Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


I’m not even gonna try to hide it I have no idea what’s going on in this post and I’m gonna blame it on having a freeze response to literally everything.

I am interested in the concept of Fight, Flight, or Freeze. The phrase “deer in the headlights” comes to mind often when discussing this because the image of a deer on the highway at night in its’ moments before being hit by a car is so very visceral an image of freeze. When coming up with a topic for this project I spent a lot of time freezing, a lot of time as in like two hours of staring at a blank page or paused with my hands hovering over a keyboard. I also spent a lot of time distracting myself from the matter at hand, choosing instead to talk about cursive writing or other, less important topics. I’d say that even though I wasn’t physically running away from my computer this would be a good example of flight. What I want to start investigating in this post is;

  • If we can be biologically predisposed to one or another of the three instincts
  • If, even with a biological predisposition, your environment can affect your instincts
  • If you can retrain yourself to have a different instinctive reaction

In case the specifics of the fight, flight, or freeze response aren’t too familiar to you, the process basically goes as such (don’t quote me on this though). Your body detects a stressor, your brain sends a message to your adrenal glands, the adrenal glands produce an excess of adrenaline (which gives you a rush of energy and can make people super strong for short bits of time but in most cases just amps up your heart rate). From there you make a subconscious, split-second decision and follow through. What you decide and how you follow through seems to be based upon learned behaviours such as past traumas and a subconscious analysis of the situation. Depending on how you look at it these wouldn’t be based on biological predispositions. People with more testosterone in their bodies are typically more likely to have a fight or flight reaction than people with more estrogen but is that because of their hormone levels or the socialization they grow up with as a result of them? So (as with all metaphysical questions) the answer is a resounding ‘maybe-but-probably-no’, as to whether or not the response to a stressor is biologically predetermined.

The second question is a little more straight forward. Loosely defining environment as “the general atmosphere of your life” would lead us to say that a-little-more-than-probably your environment affects your instinctual fight, flight, or freeze response. As previously discussed, past traumas can greatly change how you react to any situation, but especially ones that are stressful, and especially ones that are stressful in a way that relates to past traumas (basically don’t judge people for what makes them upset because its rude but anyway). The here-and-now of a stressor can also affect how a person would react but generally a longstanding trait will have more impact than an immediate problem.

Lastly, I wanted to figure out if it would be possible to retrain someones predisposition from one reaction to another. Personally this point has a lot of weight for me because I’ve got some wild stressors that usually result in a freeze reaction and me dissociating for an hour or so which just isn’t fun. Unfortunately, the parasympathetic (fight, flight, freeze) response is an automatic thing and really can’t be stopped. What can be done is conditioning how you react to the rush of adrenaline and that can be done with things like controlled breathing and more long term counselling. So like, long story short no.

So um, if I’m being real here I don’t really know how to relate this to metaphysics because I spent basically the whole unit dissociating so I hope this is sort of what is being asked of us and I know I’m supposed to do a “so what” bit here but I sort of addressed that in the answer to the third question and the “where to next” is basically like we could find out more about the first question if we did fight, flight, or freeze response tests on babies but that’s just messed up on so many levels so no one really wants to. Also there isn’t really a lot of philosophical reading related to this because as I realized about 500 words into this post this is more of a biology-and-psychology problem than a philosophical one but I used this website to determine how the parasympathetic response works and if it can be controlled and all that fun stuff.

In conclusion, I’m so glad this post isn’t included in our November report cards.


One Response to I’m not even gonna try to hide it I have no idea what’s going on in this post and I’m gonna blame it on having a freeze response to literally everything.

  1. JordanC says:

    Discussion 1 – Rita, David
    Not really in the discussion with David and Rita but in talking to Mr Jackson I encountered the idea that my topic has an overlap between the ideas of determinism and free will in that it is predetermined that we will feel a parasympathetic response to a stressor but it is possible to have the free will to shut down the response or at the very least to control it. I still have a lot of questions regarding like, what makes certain people more likely to have a different panic response.


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