Fight or Flight?

We have all heard the old adage of “fight or flight” at one time or another. It is basically saying that when stuck in a stressful or potential harmful and dangerous situation, we are genetically hard wired to either run away from the situation or attack it head on in response to the fear. But the question is, why? Here I will take a look deeper into this “fight or flight” mentality that we all have in ourselves.

This response of either fight or flight is part of the autonomous nervous system, which is responsible for the unconscious processes of our bodies such as heart rate. Digestion, sexual arousal and more. Now, the idea and discussion surrounding the fight or flight response was first touched on by physiologist and professor, Walter Bradford Cannon in 1915. His theory originally stated that animals (and humans) react to these potential threats by discharging and releasing a number of different hormones from the sympathetic nervous system which incites them to either move forward (fight) or escape (flight). These physiological changes cause a number of things to happen in our bodies such as heart rate and blood pressure increases, and increase in our alertness as well as the tensing up of our bodies and muscles and many more.

(source: science.howstuffworks.com)

(source: science.howstuffworks.com)

So now we know how the reaction and response happens within us (and always has), the question is, why? And the answer is quite simple, without fear and the fight or flight response in effect, there would be so many more deaths and injuries throughout human history. Fear is a fantastic way to inherently deter us from things that could potentially harm us. Without fear or response like fight or flight, there would be nothing stopping people going up to that big Grizzly Bear in the woods or to jump off that mountain because it looks fun. Therefore, the purpose of the fight or flight response is to simply protect us from things that threaten our physical health and survival, as well as from our own curiosity. As for whether you exhibit the “fight” or “flight” mentality this will differ from a person to person and case to case basis, depending on what sort of potentially harmful situation you are faced with.