The Day I Realized My “Fight Or Flight” Instincts Were Lacking
A few weeks back, I attended the rather family friendly music and entertainment fest known as “Summerfest” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Me, my best friend Tim, and one of our other friends Bill all drove up together to “enjoy” the fest and the insane price of beer which averages 8$ for a splendid cup of piss-water domestics such as Miller Lite. We had several hours to kill before we would see “A Day To Remember” and “Linkin Park”
Before A Day To Remember started, a rather terrible band by the name of “PLP MVR” began to play – my guess is that they won a contest to open up for what was rather a large crowd in the Marcus Amphitheater on the summerfest grounds.
Me, Tim, Bill and several other people all joined in making pointed jabs at how bad the band was. I overheard one guy near us remark, “This is like a bad trip from shrooms without the shrooms.” He was of course quite correct. The band was literally dressed up in costumes that resembled “furries” and the drummer looked like Barf from Mel Brooks classic parody, “Spaceballs.”
To say the band was out of place in light of the aggressive music that the crowd was there for – A Day To Remember has screaming, breakdowns, ect in their music – is an understatement.
Now this is necessary to disclose: if I’m honest, I have a loud mouth, am outspoken, and sarcastic.
No, this isn’t a bad thing, and I fully embrace this part of my personality and utilize it – it gets me laid. Unbeknownst to me, a large and fat tall man about two benches down was fuming and I didn’t see the steam pouring from his ears.
Instantly a giant of a man – about 6.2 or 6.3 was out of his seat in what seemed to be slow motion and suddenly was winding up his fist to take a swing in my direction. My best friend Tim managed to put himself in between the beast – who was at least two times my size – and myself. I’m lucky, because I frozen. No warning, nothing. He hadn’t said anything to me or Tim and Bill, so there had been no indication that he was angry.
I froze like a piece of ice in -30 degree weather.
I would have taken several punches before my instincts of getting away would have kicked in. (More on that later. It was then and there, I decided I was going to have to de-escalate the situation and it meant that I was going to have to essentially beg for mercy. I did.
“I’m sorry man, you’re right, you are right!!!
“You are Right!”
I pumped this phrase out multiple times in under a minute and it seemed to get him to back down after the first initial, “You little punk ass bitch.” (Note that’s all I remember of the insults he managed to spew. That and something about beating my ass.) Somehow, I was consciously aware that I didn’t want my best friend taking punches to the face for me, nor for our other friend Bill right besides me to have the same happen to him.
Note, this is basic placation on my part and you’d be surprised how many people’s ego you can stroke and in the meantime the bombs you can defuse by uttering the phrase, “You are right”. On some sub-conscious level, hearing that from a perceived opponent makes us feel victorious.
If you don’t already know, I’m one of those “lover not a fighter” types. Also, remember, this guy is at least twice my size.
When situations have gotten “dangerous”, I’ve always been able to evade possible brutes by the fact that I’m simply much faster, nimbler, quicker, and in better shape in my 5 foot 7 body. Luckily, I have more aggressive physical friends who are willing to get in trouble with the law to fight off guys they consider to be picking on me; someone who is usually “not my size.” Note, those specific friends WERE NOT THERE.
My pride was somewhat thrashed, but my face was intact. That’s actually a big deal, because my face is my moneymaker and what has allowed me to land girls with my game still needing plenty of work.
Minutes later, the thought continued to roar through my head…
Why didn’t I quickly bounce off my seat and dart away?
I’m fast, quick, and agile. I pride myself on it.
Why I had been frozen stiff like a piece of cardboard?
The amphitheater benches around us had plenty of room for me to jump off my seat and simply jump step from one bench to another and eventually down to security in the lower deck area and the various police on duty for the event.
Now in my defense, I really wanted to see both of these bands – specifically Linkin Park who I had never experienced live. I didn’t want to take a chance in us getting kicked out and I prefer to avoid contact with the police whenever possible. (Insert my half middle-eastern identity politics card right here.) I now believe I showed the proper discretion in apologizing profusely and preventing an actual all out brawl between this guy and the three of us.
Chances are, we would have all been kicked out and it would have been my fault considering it was my loud mouth that essentially kickstarted the entire debacle. The price of the tickets, gas, ect would not have been the only issue, but taking off work, and finding another time and date the bands were coming through would have caused me to hurt the night my friends had anxiously anticipated for weeks now..
Later the next day, I mentioned this experience to Tim’s cousin Justin who is also both of our best friends; the three of us are like brothers. (All three of us have known each other for over 15 years as well as having lived together.)
(1) Justin mentioned that he can remember at least one time, I essentially dissed some girl – easier to do then you realize – in a bar and two of her male friends were about to white knight and beat the shit out of me. Again, luckily for me Justin and two of his more physical friends were there who have a reputation in the town and those two white knights backed down. (2) In fact, I can recall another time where a friend of mine mentioned that my loud mouth at a bar was attracting the attention of at least one guy who looked like he wanted to fight me. He pointed this out later that night, and I was again completely oblivious to it.
Confession: I haven’t been in a physical fight since first grade. I was THAT sheltered. Or if you look at court costs, tickets, and fines these days perhaps I was that wise and mature. Either way, I don’t know how to defend myself besides “legging” it.
Lacking “Flight or Fight” Instincts
This all caused me to realize I have a glaring deficiency; I dont have strong instincts. I didn’t see that guy coming at all, nor was I aware of the white knights who were looking to beat my ass.
What happens if my friends aren’t there one of these times? I’m a rather outspoken person when conversations occur, and at some point, it will land me in trouble, because I won’t back down from what I say, I’ll just hightail it away. Now, while I’ve shot some firearms and I fervently watch the UFC, I have no real idea how to throw a proper punch or how to defend myself, so I count on my quickness and speed to get myself out of dangerous situations. In this case none of that matter; I was essentially blindsided and oblivious to him until his fist was raised and I noticed Tim was in front of me. I was frozen stiff and only was then suddenly registering what was about to happen. .
What use is my speed and quickness to avoid punches if I wasn’t able to see them coming? Take note that the guy was (1) two benches down from me (2) had to climb up towards me (3) at his easily bulging 350+ pounds he was probably much slower then me considering just how obese he was.
It took this experience to show me this and it’s one I won’t forget anytime soon. Any man should know how to defend himself and have the instincts to do it – especially considering that I want a wife and kids – so I better know and be able to protect them.
So how do I develop these instincts?
There really aren’t alot of good answers out there and I wasn’t able to find much in the manosphere either – with the exception of “The Warrior Gene – Is Alpha Genetic?” via TheRationalMale – so I’m not entirely sure. Mike Cernovich at Danger & Play however has an insightful series about, How Survive A Street Fight Part 1 and Part 2 if I ever found myself in a fight.
A quick google search with “Fight or Flight Instinct” and a mixture of other search terms gave me helpful hits like this that are about stress, rather then actual physical altercations. (1), “What Women Can Teach You About Real Strength” and the subtitle was, “Play Down the Fight-or-Flight Instinct”. (2) “”Fight Or Flight ” Theory Debunked: Stress Makes Men More Sociable and Cooperative”. Yes, you read that right. (3) They tried and failed at answering this over at the GoodMangina project, “In the Face of Stress, Do Men Always “Fight or Flight”?
As one astute commenter pointed out, “Isn’t fight-or-flight the accepted response to danger to one’s physical wellbeing? In the case of being surprised by a angry boar or a potential mugger, I’m not sure “tend-or-befriend” are a valid fundamental dichotomy.” I faced a walking fat bear, and I was definitely surprised.
(4) Pyschology Today suggested in “Is Our Survival Instinct Failing Us?” that the instinct doesn’t even work well in modern warfare and again dealt with “stress.” (5) Calm Clinic again addressed stress, but emphasized exercise as a way to cope with anxiety. It did however bring up the point that we face a “lack of dangers”, which perhaps suggest that this is an issue of training.
Quintus Curtius in his masterful book, “Thirty Seven: Essays On Life, Wisdom, And Masculinity”, addresses the idea of training and education for young men in chapter seven of the book by drawing on Italian humanist and literal Renaissance man, Pier Paolo Vergerio, for inspiration. Quintus sums up Vergerio’s points regarding the issue of training and education with 27 points, three of which are pertinent to what happened to me.
11. The finest studies for leadership are those based on arms (military) and letters (history, philosophy, languages, and rhetoric). Everyone wants to be learned in old age, but to achieve this one must start early and exert “zealous effort.” Being learned in letters and arms will provide a remedy against “sloth” and solace in the face of worry and stress.
16. The training of the body is of paramount importance. It should be conditioned from a young age for rigorous service, military ability, and endurance. Young men should be hardened from a young age to endure pain and discomfort of all sorts , so that they are not broken by the strains of life and struggle. They should also be taught to “dare great things.” The Cretans and Spartans valued hunting, running, wrestling, and jumping, and sought ways to train themselves to endure hunger, thirst, cold, and heat. Luxuries weaken the mind and body.
19. Since battle tactics are constantly changing, a forward thinking youth will attempt to master the martial arts and self-defense arts of his day. This should include mastery of weaponry, personal combat skills , horsemanship, and movement over rugged terrain carrying heavy loads or equipment. There are many different kinds of combat. “For things are done one way in a melee; another when the decision rests on a battle formation; another when there is an infantry charge, and another when combat takes the form of a duel.”
Unfortunately, I was never taught martial arts, tactics, or any training of the body. I won’t make the same mistake with my kids however.