Flight or Flight Response

I’ve never been one to shy away from telling anyone what I think.  Between my smart mouth, brace face and Coke bottle spectacles as a kid, I sometimes wonder how I made it through my whole childhood and into my adult life without getting beat up.  Actually, someone did shove me into a wall in the 7th grade (which I’m sure was unprovoked…well, pretty sure) but I believe he’s now incarcerated (for the record, I didn’t have anything to do with that) so suffice to say he’s getting his.  

But I’ve found as an adult that nerds with smart mouths don’t get very far personally or professionally – unless they aspire to be comedians, and unfortunately the humor gene skipped me in our family – so I’ve made a concentrated effort to curb my commentary (for the most part).  And I’ve also found that where once I wouldn’t have shied away from potentially awkward situations (because everything’s infinitely less awkward when you have a cheeky facade to hide behind), I now am much more hesitant to put myself in scenarios that I perceive to be stressful or frustrating.  It’s the phenomenon of the fight or flight response:  “When we experience excessive stress—whether from internal worry or external circumstance—a bodily reaction is triggered, called the ‘fight or flight’ response. Originally discovered by the great Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon, this response is hard-wired into our brains and represents a genetic wisdom designed to protect us from bodily harm.” According to the great Dr. Neil F. Neimark (the first Google response for keyword search “fight or flight response” and thus the most credible), this is “…our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to ‘fight’ or ‘flee’ from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.”

Well, in my case it’s more like the “flight or flight” response, as these days my inborn response to perceived stress or attack is simply to run away.

Observe, a list of daily situations, individuals and tasks I make every attempt to flee at all costs:

Frenchie, the homeless Real Change guy who stands outside my local RiteAid.
Stressor:  Parading bags of useless stuff I bought on credit in front of a homeless guy.
Flight response:  Stalk him from my apartment (I can see the RiteAid from my window) and wait ’til he steps away for a minute – then throw on a hat, run across the street, dash through the store grabbing things madly and walk out really fast, hoping he doesn’t see me or engage me in conversation.

Making decisions about getting together with people when I really don’t feel like it.
Stressor:  Having to tell the truth.
Flight response:  Avoid calls and don’t tell the truth (ie, “I feel sick”, “I have a big day tomorrow”, “I’m going to work out” – ha!).  I think it’s really the most mature way to manage the situation.  No one’s interested in the truth.

Stressor:  Deadlines.  I hate them.
Flight response:  Do…nothing.  And then race around trying to get everything done at the last minute and hope it all comes together.  I’ve been doing this for years and years now – I highly recommend it.  Better if your job depends it.  Fear’s a great motivator.

Putting away clean dishes.
Stressor:  There’s really no great stressor here – it’s just that putting away clean dishes is a hateful task.
Flight response:  Leave all the dishes where they belong – in the dishwasher – and use accordingly until they are all dirty again.  Dishwashers make an excellent storage unit.

Taking the bus.
Stressor:  Ending up in Beacon Hill – or worse yet, Burien – late at night.  By myself.  Probably when my cell phone battery’s almost dead and also I have no change to get home.
Flight response:  Walk everywhere, looking like a country bumpkin suburbanite in my suit pants and sneakers (as if I’m walking, I’m not going to be wearing high heels).  Get lost anyway.

Dr. Neimark says that the flight response is counterproductive, but I tend to disagree.  I get all sorts of things done by running away, as evidenced by the above.  Perhaps not as quickly or efficiently as everyone else, but I seem to manage.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I must go do exactly nothing about my project that’s due tomorrow, as I’m quite sure I’ll have plenty of time in the morning to get it done.


3 responses to “Flight or Flight Response

  1. The stress of putting away clean dishes. Hmmm, that explains a few things…I'm SURE Frenchie doesn't feel that way about the stuff you're buying on credit at RiteAid. But now I can completely visualize you darting out of your complex, hiding around corners, spending more time (and money) in the store while you're waiting for him to take another break.Of course you're "flight" syndrome is exacerbated by your gene pool. I'm the Queen of Procrastination and work famously under the pressure of a deadline!

  2. this is hilarious. love you. hilarious.

  3. I am TOTALLY like that with deadlines. Unless it is something I really enjoy doing. In that case I will only wait till the day before instead of the morning of. haha

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