Anxiety stems from our central nervous system’s primitive response to perceived threat.
Anxiety is a primitive survival response deeply ingrained in our brain, resulting in three specific responses to danger: fight, flight, or freeze. Our central nervous system becomes alert in the same way as if we were threatened by death. Our pupils dilate, we sweat, our breath is short and we feel that our heart is going to jump out of our chest (these are only a handful of symptoms that may occur). In short, our body is prepared to fight or flee and in some cases it becomes paralyzed or frozen.
In the modern world, this primitive survival response serves no function, since the dangers are not real but perceived. Perceived danger is the perception, idea or sensation that a situation, experience or event is a direct threat to our survival, life or death, although it really is not, but the response of our central nervous system is exactly the same as the primitive response. This is why, even in everyday situations, and with friends or family we respond in a fight, flight or freeze mode. We perceive these situations as life threatening because they contain stimuli that trigger a memory related to a trauma or event from our childhood that is emotionally significant but unconscious until the moment that is triggered. These trauma responses can be related to abandonment, neglect, emotional, physical or psychological abuse.
Today, our behavioral survival response is not the same as the primitive response because we have learned to respond to situations that we perceive as threatening through other strategies that I call; ‘’Toxic strategies.’’ Our ancestors would have resolved this sensation by dealing with the real threat. Fighting, running, hiding, staying still. But today we don’t deal with real threats such as these. The repressed energy generated by the central nervous system is expressed in feelings of anguish, worry, frustration or anger accompanied by negative thoughts, physical responses and unhealthy behaviors both for ourselves and for the people around us. For example; yelling, lashing out in anger, ignoring, isolating, slandering, consuming psychoactive substances, self-harm, etc. The behaviors are varied and are not limited to those mentioned.
Since our behavioral responses to perceived threats are not the same as in the primitive world; fight the enemy, run to safety; paralyzing until the source of threat has moved away: the energy is repressed and does not resolve within our body but is translated into four psychological components that we have developed in the modern world. Strong emotions of anger, sadness or frustration, negative thoughts, physical reactions (headache, stomachache, muscle spasms, sweating, cold), and toxic responses or maladaptive behaviors, such as those described above.