Zebras don’t get ulcers. That’s what Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky unintentionally discovered while researching primates in Kenya.
Dr. Sapolsky observed that when a zebra is chased down by lions, and manages to escape being the daily special, it will go off by itself and engage in a process of stomping, snorting and shaking before rejoining its herd. It literally discharges all of the threat response chemicals that had moments before been coursing through every fiber of it’s body while under attack. With it’s nervous system out of threat mode and back in relaxation mode, the zebra will rejoin the herd and exhibit no signs of remaining stress over the trauma it has just experienced, nor anxiety over potentially being attacked again in the future. Zebras don’t get stuck in their response to threat…even extreme life-endangering threat. But human beings, with our ability to create meaning and perception even out of nothing, often do.
“Primates are super smart and organized, just enough to devote their free time to being miserable to each other, and stressing each other out.”-Dr. Robert Sapolsky
Like the rest of the animal kingdom, your normal response to perceived threat will either be fight, flight or freeze. So consider the following ways your own fear can show up in the context of your everyday life:
If your M.O. is FLIGHT, you will seek to escape the present: turning down the promotion, avoiding risk, breaking commitments, shutting off communication or taking easy jobs or relationships. The survival strategy is avoid and get away, abdication.
If you usually FREEZE, you will be present but not participating: procrastinating, staying distracted, forming addictions or feeling stuck & helpless. The survival strategy is apathy and get through, resignation.
I often wonder what he would have contributed to this world had he made the choice to master his fear instead of allowing fear to master him.