Fight, Flight, or Freeze. There is a Mental Health invite Underneath.

When stressful situations come we have a choice to either fight, take flight, or freeze. But underneath there is an invite to grow and drop the mask of the false self.

If he were a politician he would have had the slogan ‘Make Israel Great Again’, and he was doing a great job of it. He had struck mortal blows to the ruling opposition, and he had demonstrated Gods power through incredible feats.

I am made of all that I’m afraid of. Bono

He had got so cocky with his authority that he had made fun of others. Mocking them and berating them.

It must have been good for the ego. Elijah must have felt invincible.

Have you ever felt like this?

The snake springs

Elijah was riding high until a message came from the violent Queen Jezebel.

She was the power behind the throne of Ahab, King of Israel.  She was like a snake curled up at the feet of her husband.

Jezebel immediately sent a messenger to Elijah with her threat: “The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow, you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets.” 1 Kings 19: 1, 2

Elijah felt the full power of the snake unleashed at him. He was going to be killed with no mercy.

Fight, flight, or freeze. 

When highly stressful situations come to us, like an angry woman, we are told by stress experts that we choose one of three responses.

  1. Fight. We give back as much as we are given. We fight back. Our hope is based on fighting fire with fire.
  2. Flight. We run. We try and get away from the threat. We might lie, deny, avoid or try and diminish the threat. Our hope is that by getting away from the threat we will be ok.
  3. Freeze. We get overwhelmed by the situation and freeze up like a deer caught in the headlights. We have no hope, and everything shuts down.

As we will see in later posts, Elijah ran and asked God to take his life.

Cracking points

In that moment of panic, an unbearable feeling was triggered and Elijah ran.

A crack sliced through his facade.

The false self, that mask he projected to everyone else and believed in himself, cracked open and revealed a vulnerable small boy.

When we’re in Elijah’s shoes, we quickly try to paper mache over the crack.

But it’s too late. It has been exposed. We know it, and those near us know it too.

It is at those times there is an invite to create something new. To go deep and check out the flimsy foundations we have built our lives on.

Most people don’t. Instead, they continue by injecting botox into their mask. They look plastic and unreal, and they are.

God’s invite to Elijah, and also to you, is to go the desert. A place of stripping down to the bare essentials. Of shedding the pretend life and discovering the true self that you always were.

God hasn’t finished with our life, even when we want God to finish our life.

That moment of raw human panic was the seedbed for transformational change in his Elijah’s life.

Elijah was a man whose world cracked open, but he was never out of Gods care.

Quotes to consider

  • The self we create is a persona—a mixture of the truth of our being and the fictions we spin as we attempt to create a self in the image of an inner fantasy. David Benner – The Gift of being yourself
  • The self that begins the spiritual journey is the self of our own creation, the self we thought ourselves to be. This is the self that dies on the journey. The self that arrives is the self that was loved into existence by Divine Love. This is the person we were destined from eternity to become—the I that is hidden in the “I AM. David Benner
  • A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else. Richard Rohr

Questions to answer and leave a comment below 

  1. How do people inject Botox into their lives to bolster their facade?
  2. What response do you most use when confronted with a major stressor. Fight, flight or freeze?
  3. If you had been with Elijah when he heard from Queen Jezebel how would you have helped him?

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Katerina Radvanska

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