• Ariana Friedlander

To be or not to be like a bunny

The other week my cat alerted me that two baby bunnies had fallen into the window well. They were huddled together while she meowed loudly and scratched at the window trying to follow her instincts.

Meanwhile, I went to rescue them. Donning a pair of gardening gloves, I cautiously climbed down into the window well. The bunnies remained motionless, so I scooped up the first one. Afterward, the second baby bunny proceeded to hop around the small, cramped window well trying to escape. Clearly frightened for its life, the bunny was trying to run. Of course, it couldn't make its way out. I kept spinning around the window well, worried I was going to step on this poor, scared rabbit that was scurrying underfoot.

After a minute I started to feel flustered and proclaimed, "what are you doing? I'm trying to save you!"

The baby bunny didn't know the difference. Upon the "capturing" of its sibling, it shifted into a new patterned threat response, flight.

I persisted and eventually caught the second baby bunny, lifting it out of danger. As I climbed out of the window well, my heart racing, I couldn't help but laugh at the parallels between this baby bunny's reaction and humans.

I wondered, how frequently do we enter and follow a patterned threat response to our own detriment?

I vividly recall this disconnect on display last year when the pandemic struck in the US. People were fighting for the remaining packages of toilet paper as stores sold out. Last I checked, TP won't save your life. And yet, that didn't stop people from reacting with do-or-die gusto. The power of a fear reaction triggered at scale like that was quite visible and startling to witness.

Bearing witness to this sudden change in behavior made the invisible visible. It turns out, we aren't that different from bunnies after all. We experience a stimulus that triggers a patterned threat response of fight, flight, freeze or appease.

But we are different from bunnies - because we can bring our awareness, our consciousness to the present moment. In bearing witness to our reactions we can choose to course correct.

Viktor Frankl, a famous psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor turned his own suffering into an examination of free will. He once observed, "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space lies our power to chose. And in that choice lies our growth and freedom."

I find the visual of the bunny trying to flee to its own detriment helpful to recall in that space between stimulus and response. It adds a bit of levity as I ask myself, do I want to be like that bunny or would I rather exercise my free will?

The answer is obvious to me. What about you?


Practice bringing your awareness to the present moment through journaling. Join us for the next Journal Jam, more information and registration is available online here.

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