Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Hock on Fright, Fight, Freeze, Flee and...Free Flow!

In Hock Hochheim's blog posts from the end of February through the present, he elucidates on the subject of our physiological and psychological responses to a surprise attack, "fight or flight," as it has been called for many years. Having done little independent research of my own on this subject, I read his blog posts on it with great interest. He breaks the "fight or flight" into it's many parts, and links them through exposition and example to how we react, and why some react differently than others.

With some competitive experience in boxing, kickboxing, full-contact, and point sparring, I know what can happen when I am placed in a situation I know will be stressful-someone who will try to take my head off! I also know what it's like to be in an unplanned, involuntary situation, as in a mugging, unplanned attack, and about three car accidents. They are different.

I have often said that one of the main benefits of contact training (as opposed to "touch" karate sparring), is that you get used to 1) being hit, 2) things coming at your from all angles, then 3) fighting back and responding to the pressure in a trained and logical manner. No "freezing" involved. What the research Hock highlights shows is that you need to subject yourself to as much simulation as you can, then you will respond in a manner conducive to your survival. Hock highlights that there we react by freezing, instead of fighting or fleeing, and attempts to explain why.

If you're not already checking Hock's blog regularly, I recommend you do so. He mixes useful information, his thoughts on miscellaneous issues, and anecdotes from his civilian and military experience in law enforcement.

Militaries of the world, since early wars with spears, swords and stones have grappled with issues of bravery and fear on the battlefield, but the whole fight or flight catch-phrase seemed to seriously begin amongst psychology experts in the early 20th century...

... Freeze has been added to F list since then. There a few main reasons why people freeze in place. This freeze in duress may well have nothing to do with bravery or cowardice, jolts of adrenaline, or response choice selection between tactics, the common assumptions by layman. Freezing may instead result from other natural bodily responses. The overall list looks like:
> Hyper-vigilance (several sub-definetions and applications)
> Overwhelmed by surrounding stimuli, be it strange or even similar be it in excess, be it dangerous or not! Just overwhelmed.
> Unable to select a select a option from options. (you might say the Hicks Law common moniker, as it has come to be known.)
> Sheer, debilitating shock/fear!

... The deer in the headlights! The man realizes he is standing before a speedy bus. The brain says..."Man! No chance here! I know how fast you are. I've seen you move! You know you can't move fast enough!" This process has nothing to do with bravery or fear, or trying to select a direction to escape the bus path.

Your solution to this HV? Some will never solve and Darwin's theory wins again! But experts suggest exercise. Develop speed. Run. Dash. Convince the inner workings of your brain that you are fast enough to dodge the bus. Of course, nothing would be better than the exact and repetitive act of actually dodging buses, but this general conditioning of running and exercise is more achievable for most of us than attending weekly bus-dodging classes. Understanding this manifests in this scenario...

The bus is coming! In the street is an overweight, out-of-shape person. Beside him an athletic track runner, a hundred-yard dasher. Who, in theory, are you betting on to escape? If you picked the track runner, you recognized his fast twitch muscles, sure! But you were also instinctively betting on your natural and inert understanding of Hyper-Vigilance, whether you realized it or not!

There is much more. Check it out!

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