The fight or flight response

4th October 2017. Reading Time: 6 minutes General. 3728 page views. 1 comments.

When put under stress or confronted with something that you fear, what is your natural reaction? Your body goes into what is known as 'fight or flight' mode.  What is it and why do we react this way?

Paranormal investigating can be fun, and it can in some ways be absolutely terrifying. When you are in the pitch dark and your mind plays tricks on you, the simplest thing could set you off. Maybe you see a spider or mouse, maybe you hear a loud noise when you are already on edge or maybe something you cannot explain happens and you just don't know how to act or what to think. In all of these instances, you don't have a lot of control over what happens next. Your body goes into what is known as 'fight or flight' mode. What is it, and why do we react this way?

What exactly is fight or flight mode

When your brain feels like you are in some sort of danger where it feels that you are at risk or harm or attack, it goes into what is called 'hyper arousal' or 'acute stress response'. It is otherwise known as 'fight or flight mode'. There are a lot of cool things your body does with a lot of big words and medical terms, but all you need to know is that the brain releases a bunch of different hormones that prepare your body to either run for your life or to stay and confront and fight the threat. It was first described in the 1920's by Walter Cannon who was an American physiologist. What is interesting with this is that it is triggered when the brain feels you are at threat. It may be a very real physical threat or it could be imaginary. We all have different fears and different tolerance levels which is why this mode is extremely personal. What may set one person off, may not bother another person at all. It all comes down to our wonderful little brains. Some people will stand and confront the fear ready to fight and your body has the adrenaline ready with extra energy and strength to help you do so. Others will instinctively run away, and again they have the extra energy and lots of oxygen to help them do that. It all happens within a split second and every reacts differently.

How do I know my body is in fight or flight mode

In a nutshell, you will know. You will feel it. You may naturally react by running or you may stand your ground. All you need to know is that your body is prepared for both options. Your heartbeat will increase and you will be breathing faster to provide you with more energy and oxygen to confront whatever situation you are about to deal with. You may turn pale or get rosy cheeks as your blood is rushing to your arms legs, head and brain (I know I get rosy cheeks and look quite flushed). Your pupils will dilate as a natural reaction so that you can see more light. You can liken it to a rush of adrenaline. It takes around 20-60 minutes for the body to calm down after this response.

What has this got to do with paranormal investigating?

A lot more than people may think. As this is a personal psychological response, it can be triggered by phobias. If for example someone is afraid of heights, going to the top of a tall building and looking down could trigger this response. In the same way, if someone has a fear of the dark, being in a dark room could suddenly trigger a response. It is important to know our bodies and how we react to things. It is also important to note that how we react to things also influences others. If you are at an investigation for example and say a gush of wind has caused a window to make a loud bang. Someone hears the bang and their response kicks in and they start freaking out, others could possibly follow suit. All of a sudden the gush of wind that has caused the window to banged can easily be misinterpreted as a massive paranormal experience that caused the whole team to run outside. You are dealing with the unknown and there are a lot of potential situations in an investigation that can easily trigger this response. Someone may be caught completely offguard and not know what is happening to them. To some, they may even feel like perhaps something paranormal is causing them to feel that way because again it is something unknown to them. It is just another thing to be mindful of because again, our brains are pretty powerful tools.

Should I stay or should I go?

When confronted with the fear during an investigation, should you stay or should you run? Realistically, you don't have much of a choice. You brain will make your decision before you have even thought about it. Sure you might be a bit embarrassed later, but at the time, your brain thought you were in enough threat for it to react in a certain way. I wrote a post very early on about the one time this response got the best of me and I ran out of the investigation. My brain could not comprehend what was happening and I went into fight or flight mode. I ran. I didn't think about it, I just hightailed it out of there. 30 minutes later when I had calmed down I was completely embarrassed. How could I do that? I sit here and think if confronted with the same thing again would I react in the same way now I have conquered so much more? Possibly as again it is a psychological response but what is important to understand is that it is tailored to each individual based on what their real fears are and what gives them anxiety.

It's not paranormal

So next time someone reacts like a bit of a scaredy cat, take all of this into account. For whatever reason, they felt they were under threat. They can't control how they react in that exact moment. Knowing what is happening can be helpful and breathing exercises can help calm this response down. On an investigation there may be times where your anxiety levels are increased and you are more likely to experience this. Be aware of it and be aware of others. Is their breathing starting to increase, are they getting sweaty and nervous? This is all fine, but it doesn't mean there is a ghost nearby causing it. This is probably the most important point I want to make. It is not a ghost that has caused someone to run out of the building. It is the brain's reaction to some sort of fear or phobia that person has. Look at everything rationally and don't get caught up in the adrenaline and fear. Take deep breaths and 20-60 minutes after everything has calmed down, look at everything with a rational mind. It is possible that something unexplained has triggered the body's response, but the response itself is not paranormal. It is that pesky brain again!

How do you fare in fight or flight mode? Has there ever been a time when your brain said 'nope not having any of this' and you hightailed it out of there? Tell me below and remember, don't run in the dark! It's dangerous :)

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  • Neha 4 years ago