Flight or Flight

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Your body is preparing you to act.





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The stress reaction is innate and automatic.

"Why is all of this taking place?"

The basic reason is to enable you to engage in one of two basic responses. Your body has prepared you for "fight" or "flight." Your body is prepared to help you fight and resist the threat if needed or to run away quick as you can if it is appropriate. Whichever course of action you choose, your body is ready to respond.

Suppose that you are out on a picnic with your family and decide to go off on a hike by yourself. As you come around a bend in the trail you suddenly see a large snake that is coiled and prepared to strike. You will probably recognize this as a threat and your body will go into a stress reaction. You feel your muscles tense as your heart rate and breathing increase. You body is preparing you to act by either fighting or running away. You body is ready to act, but you have to choose what to do. If the snake is still some considerable distance away, then flight is the best choice, and you turn and run away as fast as you can. If the snake is right at your feet then fight may be the only choice as your pick up a stick and try to kill the snake.

When that car pulls out in front of you, your body goes into a stress reaction, and you have to decide how to act. You might have the fleeting fantasy that if you were driving an armored vehicle, like a tank, it would feel good to keep driving and knock this fool off the road for being so stupid. However, since you probably will not be in a tank, you realize that flight is the best choice, and you quickly turn the wheel and put on the brakes to avoid an accident.

Let’s imagine that you successfully avoid the car accident and continue to drive down the road. What do you think that your body will be doing 15 minutes later? What should be happening? Through the fight or flight response you were able to discharge all of the physiological build-up and either escape or control the situation. Everything should be getting back to normal. Now your muscles are relaxing, heart rate and blood pressure are coming down, respiration is becoming regular and deeper, and the belly is not as tense as the blood supply returns to it. Your emotional state is changing as well as you move from anger and fear to a more calm and peaceful state.

The stress reaction has served its purpose and enabled you to appropriately confront a threat and resolve the situation. This innate stress reaction is automatic and immediate and designed to help you survive in dangerous situations. It was very useful for cavemen and women as they confronted the dangerous animals that that lived along beside them in the forest. However, the stress reaction no longer serves the same purpose.


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