There is a prevalence of fight energy all around us. Many people tend to automatically step into fight mode when any type of challenge comes their way. Or they may go after problems they see in the world or life ready to take on a fight. This can be seen on all levels; among individuals, within families and communities and between countries. This way of acting originates from the most basic and instinctive part of our brains and the prevailing paradigm that we have to fight against whatever we see as an obstacle or challenge.
As we evolve on a conscious level individually and as a society this is something that we can expand beyond and let go of. When we have created a solid relationship with our emotions and when we feel safe enough in our own body’s we realize that we don’t have to operate in this fight-or-flight response in everyday life. In this article I will show you that through loving ourselves and by increasing our LQ we can become free from this limited way of interacting with life.
It is a powerful place of evolution and conscious expansion when you recognize that whenever find yourself getting defensive and positioning yourself for a fight, you can activate your neocortex to stop you from going into a reptilian response. The more deeply that you love yourself this reptilian/fight response can be loved out of necessity. What if the situations that currently bring you fear, anxiety or stress ceased to exist because you no longer feared the outcome? What if you loved yourself so deeply that life could come at you and you were able to respond from a more conscious and powerful place as opposed to a place rooted in fear and the instinctive reptilian fight response?
Understanding the Lizard Brain
The work of Paul McLean stands out as one of the most influential models for understanding the evolutionary history of the human brain. The triune brain theory suggests that the human brain evolved over a 100 million years from the reptilian brain which controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance, to the limbic brain which includes the amygdala, hippocampus and hypothalamus and is the seat of emotion, value judgements and behavior.
It is only in the last 40,000 years that the neocortex i.e. the two large hemispheres which contain everything from imagination to language to consciousness was developed. Of the three, both the reptilian and limbic brains react instinctively while the neocortex which oversees the responses of the reptilian and limbic brains, must be consciously activated.
In a January 2017 Uplift Blog Post, author Edwina Shaw says “When we are living in a permanent state of fear or anger, or even just in a constant state of high stress–as many of us endure in this day and age–we are in a struggle for survival. And what controls the minds when we need to survive? The reptilian brain.”
In his best-selling book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable, Seth Godin describes the reptilian brain AKA the lizard brain as follows:
“The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.”
This article from Harvard Health explains what happens in your body when there is a perceived threat in your environment. Anything from an unreasonable boss, an annoying co-worker, a business deal going bad, conflict in your relationship or money issues can be seen as a threat. Basically, anything that threatens the things we care about; our identity, goals or achievements creates stress.
“A stressful incident can make the heart pound and breathing quicken. Muscles tense and beads of sweat appear…The heart beats faster than normal, pushing blood to the muscles, heart, and other vital organs. Pulse rate and blood pressure go up. The person undergoing these changes also starts to breathe more rapidly. Small airways in the lungs open wide. This way, the lungs can take in as much oxygen as possible with each breath. Extra oxygen is sent to the brain, increasing alertness. Sight, hearing, and other senses become sharper. Meanwhile, epinephrine triggers the release of blood sugar (glucose) and fats from temporary storage sites in the body. These nutrients flood into the bloodstream, supplying energy to all parts of the body. All of these changes happen so quickly that people aren’t aware of them.”
When your body tenses up in a stress response, your higher functioning neocortex shuts down. You’re like “Ok, let’s fight” and you’re not in the most conscious space. You don’t really consider all options and viewpoints because you’re focussed purely on eliminating the threat. “When a dog bites, who cares what canine experts recommend, any action will do so long as it gets his incisors out of your thigh” says Joshua Gowan Ph.D.
In order to manage the body’s stress response experts suggest invoking a relaxation response through activities such as meditation, tai chi and yoga. In this article we discuss the impact of meditation on stress reduction and how it increases our LQ as well as how loving yourself can improve your meditation practice. Physical exercise and social support are also recommended.
All the above are great practices to help manage and reduce stress but is it possible to make a permanent shift in our instinctive way of reacting when stress arises? When we have a high LQ, we experience a shift on both an emotional and physical level. We will show you how love can help bring an end to fight energy and override the body’s automatic stress response, but first let’s examine the futility of fight energy.
Why this Constant Fighting Leads Nowhere?
Fight energy only leads to more fight energy. Picture this scenario: Somebody hurls a negative word at you and you come back with something just as negative and then they push you and you push them back and so then they punch you and you punch them back. Fight energy will only lead to more fighting or it will lead to the destruction or beating down of someone to the point where they can no longer fight back. A situation where one person wins and the other person loses. But has anyone really won?
When one person beats down another, even the one who won the battle may walk away with a new type of fear emerging. He or she may have succeeded in dominating the other-in this instance-but now there is the fear of retaliation. A fear that the other party will come back for another round, perhaps stronger, more prepared and with back-up, so even the “winner” is always looking over his shoulder. The person who has “won” has really only succeeded in creating a position where he has to defend and protect himself from the possibility that his victim will retaliate in the future. Now he is living in more fear.
Then there’s the other side. The person who has lost feels defeated, and this person is going to either choose to live in a place of oppression or they’re going to go back and try to take down the person that defeated them. Neither of these cases feels good and if the conflict continues it leads to mutual destruction.
This primal pattern of establishing dominance can be observed everywhere, between kids, between adults (men and women alike). Sometimes we ourselves are a part of that equation and we see it on a national scale, in-which the political left and political right are in opposition on a daily basis.
On that note, and looking at the current domestic political climate, I don’t think the United States been this ideologically divided since the civil war. We hear the word “nationalism” bandied about daily and what is frightening about that is that it appeals directly to the lizard brain, which is both tribal and survivalist in nature. It says “we are under threat by invaders and we must protect our territory”.
Fight energy has been essential to our continued existence as a species and has in the past been a necessary precursor to our technological and academic advancement. We have the opportunity, through increasing our LQ, to bring an end to this prehistoric way of operating.
We live in a time of rapid change and need to monitor the external environment for potential challenges and threats; and while such obstacles will need to be factored in when making decisions, we need not respond to every perceived threat with a fight response. If we do, we serve only to uphold a society fueled by fear and subsisting on rage.
Gandhi says it best, “be the change you wish to see in the world”. We have an opportunity as individuals to love ourselves deeply enough that we feel safe enough to step out of this paradigm. When we step out of this paradigm the world begins to respond differently to us because we now respond differently to it.
Coming back to LQ and its role in ending the fight against life.
If not with a Fight, how else do we Deal with Life’s challenges?
Ending the fight against life is about shifting our perspectives from fighting for what we want or against what we don’t to being a stand for the change we wish to see in the world. If we as individuals start to change the way we see this paradigm then we will begin to see a shift in the world around us.
For so many of us, operating from this place of fear is automatic. Out of curiosity I googled the term “ending the fight against life”. My search yielded 1.1 billion results, most of which were articles about fighting FOR the things that are important to us. We live in a culture which encourages and values the fight and we are surrounded by messages telling us; fight for the truth, fight for your freedom, fight for justice, fight for love, fight against aging, fight disease (depression, cancer or drug addiction), the list goes on. We are told to fight for what we want, we have to fight to win in relationships, we have to wage “war against drugs” and women’s organizations encourage us to fight against discrimination and sexual abuse.
In a 2014 article Kate Granger talks about her approach to dealing with cancer. She says “In my world, having cancer is not a fight at all. It is almost a symbiosis where I am forced to live with my disease day in, day out. Some days cancer has the upper hand, other days I do. I live with it and I let its physical and emotional effects wash over me. But I don’t fight it. After all, cancer has arisen from within my own body, from my own cells. To fight it would be “waging a war” on myself. I have used chemotherapy on two occasions to bring the cancer back under control and alter the natural history of the disease. I submitted myself to this treatment gently, and somewhat reluctantly, taking whatever each day had to throw at me. I certainly didn’t enter the process “with all guns blazing”.”
In this example, as in the examples above, instead of fighting against something we stand for something. Instead of fighting against a disease we can stand for loving ourselves through the disease. This is not about liking the illness or disease. In fact, most of the time we are being a stand for something it is because we don’t like our experience of something but we can love and embrace it and then take the most conscious actions towards the outcome we desire.
In our relationships, instead of fighting against some disruptive force, be it a meddling mother-in-law, mounting bills or a lack of intimacy we can stand for love, abundance, forgiveness, trust and understanding. Every scenario in our lives can be flipped around in this way where instead of fighting against something we choose to stand for something.
Loving ourselves deeply helps bring an end to being afraid to stand in the face of confrontation. That does not mean we don’t feel fear, in fact we do, but there is a place that exists, a space where we have loved ourselves so deeply that when we see a threat coming our way we don’t tense up like we normally would, instead we would stay open and surrendered. When we do that, many times the other person will drop their attack because there is nothing to attack. So sometimes the very fact of staying open when a fight is coming your way, whatever that fight may look like actually defuses the very situation itself. Fight looks for fight but when you stand there open and living and receptive, many times that can be enough to diffuse the situation.
Admittedly, other times it’s not enough. There may be challenges coming your way creating feelings of anger, upset and fear. In these instances, an individual with a high LQ will not move directly into attack, we will choose to stand for what we believe is worth defending. In this way we avoid the tensing up or the shutting down that would normally happen because of the bodies stress response. There is an openness and a surrender in standing for what is right, standing for love and standing for what we want to see happen in the world. More importantly there is a heart openness. Standing for what we want is far more transformative than fighting against the thing that we don’t like, or the thing that we perceive as a threat. By staying open and heart centered we are ending the fight against life and changing the world.
How to End the Fight Against Life
We cannot control what we feel but we can choose how we respond to what we are feeling. There is an energy that can be accessed internally where we are so deeply rooted in love that this fight energy comes to an end. As we infuse ourselves with love, we can step out of a fight-or-flight paradigm. As we raise our LQ, we can embrace a more conscious way of being, one in-which we don’t have to fight against the “bad”.
There are three steps to ending the fight against life:
- It begins with an awareness that you don’t have to fight,
- the second step is making the decision to bring an end to the fight against life, and
- loving yourself very deeply is the third.
When those situations come up where in the past there might have been a fight-or-flight response we can choose to stand for what we believe is good and right as opposed to fighting what is coming our way or running away from it. This space of love allows for a shift into a new paradigm. In this paradigm in which you have so deeply loved yourself you become a stand as love.
In making the decision to no longer respond to violence with violence we can bring an end to the fight against life. In order to arrive at such a place, we must first feel safe enough in our own bodies. We must feel safe enough to feel fear and not jump into fight energy but to respond in a different way.
When I was in prison, there was the constant threat of violence. I had chosen to deeply love everyone that I came in contact with and even though there were people whose actions I didn’t like I still chose to love them and to respond with love. There were two incidents in particular which stand out as examples of alternate ways of responding to violence.
In both cases I was a stand for love. I responded to the threat of violence with a strong masculine statement of my position. In one case this had the effect of immediately deflating the tension and in the other it further angered the perpetrator, temporarily escalating the threat before disarming it.
Even though I did not fight back when I was attacked, I still defended myself from being physically hurt and I responded from a very powerful place. I was able to diffuse the situation without stepping into fight energy. Had I responded aggressively it would have further escalated the violence. Instead, what transpired was a powerful resolution in love.
When we step into this new energy, it is neither passive nor is it weak. There is an important distinction to be made between being in a surrendered state and being defeated. It’s important to realize that when we have ended the fight against life and embraced love that we are still taking proactive and conscious action. When we resort to a default position of fighting our options are limited to just that whereas a surrendered and loving approach allows us to more fully explore all options and to take more conscious action.
If we are struck by illness, we are going to go to the doctor; we are going to consider all the available treatment options, and we’re going to choose the best course of action. It is our perception of this challenge, our relationship with this disease or state of difficulty that changes, where instead of fighting against it, we embrace it. We are embracing all that is and still taking action towards our highest direction and our highest desires.
This quote from Matt Kahn perfectly sums up the difference between surrender and defeat:
“Although it might seem similar in concept, giving up has nothing to do with the willingness to surrender. Giving up is refusing to participate in your experience. Surrendering is ending your fight against your experiences even if your experiences continue fighting you. In surrender, you are not giving up, but giving up your fight against the discomfort of outcome and circumstance.”
Standing for something is what happens after you’ve ended the fight against life. It needs to be said that you can end the fight against life but then you can still choose not to stand for something. There is a neutral place that you can be where you’re not fighting or taking proactive steps in standing for something.
However, if you have chosen to stand for something, a new space opens up as a result of ending the fight against life and how deeply you love yourself enables how strongly you stand. The presence in which you take action from in standing for something is directly linked to how much you have loved yourself. So, the higher your LQ the more firmly and strongly that you can stand for something.
In many cases the actions from a place of fight or from a place of standing for something might even look the same but your relationship with the situation is very different.
To use an example, let’s say you are a divorced man with an eight-year-old-daughter. You’re remarried while your ex is not. If you were to start legal proceedings to establish your visitation rights that may cause your ex some distress but it would not make you bad dad. It would be a form of taking action for something that is in the child’s best interest.
While the actions may look the same in a fight as they do in taking a stand for something, in this example a little girl’s right to time with her father, could look the same in a fight or in a stand but the space in which those actions are taken is vastly different. One of the biggest shifts that occurs when you end the fight against life is in how you feel about the actions you’re taking. What is the space from which you take a stand? Are you embracing the person that is on the other side or are you trying to hurt them?
Another interesting point is that both on an individual level and from a global perspective, even people that may have developed a level of consciousness around conflict and ways of responding to it, may still be having an energetic fight-or-flight response around how they approach situations. For those who rely more heavily on their neocortex but still respond with fight-or-flight energy in some areas of their lives there is an opportunity to bring about greater consciousness through loving themselves and through increasing their LQ.
In bringing this discussion to a close we must take a moment to reflect on the current state of world we live in. From our government, to society, to our position on matters of international significance, there are elements that are so deeply rooted in fight energy. When we look at the way in which our government relates to other countries, it is sometimes shocking to see how far we are willing to push an “American” agenda to the detriment of our neighbors and trade partners.
I do see that, in time to come, more and people will step away from fight energy and the tendency to lean towards conflict. As the consciousness and LQ of our society rises, we will choose leaders who will understand that our actions impact one another and will start to see each other as global citizens. I know we will see a future in which identities, borders and cultures become more fluid, less rigid and more inclusive and where we focus more on our similarities than we do on our differences.