I was five years old when I first remember feeling the fight-or-flight complex. I don’t remember the incident exactly, but I do remember that it had something to do with feeling being dealt a cruel act of injustice. My response was to want to leave. To flee.
Being only five years old, my ability to flee very far was limited. So instead, I took to daydreaming about how I would run away to California (I lived in Ohio), the furthest place I could imagine in my five-year old mind. I went so far as to stuff berries in my box. My “box” was an empty, plastic, card deck holder that they used to sell decks of Old Maid or other kids cards game in. I had two of these boxes. In the other box, I placed all my life savings; my many pennies, nickels and dimes that I had managed to save. Then I stuffed them in my dresser drawer only to pull them out later and find the berries had molded.
In times of feeling this need for flight, I would plan my great escape. I would pull my boxes out, re-fill it with berries if it were summer, crackers or cheese or whatever else I could find if it wasn’t summer, and then I would walk around the property on our house and think about it for a while.
Phrases like, “why did they do that?!” and “how could they do that?!” would go spinning through my brain. Injustice was something my little mind could not comprehend, not for the life of me, and that when directed towards me, would hurt and hurt, and the incomprehensiveness of it all would cause a great deal of stress to me at that young age. It’s what started the flight complex inside of me—a complex that spread over other areas of my life.
As I grew older, I finally stood up to fight. This time, the fight was not against the injustices of the world. But it was a fight against the habit to want to flee. And since, through my life, I had found flight to oftentimes be impossible, this habit had translated into weakness, depression, quitting, an act of disinterest in life, a feeling of victimization. And so, these are the things I decided to fight against in my own life.
Something happened along the way.
Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t need to fight. Not at all. These were, after all, simply feelings. Why should I fight them? I am not suggesting that at that moment I began to wallow in them. No. I did not do that. Instead, I recognized them. I thought about why they were there and what they meant. I realized that these feelings were a result of the vulnerable and compassionate person that I was at five years old, who knew no other way to deal with what she was feeling. And I had a little conversation with that five-year old. And I gave her new ways to deal with those injustices.
Many people see only one side of me: the happy, optimistic, enthusiastic and fun-loving side of me. And I’m glad they see that side. But I am writing this down because I want to express the other side because I believe it will connect with many people. The parts of us that hurt, the parts that cause us to be weak or afraid or injured people—those parts that we try so hard to hide. The thing is, most of those things are just feelings. And they are there for a reason. And my hope is that you stop trying to escape them or fight them. That you look them in the eye and figure out deep down why they are there. And that you acknowledge the vulnerable, loving, five-year old you that had no understanding of the things of the world, and no way of knowing how to deal with them. And give that five-year old new ways of coping. Healthy ways of coping.
I don’t like injustice. Not any against myself or against others, especially when it is dealt by the hand of a man or woman, and not simply chance. I can see now that this is my first step to confront it. I hope God hasn’t given up on me yet, and since we know there will always be injustice, I hope he gives me other chances to confront it in the future.