Happy Sunday and that, of course, means a little more time with the NYTimes. Among today’s reads an article entitled, ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ Is Not How Our Brains Work. Towards the end of the piece, after talking about the concepts of fright and flight and the biology of it all it give this bit of “hope”:
Studies by the psychologists James Gross at Stanford, Kevin Ochsner at Columbia and Elizabeth Phelps and me at New York University have shown that if people cognitively reappraise a situation, it can dampen their amygdala activity. This dampening may open the way for conceptually based actions, like “run, hide, fight,” to replace freezing and other hard-wired impulses.
How to encourage this kind of cognitive reappraisal? Perhaps we could harness the power of social media to conduct a kind of collective cultural training in which we learn to reappraise the freezing that occurs in dangerous situations. In most of us, freezing will occur no matter what. It’s just a matter of how long it will last.
Hate that we need to think about this, but it reminds me of the over-learning done to be able to function in high-stress, quick-action-requiring, emergency situations like EMS. I readily admit to reverting to this, even now, from the Laws of the House of God:
No. 3: AT A CARDIAC ARREST, THE FIRST PROCEDURE IS TO TAKE YOUR OWN PULSE.
In times of stress, the bottom line is that if you can get yourself on the path of what you know and know that you need to do, you can usually get going down that path without overthinking it. Just do it as they say. Do or don’t do, no try. A-B-C = airway, breathing, circulation. Protect the rescuer.
In the movies, the hero is the one who acts, quicker than the others and often instinctively, to do what has to be done. While current times say we can help ourselves be prepared by thinking about situations in advance, it takes more than a few minutes of reading “Run, Hide, Fight” on a screen to be ready. You need to be able to recognize the situation and yell, if only in your head – RUN – to get yourself unstuck and having the ability (not courage) to do.