Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fight or Flight ?

We battle with problems every day... sometimes, we choose to ignore them... at other times, we fight... For humans, the ANS "autonomic (also called involuntary) nervous system" acts as our control system... affecting our heart rate, respiratory rate, digestion, salivation, perspiration, even our sexual arousal... blah blah... basically the ANS controls a big part of us... the ANS also controls the physiological reaction that occurs in us as a response to a perceived attack... this reaction is commonly known as the fight-or-flight syndrome! but how does the ANS control our fight or flight behavior i wonder? isn't it a personal tendency to either always choose fight or always choose flight? isn't that the reason why some people are brave & some cowards? But what decides if fight is brave or stupid??? & what decides if flight is coward or smart???

So here's a story about a world famous spider... it's bloody world renowned... so you may have heard it before... actually, read it... it was in the CBSE curriculum...

According to the legend, in the early days of Robert the Bruce's reign, he was defeated by the English & driven into exile... he took refuge in a cave on Rathlin Island, where he observed a spider spinning a web... time & again, the spider would fall... slowly climb up & try again! Inspired by this, Bruce returned to inflict defeat on the English at the battle of Bannockburn... This very famous story illustrates the maxim, if at first you don't succeed, try... try... try again!!!

we humans, are generally programmed to take inspiration & fight, even though our initial reaction is to take flight!

So here is another little story... About ummmm; "frogs"... well, its pretty known too... so you may have heard this one before as well...

Once upon a time... a frog was placed in boiling water... it jumped out immediately... another frog was placed in cold water... this water was gradually heated... frogs are ecotherms... i.e. they can control their temperature with their bodies... hence, this frog regulated its body temperature till it could sustain the heat no more... then, it decided to chuck it & jump out... what it did not realize is, it had used up most of its energy in trying to adjust & regulate its temperature & hence, got boiled alive/cooked to death!

This anecdote is often used as a metaphor to describe human tendencies... we "humans", react when we see danger right in front of us... sometimes, we see it loud & clear... mostly, we know its lurking, but as we do not know the depth of it, we test our perseverance... & when we find out how close it is, we are not sure if it was worth that fight!!! Sooooooo, we come back to square one, FIGHT or FLIGHT?


  1. Can you imagine if humans were like that spider? Goodness, we would all be living a 100 years, inhabiting Jupiter and Saturn, and I would have got 100 in all my subjects in my 12th boards. Maybe in my 14th attempt, but still!

    I am almost glad that the reality is that we are very likely to keep failing despite repeated efforts. That keeps the flight vs fight argument quite relevant.

  2. being a spider... creepy!!!

    you're glad that we are wired to fail despite repeated efforts... takes me off the fight or flight concept that I had been pondering over & takes me to a broader perspective of optimism vs pessimism!!! :O

  3. No, no, I didn't imply that we were wired to fail all the time. I meant that sometimes repeated attempts are unlikely to lead to a different outcome. It's got nothing to do with optimism or pessimism. It's just facing reality and moving on.

  4. sooooo... you're in favor of the schrodinger's cat uncertainty principle surrounding the fight or flight concept???

  5. Fight or flight... if one chooses flight, it will be for some other fight... or will it be flight again? Whatever you choose, you get to choose again and again... and again...

    Arvind Passey

  6. i guess... as long as we get to make the choice... as long as we get to call "the choice" ours... we have nobody else to blame irrespective of whether we chose fight or flight!!! :)