Fight-or-flight response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.
It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon. His theory states that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, preparing the animal for fighting or fleeing.
Damian Ross wrote:
The following is a recent email I received; I thought I should respond to the list rather than to the individual because this situation is common:
“I’m a 52 year old guy who has been pretty active lifting weights for about 20 years but about a year ago I found myself in a situation where a guy suckered me and I friggin was so intimidated that I walked away with my tail between my legs. Thankfully the only damage was to my ego cause I totally wimped out in front of my buddies who were there… but more importantly I realized that I was totally unprepared to defend either myself or my family should the occasion arise. Hey…even guys my age can realize they missed out on being prepared. So anyway I appreciate your newsletters and your videos. I’m learning a lot from them… just wish your place was closer so I could spar… the biggest thing holding me back is the fear is that I could permanently damage or kill somebody with a blow because I’m pretty strong… this fear holds me back a lot…. it’s hard for me to say “him or me”… if you know what I mean. Also training on a heavy bag has shown me how poorly conditioned I am cause I get tired really fast… just in a couple of months though I’ve seen an increase in stamina from the training.”
Carl has boiled down the reason you decide to fight to the simple Cost-Benefit model. Call it risk-reward, profit and loss – it’s all the same. Nations, armies, corporations and even you operate on this fundamental truth. If you risk X (physical or financial assets) will Y (an out come in our favor) be worth more than X. Will the net result of X – Y be positive? No matter who you are, before you decide on fight or flight, you do your own risk analysis assessment. You ask yourself one question- is it worth it. Will I get my butt-kicked or will I kick his ass? Is it worth fighting over a parking space or not? Every one has their breaking point, the proverbial line in the sand. If you are a person with a lot at risk like, friends, family, ego, reputation and even career and material things; you will be more reluctant to fight if the stakes are low. Especially as you get older, you naturally acquire more attachments and responsibility as well as feeling your own mortality. As a result you will be reluctant to put those things at risk.
Furthermore, if your enemy looks like a tough customer, you may just not want to suffer a beating over something petty.
It stands to reason that someone with less to lose will be more apt to engage because he has less to risk. The less thought given to the repercussions of your action, the more likely you are to act. When you were a kid, you didn’t do something because of the punishment. When you stopped fearing the punishment, you did what you wanted with out regret.
Let’s take a typical bar room scenario. Two guys bump elbows, they start to have words. Man A is in 45 years old, job, wife and child. Man B is 22, a few part time jobs and a girl friend. Both men are equally matched for size and strength. All other things being equal, it would be safe to assume that man A would be more reluctant to fight over some spilt beer. Is man A any less competent or “less of a man” than man B? Before you answer, let’s change the scenario.
Man A is sitting at home with his wife and child in bed, he hears a noise and finds man B breaking into his house, now what- it’s my guess that man A is going to be one hell of a tough customer. Now man A is fighting for what he lives for and man B is just trying to make a score. Since man A’s core values are at stake, the cost is too high and he will be more inclined to put some foot to butt.
So what about the guy with nothing to loose, the career criminal that could give a damn about you and is just takes what he wants. Or the person who has lost everything he cares about. This person is very quick to go to work and because he doesn’t second guess or hesitate, he has a distinct advantage and is an extremely dangerous person.
So where does this put the average, law abiding citizen. The advantage you have is sustainability; especially with a predator. The career skel doesn’t want a prolonged encounter. Just by his nature, he’s doesn’t want a prolonged conflict. The longer he is exposed; the greater the chance of getting caught or injured. The longer or more difficult it becomes, the more resistance he encounters the less likely he will be able to finish the job. The longer you survive, the greater your chances. Even the most skilled predators will cut their losses after an extended period of time. Note hear, that its been our experience that even the most hardened criminals will avoid a confrontation if they think they are going to be disfigured or damaged. So what does the average citizen have over the criminal element? Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire, an historical fiction about the Spartan’s stand at Thermopylae, if you haven’t read it, do it as soon as possible. Pressfield asks the question, “What is the opposite of fear?” The initial response is bravery. But that just describe the result or action- what motivates bravery? The answer is “Love“. Love of family, love of country, even love of one’s self is the opposite of fear. The point is, the things that tie you or obligate you are the very things that will motivate you.. Once you get a handle on what matters most to you, walking away from a useless confrontation is no big deal. But if you get backed in a corner and this guy is the difference between going home or never tucking your daughter into bed again, he better be ready for the fight of his life, because hell is coming to breakfast.