Your Brain is Lying to You

by Jan 23, 2020

The Flight Response

You are fearfully and wonderfully created. God made you to be sensitive to your environment so you can quickly respond to danger. The flight response is a healthy form of temporary survival where your reptilian brain takes over to keep you safe from imminent danger. 

When you encounter the proverbial saber-toothed Tiger, your body switches into the fight, flight, freeze response. Your hypothalamus triggers an alarm causing a flood of adrenaline, cortisol, and other chemicals to pump through your body, which is an automatic physiological reaction preparing you for danger.

Asa result of adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s), you can easily be triggered when there is no danger, which creates a tendency to flee from whatever feels uncomfortable.

When hurtful things occur today, unresolved issues from the past, create open doors giving the enemy authority to deceive you. As feelings of fear or anger flood your mind, your thoughts spin out of control and allow your feelings to dictate your reality.

There is good news! Your brain is plastic – it is able to change. In Christ, you can take authority over your brain. Bringing your thoughts under the authority of the Heavenly Father creates a path to freedom from fear and reactivity.  

What Can We Learn From David?

David was a shepherd who when confronted by danger, responded with decisiveness and though still a youth, killed a lion and a bear. How was that possible? Because his thought life centered on God, he was able to think with clarity. 

One day he arrived at the Israelite camp as Goliath the Philistine slandered the LORD God. David chose to take authority over his angry thoughts. Courageously, he engaged the giant in battle and defeated him.

But then things changed. Out of the blue, he was confronted by a different kind of danger. David was peacefully strumming his harp, when King Saul tried to spear him to a wall. Adrenaline shot through his body as he jumped to his feet, but because he honored Saul as God’s anointed, David fled. And flight was a wise decision. 

When Flight Becomes Dangerous

The limbic system takes authority with the flight response to save you from imminent danger. But, this is to be a temporary solution.

However, with repeated trauma, flight becomes habitual. Whether you flee to your imagination, to drugs or alcohol, to pornography, to sweets, to work, to worry or gossip, where you escape feels like a safe place. The reason is a physiological change occurs in your body as your brain signals you are safe, even though safety is an illusion.

Confusion results because your limbic system  believes flight protected you. But unresolved danger causes your thalamus to go on high alert, setting you up to be triggered.

Are you scratching your head with puzzlement? 

Escape provided an illusionary sense of safety which caused a release of dopamine. That satisfied the limbic system because it felt good. But it locked you into an automatic flight response where your reptilian brain basically switches off your thinking brain and rules over you. 

This is important. Thoughts determine action. Flight feels good but gives your brain permission to make you a slave. Your brain is an organ with no wisdom of its own. If your brain dominates you, it opens the door for the demonic to rule over you.

Flight Becomes Habitual

David fled from Saul numerous times. Moving into flight mode switched off his thinking brain. Once he fled to Nob. Needing weapons and food, he lied, telling Ahimelech the priest he was on urgent business for King Saul. 

Doeg, Saul’s servant, saw him. Thought David knew Doeg would tell Saul, operating out of his limbic brain, he did nothing. His failure resulted in the murder of Ahimelech and 84 other priests, as well as the rest of the citizens of Nob.

Continuous trauma, danger with no resolution leads to survival mode. Undealt with, fearful thoughts simmer, then suddenly erupt in angry outbursts. David got stuck into flight response. 

Finally, in a fit of anxiety, convinced he would die at Saul’s hands, David didn’t ask the Lord for guidance. He didn’t pause to think. Triggered, he fled to his enemy, the Philistines. Then surrounded by angry warriors, trying to survive, he shamed himself by pretending insanity. (1 Sa 21). 

So, What’s the Takeaway?

Fear of imminent danger creates an automatic physiological response in you. Flight feels good. It feels safe. It feels right. But habitual flight will set you up to expose yourself to danger. 

In the moment of danger, flight is appropriate. But it’s important to learn to switch off the flight response, so you can move out of reactivity and into the cortex, where cognitive thought occurs. If you don’t, your brain views flight as your savior. Only God can be your Saviour. 

God designed your reptilian brain to keep you safe; it is feelings oriented. But God gave you a spirit so you may communicate with Him. He designed your spirit to rule over your feelings and your body. If your emotions and feelings rule over your body and your spirit, you become prey to the enemy.  

You will face danger. What do you in that moment?

Do you tendend to flee when you encounter stress? If so, what do you do to feel comfortable? Turn on the T.V.? Go for a walk? Swim? Take a pill? Flip on social media? Run to one who hurts you? 

It’s important to know yourself.

Breaking a Habit Pattern is Hard

For years, because of adverse childhood experiences, my habit pattern was to escape into my imagination. The harder I tried to stop, the more addicted I became to escape. 

One day weeping before the Lord, He challenged me about my thought life.

“When you were a child, you thought and spoke as a child. That was appropriate then. But now you are an adult. It is time to learn a new way so you can put away the childish way of dealing with danger.” (Paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13:11).

I had to learn a new way – to take my thoughts captive to Jesus and run to Him for safety. That was hard!

The Antidote to Fear

If you fight your habit, it will grow stronger. Why? Because under stress, it dulls your pain so you feel safe and comfortable. Your brain automatically resists an all out attack, perceiving your addiction to be a friend who keeps you safe.

Don’t fight it.

Admit it was once useful. There’s no shame in hiding. But know your hiding place can’t save you.

Know who your enemy is, then choose a wise hiding place! 

Fear is your enemy. It drives you into flight response.

The antidote is love. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear has torment.” (1 John 4:18).

David learned the safest place to hide was in God’s love. Choosing other hiding places brings danger. Isaiah warns, “you have forgotten the God of your salvation, you have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold…” (Isa 17:1)

Dear Heart,

The enemy loves to deceive you so you walk in fear, triggered by non-existent dangers. 

Remember, your limbic system’s criteria for truth is what feels safe or comfortable. Your brain lies to you. If you allow it to determine truth, you will embrace lies and reject true truth. Why? Because flight feels comfortable and truth feels very uncomfortable. 

Being stuck in flight response impels you into addictive behavior that dishonors you and dishonors the God you love.

There is hope. You don’t have to be locked into the flight response. There is a way of escape. It’s true your automatic temptation is to flee to what numbs your heart and feels comfortable. But I know you are courageous. And in Christ, you can do all things!

Pause. Breathe. Be mindful of where you flee. Make the decision to flee to Christ, the Rock. Fill your mind with thoughts of Jesus, for He is Love.

Remember. Love and fear cannot coexist.

Love is the antidote to fear. When fear knocks at the door, ask Jesus to answer the door. He has overcome all fear.

Click to: learn more about fight mode

Click to: learn more about freeze mode

The enemy loves to deceive you so you walk in fear, triggered by non-existent dangers.

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