QueeringPsychology: The Psychotherapy Resource


Connecting with your intuition/body via Somatic Work – Deeper on that Fight/Flight Response
Queeringpsychology: The Psychotherapy Resource

Queeringpsychology: The Psychotherapy Resource

I am a Black queer man who is also a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC/LPC). I created this website to serve as a reference page where I can post information for people who cannot afford or find a therapist. Information is power and I believe that sharing information equally can assist us in obtaining our freedom. I hope this site is useful for those who need it.

If you’re new here, this is a long series where I am explaining somatic psych theory so people can have a better relationship with their bodies, connect with their intuition, and resource/prep themselves for trauma work.

[Video version of this post here]
Understanding how your nervous system works, how your body in general works, is essential for this somatic healing journey. Like I said before, understanding the why and how something works or doesn’t work for you is the real power, not the somatic tools themselves.
Here’s a link to the overview of the autonomic nervous system post and here’s another post where I use Daniel Siegal’s hand model of the brain for folks who do better with visual learning. Those posts cover the basics of the sympathetic nervous system’s fight/flight response.
Now, it’s time to go a bit deeper into each of the 3 parts.
In this post, we are going a bit deeper to cover more about what a flight/flight response can look like generally, why it’s important to learn what it can look like for you, how our sympathetic nervous system affects how we see and experience the world, and the longterm health effects of having our fight/flight responses engaged all the time.


That’s a big word for Elmo. What is neuroception?
“Neuro” refers to the nervous system and “ception” is Latin for “to take or to seize”.
Basically, it’s our nervous system’s ability to sense what’s going on in the outside world.
Formally, neuroception is the unconscious process of our autonomic nervous systems figuring out if a situation is safe or dangerous. Like I mentioned before in both of the previous posts and videos, this process is “unconscious” because it’s happening faster than the rest of our brain and body. By the time we even notice that the energy is different and we feel some type of way, our autonomic nervous systems have already made their decisions and moved accordingly with that energy.
So in doing this somatic work, we are working on building our conscious awareness of how our bodies’ respond to situations. We are learning our bodies and learning how to consciously and intentionally notice and respond to our bodies’ neuroception.
Your very connected brain and body is *going* to assess for danger and it’s *going* to let you know by responding in your body because that’s just how it is and it was going to do that anyway. So why not learn how to listen to it, how to understand it, and how to answer it? You and your body are a team, after all, and y’all need to figure out how to communicate better with each other in order to move towards that clarity, attunement, personal healing, etc that you are looking for.

Learning Your Fight/Flight

At this point, I’m imagining that you are like, “Pierre, I know you’re saying that my nervous system and my fight/flight are just trying to help, but this really sucks and I just need to know what it thinks it’s doing because at this point, it’s playing in my face.”
So let’s talk about it. Let’s get a little deeper into what our sympathetic nervous system (SNS)’s fight/flight response can look like. Like I mentioned in the overview post, our fight/flight kicks up and gets us moving when our autonomic nervous systems receive signs of danger from the environment.
These signs of danger trigger our bodies to release the hormone adrenaline in milliseconds to get us moving and motivated. If we aren’t able to figure out how to move to safety at that point, then our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol, which kicks in, in minutes.
So in moments of danger, there is A LOT of energy flowing in our nervous systems.
This causes physical sensations in our bodies including:
  • Sweating
  • Heavy breathing
  • Heart racing
  • Fidgeting
  • Feeling stiff/tense
Let’s go back to Daniel Siegal ‘s hand model of the brain real quick.
So our nervous systems pick up on cues of danger and we start feeling those physical sensations to get us moving.
And then the limbic (emotion) part of our brains and cortex (reasoning, cognitive) part of our brains interpret these physical sensations depending on socialization, our personal past experiences, things people have told us, etc.
And these interpretations and the ways our body reacts to these physical sensations become our emotions and psychological experiences.
There’s a lot of feelings connected to this part of our SNS, including:
  • That feeling of “butterflies” in your stomach
  • The feeling you get on a rollercoaster ride
  • Alertness
  • Unrest/unsettled
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Fear

Fight/Flight-Colored Glasses

Our nervous systems are always trying to motivate us towards safety AND also its help can feeling overstimulating, overwhelming, and flooding. That’s so real. Distress does feel uncomfortable and an unheard body can get real loud when it’s trying to advocate and speak out for itself.
Part of what can reduce the intensity of your body’s communication when in danger is doing the (sometimes uncomfortable) work of building a relationship where your body can feel heard without feeling the need to scream at you all the time. It’s so important to learn your body and determine what your fight/flight specifically looks like for you so you know how to support your body AND how to receive the support your body is trying to give you.
Like I mentioned before, the whole purpose of our sympathetic nervous systems’ fight/flight response is to move us towards safety. And once we are in that fight/flight state, the way we see and move in the world changes.
This can look like literally moving to or away from something. As you know, our SNS is connected to the  limbs of our body, like our arms and legs, which is has no problem getting active so we can hopefully move towards safety.
Speaking of moving away, our fight/flight response can also look like a breakdown in our ability to be emotionally close to people. When we are in a fight/flight state, we may feel too unsafe, too stressed to make connections with other people. In fact, getting too close to someone could feel like too much of a risk.
Even our hearing changes when we are in a protective, fight/flight state. When we feel connected and safe, our ears are primed for the human voice and we are able to relax enough to vibe with a person. When we are in a fight/flight state, our ears spend less time focusing on the human voice and more time focusing on listening for sounds of danger in the environment.
Even how we see the world changes in a fight/flight state. Research has shown that humans can misread people’s facial expressions and we can interpret someone’s neutral, chill face as angry or dangerous when we feel generally unsafe.

Can’t Dwell in That House Forever

Even though our fight/flight is essential to our survival, we can’t be in that state forever.
Living in a constant fight/flight state can lead to negative health effects, including:
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Memory issues
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chronic muscle aches
  • Decreased immune system function
Learning your own nervous system and learning how to communicate with and connect with your body is  important for your whole health and wellness.

Not Always Fighting or Flighting

When our sympathetic nervous systems are not reacting to signs of danger or triggers, they support healthy breathing and heart rhythms as well as manage our body temperatures. I’ll cover this more later, but the SNS is part of what gets us ready for activities we enjoy like play, dancing, sex, sports, etc.
I really want to highlight that there’s no bad part of your nervous system or your brain in generally. Specifically, your sympathetic nervous system is not bad, evil, or working against you. Yes, your fight/flight response can be very uncomfortable. And also your body is just trying to do its best to get you moving to safety.
Taking the time to learn your body can help you catch the signs earlier before your body really starts sounding alarms, help you make decisions with a clearer mind, and help you know what to do to regulate your emotions.
Thanks for reading! The next post will go deeper into our parasympathetic nervous system – specifically our dorsal vagus’s shutdown response.
If this piece was helpful to you or you learned something new, please feel free to donate to my free private practice MHC4OC  where I am currently raising money to expand my caseload and provide more free somatic psychotherapy to more Black people!

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