I have a question about the instinct post, fleeing specifically. I had to run from serious danger once when I was 14 and I thought of it as instinctual, but my mind actually got really clear and I remember thinking things like I’d turn a corner rather than cut through to reduce chances of tripping and falling and the best route to reach the street where there would be people who could help. I didn’t feel panic until after I was safe (broke down sobbing then). So what was that if not instinct?

You using your brain. That was you problem solving on the fly. That was not some deep seated instinctual ability. That was you processing information, making intelligent choices in a stressful situation based on what you knew about your environment, and saving yourself.

It’s called “thinking on your feet”.

You said it yourself, you remember thinking about things.

Instinct gets you as far as running or into flight mode, but it has no direction. If you don’t start thinking about where you need to go, what you need to do, which route to take, then you can end up literally anywhere. The same is actually true for fight, one reacts on anger and fear, leap on the other person with a scream, maybe tackle them to the ground, and start swinging wildly in a blind rage.

That didn’t happen for you, you used your head. You may not realize what you were doing, but that’s what was happening. That wasn’t actually instinct. A form of self-preservation? Sure. Some level of intuition? Yeah. But not instinct.

You used your head. Acting on knowledge you had, you made decisions. You grabbed your life with two hands, and you didn’t just run for it. On the fly, you suppressed your panic, you didn’t let fear take charge, you used it, and dealt with information. You picked the best route to actually saving your life. More than that, you succeeded. You saved yourself.

You saved yourself.

That’s huge.

So, stop giving your instincts more credit than they deserve. Give it to your intuition and cognitive processes instead. Why? You’re smarter and more capable than your giving yourself credit for. This is within your ability to control it. You controlled your instincts, they didn’t control you. In the crucible of life and death, in the midst of an incredibly stressful situation where you were running for your life, you came out on top and it was all you.

Just you.

And you could do it again.

This isn’t a one time, miracle thing. You could intentionally
replicate this experience without the danger, and you probably do in
your daily life without realizing it. This won’t just happen when you’re in danger. While the danger gave you the push to realize that you needed to.

Our brains are very complicated, and we do think on multiple levels. Often, like when we’re in danger, those can feel like they’re outside of our control. Except, what you did was the actions of someone who was in control. Which I will reiterate, in the heat of the moment you made choices cognitively that lead to saving your own life.

The major problem with ascribing these experiences, experiences you may not have completely understood at the time, to instinct is that it ascribes everything we did to something else that’s outside of our control. That it’s something that can only happen when we’re in danger. Some other part of ourselves which exists in a nebulous state and slumbering until trouble arrives.

It’s a nice idea, especially since it’s an easy way to avoid challenging your own perceptions about yourself and what you’re capable of.

When you’re ascribing what happened to your instincts, you’re selling yourself short. This is especially true if you’re female and are already pushed by society to accept a passive role, to not see yourself as an active decision maker who is in control of your own existence. Someone who is capable of action, of taking charge. Pawn it off on instinct, and we can just go back to our own self-doubts. Ignore the proof, staring us in the face, that we have it in us to be incredible.

You are incredible.

You are amazing.

Not your instincts. Not some nebulous thing existing in a separate space and not part of your regular existence.

You.

Just you.

You saved yourself.

And knowing that? It’s empowering.

Empowerment doesn’t come from the amount of ass you can kick. Or from running around swinging a gun. Or from being violent or engaging in violence. It comes from making decisions, from taking action derived from choices and accepting the responsibility which comes with those choices.

It’s terrifying.

It’s also freeing.

So much of what we do is learned behavior, even when we don’t realize that we’ve learned it. The kind of rationality and logic you experienced doesn’t happen to everyone. A lot of people out there when they’re in danger freeze up, run without thinking, or end up going nowhere.

The ability to utilize your intelligence under pressure is a powerful thing.

Give yourself more credit.

Because you can do it again in your daily life, whenever you want and whenever you need to.

Powerless or powerful? All it takes is realization. So, which would you rather be?

-Michi

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