FIGHT OR FLIGHT

Instinct, the split second of innate behavioral response to particular events. Humans and animals have it alike. But what determines these instinctive choices which could ultimately decide your fate?

Since the dawn of time, mankind has consisted of hunters and gatherers. Humans have faced hardship and have always found themselves in stressful situations. Though the 21st century Homo sapiens are separated from the cavemen in terms of time, they aren’t much different in their biochemistry. The human body is a fascinating structure. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) regulates various variables in our bodies to maintain homeostasis, which is essentially keeping the body at a stable equilibrium for functioning. However when the human body is faced with a situation of high stress levels the SNS triggers the nervous systems fight or flight response. The body goes through specific changes to adapt to the situation rapidly all while maintaining homeostasis.

We encounter this fight or flight response in any situation where our survival is threatened, even animals have it. As cavemen we needed this response in encounters with predators but today these situations have drawn parallels with less physical encounters. Nevertheless here is a physical situation: A bully provokes you at school and he’s shoving you. Do you fight him? Or do you run away? In the split second where he shoves you, your SNS triggers a series of neuron reactions, which causes the increase in epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline. Our eyes begin to dilate, our heart starts to race, we start breathing rapidly, we start sweating and our muscles prepare themselves for contraction. All of these changed variables prepare us for either fighting the opponent or fleeing from them. All humans have this instinct, which can be traced back since ancient times, but what is the cumulated choice? Fight or Flight? Is one necessarily better than the other?

The truth is that it could be either. Depending on how you respond to things will determine the outcome of your decision. Additionally fight isn’t better than flight or visa versa as it depends in every situation. Sometimes it makes more sense to run away from a conflict because you might not be able to physically handle a confrontation and would be wiser to stay out of it. Fight can be a better decision in a different situation where you might be strong enough to confront the problem. But in that split second, who has the time to think? -Much like that “Gut Instinct” Chris talked about. Perhaps the final cumulated response is a triggered decision that has been passed on to each one of us from our ancestors. Maybe your ancestors were fighters; maybe mine were ones more likely to flee. Is it plausible that perhaps our brains have the capacity to make our own judgments in that split second? In any case we begin to see that our bodies are truly a phenomenal structure and we have only begun to unravel the secrets of genetics. In this sense we understand that even though we might seem remote from ancient eras we still share a strong connection of survival instincts, as do animals and thus this fight or flight response becomes a paramount aspect of being alive.

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