Fight or Flight. We’ve all heard it. It is the catch all phrase that is used to describe the human reaction to dangerous situations. However broadly used and imbedded in our conscious minds that it might be, it isn’t exactly right. You see, those of us who have both been in life or death situation and watched others react in those situations, know that there should be a third “F” in there…Freeze.
The vast majority of (untrained) people who have been thrust into life or death situations will tell you flat out that when it happened, the first thing they did was Freeze. Your mind races, desperately searching for a handle on the moment. “Is this really happening?”, “What should I do?”, “Am I going to die?”. All of that rolls through your mind as you try to process the situation and come up with a course of action. This is the “Freeze” part of “Fight or Flight”…and honestly, some people never make it to the fight or flight part of the equation, they simply just freeze up and get swept away by the moment.
A sprinter, on the starting blocks and on the ready, can respond to the “Go” command in about 150 milliseconds. That’s the time it takes for the “go” command to be heard, the brain to process the command and the muscles to react and explode into action…150 milliseconds, that’s around 300 MPH and some change. Now, consider a person who has never ran in a sprint race before and has never trained to launch on the “go” command. Compared to the people who know what’s going on and have trained to run, they’re going to be left sitting on the starting blocks wondering what the hell just happened after everyone else has disappeared in a cloud of dust.
The same is true in life or death situations. Those of us who train for it, shave monumental amounts of time off of our reaction speed in crisis. That is in fact, why we train. It eliminates a whole lot of processing time. We don’t need to think, just react. It’s called a “Trigger”. No, no, not the new, modern version of the word “trigger” where someone says something mean to you and it “triggers” you into a crying fit; but the “old school” version, where a set of circumstances “triggers” a programming (training) of predetermined reactions in you, without the need for cognitive decision or internal monologue.
A military veteran inadvertently explained it to me one time in combat terms when he said, “You see a hand grenade flying through the air towards you and you either freeze, let it hit the ground and get shredded, you catch it and throw it back, or you sprint as fast and as far away from it as you can”. Freeze, Fight or Flight.
Training reduces our freeze time and allows us to react much faster than someone who hasn’t trained. Regardless of whether you train to Fight or train to Flee, Freezing is a bad option for anyone in any life or death situation. Ditch the Freeze. Get trained.
Prepare, Train, Succeed.