Survivalizing? What’s that?
It’s something we do in our heads. We take a situation that is not a life or death issue, and we tell ourselves,
This is a matter of life or death.
Some might call this “making a mountain out of a mole hill,” and it is that, but it’s also more than that.
When we survivalize something, we not only make it big in our minds, but we also have a huge physiological response. Our bodies go into fight or flight mode. Yeah, sweaty palms, racing heart, pounding head, muscles all tensed up, ready to fight for our very survival.
Here’s an example. I had to buy a new car this week. It was terrifying.
On January 4th, someone rear ended me. It was a good hit in the behind that totaled my car. And yes, I did have some psychological effects then, like being spaced out for a week and having trouble concentrating.
But I was never afraid. I wasn’t in fight or flight mode even when there was the threat of bodily injury. No, that response came this week as I shopped for, looked over, inspected, considered and ultimately bought, a car. My heart thumped away as if there was a semi coming at me.
Why? I survivalized the situation. And even as I watched myself do it, I couldn’t stop.
It’s pretty humbling to be a psychologist, with training in biofeedback and relaxation therapies and cognitive therapy, and watch yourself make a mountain out of a mole hill and get your entire arousal system in a tizzy.
But at least I had the detachment enough to say, “You’re survivalizing this! It’s not like you’re losing a limb! It’s not as though you’re being pursued by a pack of angry killer bees!”
For now, I’m going to have to be happy with having had the awareness. Oh, and I did try some deep breathing and calming music, so that’s a good sign, too.
Maybe next time I have to buy a car, I’ll be able to meditate all through the experience, right?