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  • Writer's pictureKaren Law

Reacting to threat - Part 1

When human beings and other mammals face an attack, a harmful event or a threat to survival the brain processes this via the amygdala and then the hypothalamus. These are part of the autonomic nervous system. The pituitary gland then secretes a hormone which releases cortisol and adrenaline. These enable the body to fight or run away.

The outward signs of this include:

* An increase in heart rate

* Tunnel vision

* Shaking

* Dilated pupils

* Flushed face

* Dry mouth

* Slowed digestion

* Hearing loss

* Bladder relaxation

The adrenaline released increases strength for flight or flight. Oxygen, nutrients and blood flow is prioritised to the muscles, therefore digestion and urine production slows or stops. And with the brain being ready for action sleep will be prevented.

The autonomic nervous system, which regulates the body's unconscious actions, contains two parts:

* The sympathetic nervous system,which stimulates the body's fight-flight-or-freeze response

* The parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the body to do normal things like digestion, rest and reproduction.

Ideally when the threat is over the body returns to normal.

Unfortunately if there was no relief, ie the parasympathetic nervous system is prevented from engaging fully, a person ends up with unresolved trauma trapped within their body.

This manifests in behaviour which can be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress.

So, what can be seen from this?

It is clear that trauma is held within the body. The body reacted for self preservation using an automatic, unconscious system. Why do we think we should be able to rationally talk it out and make conscious decisions to change behaviour?

Surely it requires a body based therapy?

Part two is where I share what constitutes trauma and how ambient trauma can be safely discharged while building resilience.

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