Sunday, October 10, 2010

Freeze , Flight or Fight

The Freeze , Flight or Fight response to any threat we experience is a result of our limbic brain hijacking our whole brain to analyze and eliminate a threat ( or escape from it ). We are all familiar with the common phrase " Fight or Flight " . Well that is only 2/3rd of the real response   and half assed backwards.

The FFF response is an evolutionarily imbibed response in us and it is so successful that our brains have kept it. If this response was backwards like when we say " Fight or Flight " , all of us will be battered and cut and injuring ourselves all the time. Thats why it is "Freeze , Flight or Fight" . Learning about these responses and how we have adopted and changed it to suit the modern world will be worth a lot. This information is regularly used by FBI and other security agency agents to detect deceit and solve crimes.

The Freeze response

When our ancestors used to travel in the tall savannas in Africa which were filled with predators looking for prey, they developed a way to save themselves from these predators. They found out that these predators are attracted to motion , so if they stood still without any movement , the predator cannot detect them an they would survive . This is the freeze mechanism that first comes to us when we are threatened. This response has been so effective that our limbic brain learnt it and automatically makes us respond to any threat like this.

Do you remember the last time you forgot something in your house and you had to come back to get it? I bet when you first got the thought you forgot to take that thing , you stopped (if you were walking) or forgot about the road and drove. See this response is very fast and just lasts 2-3 seconds. Those invaluable seconds gives your brain time to analyze the  problem (threat) an react properly.

This freeze response is frequently looked in lie detection . You can use it too. If you think a person is lying , ask him about where was he or what was he doing at that time? If he takes 2-3 seconds and answers , his freeze response has kicked in. You might want to ask yourself what made him take that time to think about where he was? There is a real chance that he is lying, but you cannot detect it just by this signal. You need to learn more.

The Flight Response

Now back to the savanna ancestors. The freeze response worked very well if the threat was far. But if the threat was too near to avoid detection , then they had no choice rather than to run. Thus the Flight response.

The phrase "Run for your life" says it all.We have evolved over millions of years and our responses too. Now if we feel threatened in a social situation , our limbic brain kicks in our flight response ,but we seldom run. We have changed our responses to suit the present social situations.

Instead if now we feel threatened or disagree with a person and really want to get out of there , you can find yourself doing some of these

  1. Leaning away from the person you are talking to, a serious sign of disagreement
  2. Pointing your feet or one feet to the nearest exit in a bid to get out of there as soon as you can 

If running in a social situation can make you being called a jerk ,these responses are much less subtle and can be noticed only if you make a concerned effort. So next time lookout for these signs for you may know when to stop talking.

The Fight Response

If the Freezing and Fleeing (running) didn't work out for our ancestors, then the last resort . And thus the birth of our Fight Response. We fight only and only if we have no other resort. Its is a survival mechanism.

Fighting is considered wrong and in many cases illegal. I mean physical fighting. But we still fight on a regular basis. As we evolved , so too our fights. We now argue and file lawsuits and fight in a more civilized manner but still the old brawling is there. It is our survival mechanism and we cannot live without it.

But as I said earlier , with evolution our fights also changed. Now we don't fight directly, but show our aggression in other ways . We take up defensive stances , argue , flare noses to show our aggression.

You can regularly see bouncers and muggers with this body language. There is nothing friendly there . You know they are ready to fight if need be . Some things you may want to look out for while checking if the other person has silently decided to fight with you are.

  1. The arms around the chest like shown in the picture. 
  2. If the fists in that free or not clenched, then the other person is frustrated but still is defensive to you.
  3. If the fists are clenched , he has turned from frustrated to hostile and is really up for a fight.
  4. If with the fists clenched vocal arguments also come up and he takes a dominating stance with legs splayed and both legs planted on the feet , you better run or fight.

More in the next post.

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