“Whether it is a harmless spider web or a truly fearful event in our lives, having a better understanding of our natural responses can help us better face the situation and minimize its impact on us and our children.”

At some point in our lives, most of us have walked into or through a spider’s web. The overwhelming majority of the time there is no spider but that does not matter. At that moment people do one of three things. Some will start jumping around trying to get the web off them, slapping around at their body, trying to kill the possible spider and or get it off them (fight).  Some start running away as fast as they can hoping this means the spider cannot get to them (flight). And finally some will freeze and not move and yell at the person with them to check if there is a spider on them, not moving until the all clear signal has been given (freeze).

How we respond to the spider web fits into a natural response to immediate danger. This is called the fight, flight, or freeze response and it is natural when we sense immediate danger. The response is short lived until the danger subsides. Our body acts dramatically in this moment with numerous physical responses to help us survive the immediate danger (increased heart rate, muscle tension, etc.).

In today’s world we are rarely in immediate danger that is life threatening and needs the fight, flight, or freeze response. That said, we still often respond similarly to any fearful or anxiety heightened situation. For example we might yell at someone who is creating the fearful situation (fight), avoid someone because of fear (flight), or even go blank if put in difficult spot by someone (freeze). The responses we naturally have when there is immediate danger can be there when we are just dealing with fear and anxiety on a daily basis. The problem is that many of these fearful situations are not over in just a few seconds and the physical responses our body experiences linger and can create negative physical consequences (high blood pressure, ulcers, etc.).

The first thing that helps us eliminate the negative physical responses to fear and anxiety is to simply understand the fight, flight, and freeze response. If we better understand it, and can see it when it is happening, we can lessen the negative physical responses that can be detrimental to our health.

With our children it is helpful for us to see and acknowledge their responses of fight, flight, and freeze to the fearful situations they are facing. If we see the responses for what they are, we can begin to help them work through their fears, and in many cases, help them face those fearful situations.

Whether it is a harmless spider web or a truly fearful event in our lives, having a better understanding of our natural responses can help us better face the situation and minimize its impact on us and our children.

If you are wondering, when I walk through a spider’s web, I have a fight response. It is a rather dramatic response and some of the best cardiovascular workouts I’ve ever had!

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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