I return to this quote often, especially with my counseling and coaching work. Abraham Maslow was the psychologist who created the theory of psychological health known as the Hierarchy of Needs I’ve talked in the past about survival mode and how primitive brain makes it impossible to think critically. Survival brain is what we refer to as “Fight, Flight, or Freeze”, and the Maslow quote creates a perfect illustration for this. When we go into survival mode, we tend to become either a hammer (‘fight’) or nail (‘freeze’), or someone else going into those modes might trigger us into ‘flight’.
Much of the hammer and nail metaphor is out of our control because of the nature of survival mode, so learning how to pull ourselves back into rational and critical thinking can be a powerful tool. We don’t want to be known as either the hammer or the nail when it comes to relationships. So many of us don’t even recognize the triggers that put us on the offensive or defensive and we fall down a sinkhole of self preservation and ego.
If you start to feel the familiar signs of being triggered into survival brain, pull yourself back by asking questions that only your senses can answer: What is something you can see, hear, touch, or taste right now? Describe it.
When you’ve answer those questions, ask yourself: What do I need to be ok right now?
Only when you have pulled yourself back from the triggering event (or person) can you safely look deeper to find what caused you to feel threatened. And that’s the first step toward a life without being a hammer or a nail.
Never forget that I love you, and that excludes no one.