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The Threat Response Cycle

This diagram is the Threat Response Cycle that is part of our mammal experience. When there is any novelty in the environment, we try to locate it as a possible threat and assess it-- by turning towards it. This is how we “orient” to it. If we assess that there is no danger, we resume exploratory orienting—this means that we are in the present moment. If we assess that there IS danger, the body responds using our Fight, Flight or Freeze (FFF) systems. If we complete that response, we go back to exploratory orienting.

If we prepare for one of these responses, and we do not get to execute them, the body stays stuck in “defensive orienting.” This means we are constantly trying to locate the threat. All of this occurs below the surface in our physiological responses. The power is that the physiology takes over and leads us into a narrative that is more about the state of our body, than reality. Trauma symptoms are connected to this aspect of physiology.

The nervous system is always assessing the environment for threats. And because we are a survival-focused species, our nervous system will always be on the side of assuming it is danger. This is why we think it is a snake when we see the stick on a hike. So, there is this innate brilliance in our nervous system’s response that does not always work so well in our lives.

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