Fight or Flight
In cavemen times, the only way we could protect ourselves from danger was to fight something, run away or stay very still. So if a sabre tooth tiger came at us, we would either use a weapon against it or run for our lives! This was our natural instinct that still stays with us today. The trouble is that we don’t have any sabre tooth tigers out to get us. In fact there are not many dangers. Instead our brain’s alarm system can set off when a real danger is not there. A bit like a faulty car alarm, it goes off for the slightest reason. We might hear something outside our bedroom window, see something at the corner of our eye or imagine the worst thing happening- What if i fail my exams? What if a teacher asks me a question? What if something bad happens to mum or dad? What if I make a fool of myself in front of my friends? Our brain does a brilliant job to protect us from danger because the sensations in our body feel really nasty and make us think that we might have a heart attack, stop breathing or faint from them. We try and stop the sensations from coming back by avoiding the thing that started them.
Take a look at Tom (above), he’s having a tough time right now and he feels afraid of the dark- who knows what could be lurking out there! Right now there are many things going on in his body to either help him run away, fight the threat or freeze. Lets explore what these things are and how they help him to fight, flee or freeze.
- Tom’s pupils go bigger so he can see the danger better and take in more information.
- He gets hot and sweaty and might blush because he is using up lots of energy to fight or run away.
- He has a dry mouth because he doesn’t need to produce saliva as he isn’t eating anything at this time. There’s no time for his dinner when he has to face a threat!
- His heart beats really fast to get the blood pumping round his body.
- He breathes fast and heavy to get the oxygen to his muscles so he can fight or run away quickly. This might make him feel light headed or faint.
- He might feel sick or have cramps This is because his stomach has stopped digesting his breakfast from this morning to save energy.
- He gets butterflies in his tummy. This is caused by an adrenalin rush from the top of his kidneys.
- He might need a wee or poo to help him be lighter, so he can get away faster. (I don’t think Tom would find that very useful, do you?)
- He gets shaky legs and arms because the adrenalin makes them feel this way.
- His hands and feet might feel cold. This is because the blood has rushed back to his body. If he gets his arm or leg injured, then he won’t bleed to death instantly.
Write down the sensations you have in your body. Do you have some that match up with Tom?