We?re always confusing it up.
Photo by Vincent Guth on Unsplash
Twice in my life, I have reacted to events that were harmful to me. Reacted, with actions aimed at self-preservation. I reacted ? I left the scenario, the situation, etc. ? a total flight response to my fears of being harmed in some unintelligible way. The first time, at my workplace, it was a difficult move to make but I still had to make it: I quit the company. The second time something similar occurred, it was the most programmed, natural thing for me to do ? to get out of the situation rather than confront it. Behaviors stick, and this too, did. Despite being human, we are not born bold and courageous enough ? this is not generally the training all of us get as we have grown through the years. Most of us grow up not knowing these intricacies of life. Fear and uncertainty bring in the wildest imaginations to us and self-preservation alarm bells go off loud in our minds lining up on top what?s best to do ? save yourself. Fucking escape. Fucking play victim. Fucking faint. Fucking freeze over and submit.
None of which are sane or sober responses. They?re just reactions, and we termed it all ?self-preservation?.
The dictionary meaning of Self-Preservation is rather simple, straightforward and intuitive:
- the protection of oneself from harm or death, especially regarded as a basic instinct in human beings and animals.
Usage: ?a sense of self-preservation cautioned her not to stick around?.
Both the times I bailed out (aka did not stick around) in reaction and self-preservation, I never really felt good doing it. Nor did I feel like I was doing anything right. My body ached with all the potential energies bottled up, as I gave in, in ways that harmed myself to a great extent. It meant looking for new jobs, forsaking work I really enjoyed, and much more. It had its benefits, but there were more things to learn. In my pursuit, I had caged the phoenix within me, instead of letting it soar by moving away from the drive of self-preservation. I myself was immolating my capacities to do my best in those moments of strife. It was a hopelessly childish reaction, both times. Of course, there was no one who stood by giving me a reality-check on my imaginations and fears, so chances of staying in control were slim. And I knew no better either. Heck, most of us don?t grow up knowing anything better than to just escape sticky situations.
Our physical bodies stall when the need for self-preservation arises. We loose self-control and stability, which gives way for insecurity to creep in. The rational thought-processes that run fab on peaceful days just derail at the sight of trouble. We plunge into low-levels of life as we regress into the survival mode. Survival is inherently a state in which it is difficult to act or think beyond the rudimentary fight, flight, freeze or faint reactions. Club that with self-preservation and you?ve a dangerous non-stop loop of self-harm coded up for yourself. Strangely, ?escape? button is all that works easily? but also doesn?t do you much good. Self-preservation launches in survival situations. Self-preservation is often not courageous deeds, but rather the opposite of them. It makes you act in ways that outwardly appear courageous (?what a martyr!?). However, if viewed closely, those actions do not really stand for courage.
The worst part about acting in self-preservation is that it prevents you from gaining your full form in the given moment and situation. You might fly out of the situation, deeming it to not suit your needs (just like the fox who found ?the grapes are sour?). You may avoid the shit somehow and then prove to be in disintegrity with yourself and your values. You will bring into your life a set of new hassles to overcome ? you can?t just overcome one shitty situation and not fall into another anyway. Self-preservation is often just a pile of self-glorified nonsense.
When I realized this, it was quite late already, but it made me feel like a child. Then I also understood that we misunderstand what self-preservation actually stands for (given we have the dullest dictionary meanings out online). I forgave myself. It does not mean ?giving yourself up? like a victim or a martyr to the cause either by submitting or attaching to something more secure and friendly. Rather self-preservation automatically happens when you hold it lightly in your capacities, and then deliberately practice focusing on acting and being in the moment. It is about handling the situation, rather than escaping it all by fight, flight or freeze reactions. It is about getting vulnerable (a strength) rather than fighting the situation through violently or like a victim. It is about choosing to be loving and compassionate in the light of facing fears. It is about thinking less about yourself in those moments when you are in trouble, and walking into the situation with a motive/intent to handle the mess and clear it up, instead of make it worse or leave it hanging in mid-air. It is about thinking about the problem at hand with an aim to find a solution, rather than to just blindly fight. Self-preservation, quite counter-intuitively, is about letting the cage open, and letting that phoenix rise out of you in these moments of strife.
I have found that giving ourselves a regular reality check on the situation we are in prevents us from getting too ahead of ourselves in the scheme of things. It helps contain the excesses and reactions that flows from fear and survival instincts. Sometimes we have to do the reality-check for ourselves. Sometimes it?s good to have someone (a friend) to give some more insight and perspective in difficult times, so that we stay aligned to meet our goals and cause. The point is not to escape, but to know that escape doesn?t get us anywhere better and therefore, to work with the shit at hand. There?s always going to be shit wherever you go anyway, waiting for you. It just keeps getting better and better as long as you work with it. Expect nothing and be non-attached. With these attitudes, the need to self-preserve can be approached the way it should be done, instead of being equal to some form of an escapade.