react to stress (or things that are incorrectly perceived as ‘stressful’ or threatening) in a detrimental, ‘abnormal’ way, even as adults.
Secular psychiatry has tried to label most of these ‘abnormal’ responses to stress as all the mental illnesses and emotional disorders listed in the DSM, and likes to tell people that their brains are basically ‘broken’ due to genes or biology, and can’t be fixed.
But that’s simply not true! The brain is plastic, and these learned responses to environmental triggers can be unlearned, and replaced with much healthier reactions, thoughts and beliefs. But the first part of the process is to recognize: 1) What caused the initial problems and 2) How you are now reacting (or over-reacting) as a result of the traumatic experiences or emotional neglect you experienced in your formative years.
So read on, to find out what’s your dominant C-PTSD-inspired reaction to stressful triggers, situations and people.
PLEASE NOTE: Most people have one or two dominant ‘stress’ responses that they typically fall back into as their main mode of reacting to stressful triggers and situations, or perceived threats. But that doesn’t mean they don’t also have some of the other stress-reactions, some of the time.
Is typically characterized by:
- ‘Self-preservation’ at all costs
- Explosive temper and outbursts
- Aggressive, angry behavior
- A pronounced need to control (both people and situations)
- Inability to ‘hear’ or accept other points of view
- A pronounced sense of entitlement
- Demands perfection from other people
- Dictatorial tendencies
- Conduct disorder
- Obsessive and / or compulsive behavior
- Feelings of panic and anxiety
- Rushing around
- Can’t sit still, can’t relax
- Tries to micromanage situations and other people
- Always ‘on the go’, busy doing things
- Wants things to be perfect
- Panic disorder
- Mood disorder
- Spacing out
- Feeling unreal
- Isolating the self from the outside world
- Couch potato
- Brain fog
- Difficulties making decisions, acting on decisions
- Wants to hide from the world
- Feels ‘dead’, lifeless
- Clinical depression
- People pleasing
- Scared to have their own opinion, say what they really think
- Wants to talk about ‘the other’ instead of themselves
- Flatters others (to avoid conflict)
- ‘Angel of mercy’
- Over-caring, takes too much responsibility for others
- Can’t stand up for the self, say ‘no’
- Easily exploited by others
- Hugely concerned with social standing and acceptance, ‘fitting in’
- ‘Yes’ man (or woman…)
Your main stress response mode was set as a child. Once you realized that fighting / running away / numbing the pain / keeping danger away by keeping others happy seemed to work best in your particular circumstance, that become your default stress response.
BUT - emotional health requires an admixture of all four responses in the face of perceived threat or danger.
Sometimes, instead of fighting we need to back off and let go of our grudge, in order to resolve a situation. Sometimes, instead of spacing out and blanking, we need to gird our loins and DO something about the problem we’re facing. Sometimes, instead of giving in to other people’s demands, we need to stand our ground and police our boundaries. Still other times, we need to take a time-out from the rat race and stop being so busy doing, to sit quietly and contemplate our needs and feelings.
The other thing to say at this stage is that when someone has C-PTSD, their stress responses are typically extreme. They will be triggered by far more stimuli, they will feel far more overwhelming and intense, and they will continue for much, much longer than is ‘normal’ or healthy, sometimes lasting for weeks or even months.
But remember, all of this can be fixed, once you understand what’s really going on.