Why do we get a “ring me asap” text message from a friend or family member and instantly freak out..?
Why do we get so nervous when called into the boss’s office?
Why do we get so wound up when someone says something about us we don’t like?
The ability to predict and recognize danger is inbuilt within us. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s what’s allowed us to survive and thrive as a species.
Our brains are programmed to quickly react to dangerous situations and potential threats against survival. Scientists call this the Fight Or Flight Response.
This response mechanism is the same one that allows us to walk down the street looking straight into our phone and quickly dodge a tree branch, dog poo, or another person…
The primary mechanism in control of this response is called the Autonomic Nervous System; a control system that acts largely unconsciously. So Fight Or Flight is an automatic response that originates at the very chore of our reptilian brain: The Amygdala.
Through practice, and we’ve had millennia of it, we’ve gotten exceptionally good at this!
In today’s modern society, and especially in the developed world, threats rarely come in the shape of a mammoth or a wild and dangerous animal. Today’s threats come in the shape of other human beings and situations very different to the ones we faced thousands of years ago.
Today, if the threat is a knife pointed at you, it makes sense to take flight, unless you can fight… but if the threat is a phone call, a text message, an email, or words said face to face… sometimes your brain will still do its thing, because Fight Or Flight is such a heavily ingrained and automated mechanism, it happens as fast as the blink of an eye.
It’s gonna shoot out cortisol and adrenaline into our bloodstream like crazy!
It’s how quickly we recover that counts. Animals recover within seconds.
Humans are the only species that hold on to stress for hours, days, even months…
But we don’t have to, especially when there’s no need for it. In fact, experts tell us that inappropriate emotional reaction and regulation in the Fight Or Flight Response can make us prone to anxiety and aggression, and have rather serious health implications.
So basically, we can’t stop the threat response from happening, but we can and should learn to react differently.