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Are You Stuck With How You Used To Survive?

As we grow older, it’s common for us to feel like our personalities are fixed and that we are set in our ways. We may believe that we can’t change certain aspects of ourselves, like our interests, habits, or even our personalities. However, the truth is that much of our behavior is learned through our experiences and reactions to the world around us. Some of these behaviors may have served as survival mechanisms in our past, but may no longer be necessary or even beneficial in our current lives. By recognising the impact of our learned reactions and survival mechanisms, we can begin to consciously choose which aspects of ourselves we want to keep and which ones we want to let go of, allowing us to evolve and grow into the person we want to become.

10 Survival Reactions and How to Build From Your Awareness of Them

  1. Fight or flight response: This survival reaction is designed to protect us from immediate danger. However, it can become overactive, leading to chronic stress and anxiety. To evaluate its functionality, try to identify triggers that activate the response and practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and meditation to calm the nervous system. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building resilience through healthy coping mechanisms like exercise, creative outlets, and social support.

  2. Freeze response: This survival reaction is designed to immobilise us in the face of danger. However, it can become a default response, leading to a sense of paralysis in everyday situations. To evaluate its functionality, try to identify triggers that activate the response and practice grounding techniques such as visualisation and body scanning. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building self-compassion and self-trust through mindfulness practices like meditation and journaling.

  3. Perfectionism: This survival reaction is designed to protect us from failure and rejection. However, it can become an unhealthy pattern of self-criticism and self-doubt. To evaluate its functionality, assess whether the pursuit of perfection is helping or hindering your progress towards your goals. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building self-awareness and self-acceptance through mindfulness practices and positive self-talk.

  4. People-pleasing: This survival reaction is designed to ensure our social acceptance and avoid rejection. However, it can lead to a sense of codependency and a loss of personal boundaries. To evaluate its functionality, assess whether your need for approval is hindering your ability to make authentic choices. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building assertiveness and self-worth through boundary-setting and communication skills.

  5. Avoidance: This survival reaction is designed to protect us from uncomfortable situations or emotions. However, it can lead to a sense of stagnation and missed opportunities for growth. To evaluate its functionality, assess whether your avoidance is preventing you from pursuing your goals or building meaningful relationships. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building resilience through exposure therapy and other cognitive-behavioral techniques.

  6. Control: This survival reaction is designed to protect us from uncertainty and chaos. However, it can lead to a sense of rigidity and a loss of spontaneity. To evaluate its functionality, assess whether your need for control is preventing you from adapting to changing circumstances or building trust in yourself and others. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building flexibility through mindfulness practices and letting go of expectations.

  7. Emotional numbing: This survival reaction is designed to protect us from overwhelming emotions. However, it can lead to a sense of disconnection and a lack of emotional depth. To evaluate its functionality, assess whether your emotional numbing is preventing you from building intimate relationships or connecting with your own emotions. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building emotional intelligence through mindfulness practices and seeking support from a therapist or trusted friend.

  8. Self-sabotage: This survival reaction is designed to protect us from the risk of failure or rejection. However, it can lead to a sense of self-defeat and a loss of motivation. To evaluate its functionality, assess whether your self-sabotage is preventing you from achieving your goals or building self-esteem. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building self-compassion and self-acceptance through mindfulness practices and reframing negative self-talk.

  9. Overcompensation: This survival reaction is designed to compensate for perceived weaknesses or shortcomings. However, it can lead to a sense of inauthenticity and a loss of self-esteem. To evaluate its functionality, assess whether your overcompensation is helping or hindering your ability to achieve your goals or build meaningful relationships. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building self-awareness and self-acceptance through mindfulness practices and reframing negative self-talk.

  10. Self-isolation: This survival reaction is designed to protect us from perceived threats or harm. However, it can lead to a sense of loneliness and a loss of social connection. To evaluate its functionality, assess whether your self-isolation is preventing you from building healthy relationships or achieving your goals. To build on this reaction in a conscious and empowering way, focus on building social support through seeking out supportive relationships and engaging in social activities that align with your values.

Understanding the Origins of Our Survival Persona

The first step in releasing ourselves from our survival persona is to understand where it came from. Often, our survival persona is rooted in a traumatic experience both mild and savere. simple or complex that we experienced as we grew.

For example, if you grew up in a household with an emotionally absent parent, you may have created a version of yourself that was emotionally independent to cope with the situation. However, as an adult, this survival persona can prevent you from forming meaningful relationships and opening up emotionally.

Identifying the Limitations of Your Survival Persona

Naturally what we do is to try and protect ourselves and we do this as best as we have learned how. It’s easy to get comfy (even in discomfort) and feel we cannot do differently or better. However, if we take the time to safely understand where our survival persona comes from, we can start to identify the limitations it places on us.

Whilst our survival persona may have helped us navigate  challenging situations previously, it can also prevent us from fully experiencing life. For example, if your survival persona is one of constant vigilance, it can prevent you from relaxing and enjoying life.

Letting Go of Our Survival Persona

This could be scary or liberating depending on how you approach it and the support you find to do so. Releasing ourselves from our survival persona can be a challenging process as it often means confronting the trauma or difficult situations that led us to create that persona in the first place. However, by letting go of our survival persona, we can begin to live more authentically and fully. This can involve seeking therapy, practicing self-care, and forming new, healthy relationships with both others and ourselves.

Moving Forwards

It is important to evaluate the functionality of our old survival reactions to ensure they are still serving us in a positive way. By building self-awareness and mindfulness practices, we can safely build on these reactions in a conscious and empowering manner to achieve our goals and build meaningful relationships. Seeking support from a therapist or trusted friends can also be beneficial in this process.

Reading this article and interacting with the free Coach provided, can help shift old thinking patterns and help you embrace new, positive outcomes.

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