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Fight & Fight (Day 115)

We're wrapping-up a few weeks of looking closely at our emotional reactivity. Today we take a look at a very familiar way of talking about it: fight & flight. In humans, 'fight' might look like aggression, and 'flight' like anxiety, for example.

This is your natural stress response. It's a good and useful thing, in its intended environment (namely, a pre-monkey/thinking world!). A typical example is a grazing zebra. If the zebra sees a lion closing-in for the kill, the stress response is activated as a means to escape its predator. The escape requires intense muscular effort, supported by all of the body's systems. The sympathetic nervous system’s activation provides for these needs. The lion, to have any hope of catching the zebra, has its own similar stress response.

Big reactivity by itself is not a problem. But when it becomes chronic, it becomes a huge problem. Somewhat ironically, it's our ability to think (of things that are not actually happening...but could happen!) that keeps us in a state of constant stress.

If you are able to be aware and accepting of (the physical feeling of) this reactive energy, then over time it will naturally subside, and your mind will come back into balance. But if/when you don't self-regulate it down, it will start to grow and settle-in as a permanent fixture. Then life will keep layering over it, and it'll sit there, causing problems, until eventually you come back and deal with it!


Keep observing yourself (and others) react. Notice when it falls into either a fight or flight response, and what that feels like in your body.


We have an evolutionary predisposition to anxiety.

In July 1992, Behavioral Ecology published experimental research conducted by biologist Lee A. Dugatkin where guppies were sorted into "bold", "ordinary", and "timid" groups based upon their reactions when confronted by a smallmouth bass (i.e. inspecting the predator, hiding, or swimming away) after which the guppies were left in a tank with the bass. After 60 hours, 40 percent of the timid guppies and 15 percent of the ordinary guppies survived, while none of the bold guppies did. [Ed: the more reactive guppies lived!]

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