The foundational function of all Living Things is to persist or stated another way, to BE. There is a special case of Being in which the organism perceives some form of threat, and then responds protectively. This special case co-evolved along with other attributes of creatures and has a unique representation for every Evolutionary Paradigm and Archetype. It also has unique representations in each of our Physiological Cores, examples are our Immune System and Claws. These expressions of protective response, in the context of our evolutionary lineage, are examined in this section on Protection.
The natural or default state of being for Living Things is calm. Calm is a present moment, peaceful experience of being a Living Thing, within which the processes of Life cycle unperturbed. Protective responses for Living Things that live purely in the present moment are an immediate reaction to a perceived threat – if a perception fits the pattern of a recognized threat a specific protective reaction is triggered, otherwise a state of calm is maintained, facilitating the processes required of Life to proceed uninhibited. More complex means and methods of protection co-evolved as Living Things acquired more specialized ways for interacting with their surroundings. Ideally, in the absence of perceived threat protective responses are retained and reserved for their future potential benefit but deactivated. A House Cat is a good example of an animal that lives in a state of rest and regeneration, but when threatened can dynamically protect itself. For social animals such as ourselves, a state of calm is a prerequisite for the experience of safety and the intense social connection feelings extending from that safe space which we describe as Bonding and Love. /This “Safe Space” additionally supported the evolution of our complex Mammalian neurophysiology and extended developmental cycle.
A protective response requires some form of sensory trigger. In our deep past, this was restricted to boundary sensing where some form of vibrational or pressure sensing or change in the surrounding chemistry triggered a protective reaction. Animals acquired more complex protective responses enabling them to actively do something based on a perceived threat, initially based on visual cues and eventually more complex auditory cues. They also developed predictive use of time enabling them to anticipate potential threats. Paying attention to, or vigilance for the presence of these cues is a crucial attribute of effective protective responses.
In our species, the ability to predict threats has become challenging to regulate and we experience this as anxiety. Anxiety can be described as a state where the trigger for protective reactions is set so low, or the environmental stimuli so high, that protection is always active. We then manage our daily experience through active protective responses, a seemingly accurate description of how most of us live. One perspective for this state describes this as Hypervigilance, where vigilance for potential threats dominates our attention. Experiencing a traumatic life event will lower the level for triggering protective responses, and the stressors built into our “civilized” surroundings elevate the environmental stimuli above the trigger threshold for many people. Vigilance for potential threats is embedded in our neurological core, playing a crucial role in our species survival. However, when the trigger threshold is set too low we experience hypervigilance/anxiety and live alongside fear.
If we are chronically triggered into a protective response we can adjust it by “disabling” the trigger. This can be done neurologically (a state described as hypo-vigilance), pharmacologically using alcohol or drugs, in risk-prone behaviors or in other innovative ways. Neurological hypo-activation manifests as neuro-depressed states such as lethargy, fatigue, and depression, and also in attention issues such as Attention Deficit Disorder.
Protection is established on sensory information. When something perceived meets the parameters of a known threat, the most advanced protective response is triggered. If this response appears inadequate, a more “primitive” protective reaction is triggered. This continues down the hierarchy of protective responses until the point at which the most primitive response is triggered – freeze or contraction of the core.
When protection is triggered cognition is dominated by the sensory “feed” – our experience is what comes to us through our senses. When our protection is not triggered and we are calmly in a state of “Being” our awareness can expand to include a sense of the “field” within which our senses isolate discrete attributes of the surroundings.
Attributes of protective responses are discussed in the sections on Means and Methods, Adaptive Capacity, and Trauma.
MEANS AND METHODS
Protective responses form an evolutionary continuum beginning with the simplest forms of freeze/contraction and terminating at our current ability to wage war. This section of papers dissects our ability to sense and respond to perceived threats by the degree of complexity of the ability, and depth of its emergence in the past.
MEANS AND METHODS
Based on our remembered experience we have an idea of the limitations of our ability to respond to what we perceive is occurring in our surroundings. This idea is used to evaluate whether we should respond proactively for our benefit, or with a protective reaction if what we perceive is assessed as dangerous. If a perceived threat is assessed as beyond our ability to meet the demand (our response-ability) we experience distress.
A discussion of whether what we perceive is experienced as a challenge, or are distressed by it, is covered in the paper on Adaptive Capacity, which relates to both our perceived and actual capacity to adapt to changes in our surroundings.
Archetypal descriptions of the actions of Living Things which utilize the mechanisms of Protection:
Dimensional Descriptions of the evolutionary progression of Living Things:
Descriptions of the structural forms of our evolutionary progression:
THE FOUR CORES