Fight or Flight

We’re all familiar with the Fight or Flight response – the body’s automatic response to a perceived threat. It makes our heart beat faster, our respiration increase and blood is sent to our extremities to prepare for battle or escape.   But did you know that the part of the brain that controls this response, the amygdala, can’t distinguish between a real or imagined threat? The amygdala reacts to fear by activating the autonomic nervous system, but it reacts exactly the same way if a rabid dog is chasing you or if you imagine a rabid dog is chasing you. Now the fight or flight response exists within all animals, but humans are the only ones that can “create” it by thought alone.

Now if you saw a dog running up the street towards you and you had once been attacked by a rapid dog, then your amygdala going into high alert would be ok, but what if you were safely in your home thinking about how afraid you would be IF you were ever attacked by a dog. The body’s response is the same. So if your mind doesn’t know the difference between a thought of attack or an actual attack, we better be really careful about what we think!

What if you are obsessing about failure or rejection or worrying about getting on a plane next month? Yep, that darn amygdala is going to work! Now the fight or flight response has a very specific function – TO KEEP YOU ALIVE! All your energy, blood flow and focus are directed towards fighting or fleeing. So how much energy is left for creating or loving or being? You can’t slam on the brakes of your car to avoid hitting a cat and enjoy the scenery at the same time. Nor can you obsess about problems that have yet to materialize and enjoy the moment, any moment.

Gazelles don’t wander the plains hoping hyenas won’t attack them; if hyenas come then they respond. Imagine the time and energy that would be available to you if you waited for an actual emergency to strike instead of ruminating about what could happen or creating problems where none exist. Save Fight or Flight for when you really need it – in the meantime, enjoy, create, live and love.


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