First. let's define these terms:
The fight or flight response, first described by Walter Bradford Cannon in the early 1900’s, is physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat, whether it be an attack or other threat to survival. Fight or flight has since been further defined as fight, flight or freeze.
The freeze response is a reaction to most commonly related to when a prey animal has been caught and completely overcome by the predator (in the case of humans it could be an attacker) and it is thought that it may still be possible for the prey to escape by feigning death so that the predator stops the attack. Freezing can also be drawn out as a moment of disbelief or denial leading to in-action, or it can be a short hesitation before going to your training or something in the realm of your skill-set, whether that be running, striking, or (hopefully not) cowering in fear. Something immediate yet out of your norm and comfort zone can cause a freeze or hesitation.
Since fear is the term not usually included with the other three above let’s define it a bit further and delineate what fear is and what it is not. Fear is not anxiety. “I’m afraid to go outside because there are bad people and bad things that happen out there.” This is anxiety, which is different from fear. Anything positive you can do to deal with anxiety can increase your quality of life. Fear itself is not panic. Fear can build up and lead to panic, but the two are different. When you are panicking you are irrational and unproductive. Fear can be defined in many ways, but simplified for self-defense, think of fear as an alarm system for imminent danger to your wellbeing.
A simple solution for dealing with the 4’Fs when you are in the moment is:
Keep thinking-Keep breathing-Keep moving
Keep thinking is the most important concept, however, I have had situations where I know I need to think, but have found myself holding my breath and therefore not thinking. Taking a breath can aid in your ability to think, especially in situations where there is a build-up rather than an immediate physical action. You are always assessing, what can I do next? You are analyzing your immediate situation for opportunities for attack, escape, or other strategies.
Keep breathing-you are breathing to facilitate your thinking if you have not taken action, such as in a freeze or fear moment. If you are moving and taking action, you are breathing to fuel your body with oxygen so that you can run faster, hit harder, and continue thinking.
Keep moving- very simply, keep hitting, keep running, or get into action if you are not moving yet.
Train smart & stay safe,
Owner Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense