Posts Tagged ‘Flight / Fight’

Living your pattern?

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

I was talking to a friend & colleague today about something that someone had said to me.  He replied that I was listening to the content rather than seeing his pattern.  That this pattern was defined by how he saw life and how he acted so that despite the fact that I had offered him help and opportunity, he was incapable of doing what was required to seize it as he believed that these kind of things didn’t happen.  This is linked to our flight/fight response, which is designed to keep us safe but often just keeps us living small.  I thought this was a very interesting thought both from the point of view of understanding people whose actions don’t add up and also in terms of reflecting how our pattern  might be driving us.

I’d be very interested to hear any examples of this that you may have or to hear if this helps you to understand things just a little better too.

Rivers of sh*t… or deep in the doodos!

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Never say Life doesn’t have a sense of irony and timing.  This morning I had ear-marked as my day to make a ‘new start’; the day I was going to knuckle down and begin to get the business ramped-up after a necessarily quiet year last year (regular reasons will be familiar with the back story to this.)  I’ll be honest and admit that I was apprehensive about how best to approach this, but I had made a list and that is always a good place for me to start.  So I was just taking a little quiet ‘me’ time after a disturbed night when my eldest came back through the door only 15 minutes or so after having left for work, and before I had time to wonder why, she came in and announced she’d had had problems driving through the flooded roads and had to abandon her car. 

I sprang, gazelle-like, out of bed and donned my wet weather gear and got ready to rush to the rescue (‘cos that’s what Dads do!).  She was concerned that sorting it out in the pouring rain, on a busy, bendy road in the rush hour wasn’t smart so persuaded on me to wait.  So I waited.  She then prevailed on me to call the breakdown people, who declined to come out on a technicality.  So I stewed and waited.  Luckily, when we got there the engine had recovered from its little feinting fit and started fine so we were able to get her home safely.  I thought the best plan was for her to drive it to work, both dry it out and prove that it was fully okay now, so I drove behind her just in case to the park-and-ride and then ran her into work (‘cos that’s what Dads do too.) 

It was now mid-morning and I wasted my best part of the day which, for me, is the very beginning of the morning.  I thought that as I was fully kitted out in foul-weather gear that I might as well finish clearing the gutters as we always have issues with fallen leaves from all the tall trees round here.  Then, I thought, “Maybe I’d best check the drains are not flooded too..” (‘cos that’s what Dads have to do too.)  Here I ought to explain that we have rustic drainage which means no mains drains and they too are prone to blockage.  I opened the final trap and it looked fine, “Oh good!” I thought.  Then I was just walking back when  I saw a bit of flood round the second trap and thought “Uhh oh!” because that doesn’t auger well.  I cautiously raised the lid to discover a veritable mountain of brown, smelly stuff that we so often refer to and joke about but most of us seldom have to confront quit like this!

So I got out my drain unblocking kit and knuckled down to clearing it all, and then the gutters too and I thought that people say “When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade”  I wonder what I was supposed to make from these raw ingredients…. sh*t cakes?  I have a wise friend who believes that our Flight/Fight mechanism is so clever that it will create just this kind of day to help us avoid the challenges that we don’t truly wish to confront.  I’d hate to think that I would self sabotage to this degree but the World is a complex place…

I wonder if you have any good stories of this kind of phenomenon and how you dealt with it?  I decided to share it with all of you and as it is now lunch-time, to sort out a few more things that just need attention and to start afresh tomorrow.

“When life gives you lemons just shut up and eat your damn lemons”

“When life gives you lemons, squirt the juice in his eye”

Video Blog: Understanding the Flight – Fight Response

Monday, December 14th, 2009

This is the second of our new series of videos about Organisational Change and how to do it successfully.  Understanding the Flight/Fight response is critical as it explains how people react under the inevitable stress that change in the workplace causes.

Of course, all change can generate this kind of stress, including such apparently happy events as getting married!


Your brain really does switch off when given ‘expert’ advice!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Professor Berns has discovered that our brains literally can be seen ‘switching off’ when offered expert financial advice.  He monitored 24 volunteers using fMRI technology whilst asking them a  series of questions spanning the range from gambling to guaranteed payouts. 

“During some parts of the game the subjects had to make decisions on their own, while in other parts they were advised by an expert economist.

The subjects tended to take the advice, even though it was not always likely to lead to the highest possible earnings. Their brains also showed different patterns of activity when advice was available and when it was not.When participants had to make choices by themselves, they showed high activity in brain areas such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which are involved in active decision-making and probability calculation.”

It is another example of Flight / Fight behaviour.  Emory University have observed that when confronted by money related ‘stuff’, we have two main responses, boredom and fear, in other words, flight / fight!

I would imagine that this our response to expert advice which  spans a much wider area than just the financial.  If it is important and we don’t really understand it, then we are likely to turn to an expert, and we then find ourselves in this position of being apt to surrender our power to them.

Be careful who you pick.  Do remain critical.  Despite all indications to he contrary, you are the expert on your life.

.. of course, as this is ‘expert advice’ you should retain your personal right to ignore it!! 😉 

“An expert is someone who knows a lot about the past.”   Tom Hopkins

“Expert: Someone who brings confusion to simplicity”   Gregory Nunn


Pussy stuck up a tree

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

I was at a breakfast meeting early this morning when I noticed my pocket buzzing. I discretely peeked at the screen and saw it was my wife. Now I knew that:-

  1. She knew I was in a meeting, and wouldn’t interrupt if it wasn’t a problem
  2. She was meant to be elsewhere so something had happened, and finally..
  3. If I knew what was good for me I’d respond!

I left the room and called her back to hear that she was clearly upset. It turned out that our elderly and much loved cat had ascended one of our trees and was now stuck about 20 feet up and couldn’t get down, and was now also very distressed.

As I headed homewards, my morning suddenly rescheduled, I learned that my ever-resourceful daughter had contacted a neighbour who had managed to shin up and rescue her, although, she was in such a fearful state that she didn’t really co-operate with her heroic rescuer.

The thing is that it isn’t only cats who get themselves into situations which are just too scary to go on and don’t know how to get out of. From time to time we would all like someone to climb up and rescue us, but like Prim, we don’t always make it easy for others to help us. So if today finds you stuck up a metaphorical tree:-

  • Firstly stop what you are doing… it isn’t helping
  • Secondly, do something different. Anything different to break your state. Get up.. move around, leave the building
  • If someone suggests something, don’t tell them why it won’t work, try it… apparently you aren’t the expert you thought you were
  • If you can, sleep on it. Time can miraculously change things without human agency
  • If tomorrow finds you still ‘treed’ then ask for help

Good luck! Primmy is now relaxing with a bowl of pussy treats, being made much of and wondering why she had to work so hard for us to see her greatness!!

“What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can’t move, with no hope of rescue. Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.”  Douglas Adams


Space.. the Final Frontier?

Friday, July 4th, 2008

I was talking to a fabulous networking group, called Success in Sussex yesterday about Change and I mentioned how important space was to enable people to deal with Change. It is perhaps ironical that I find myself, despite my very best endeavours, struggling to create some space for myself. Having just come back from a fab week away, I resolved to only do those things that absolutely had to be done this week. However, there was a certain amount of things that had to be attended to including the renovation project of Cooke Towers. Time seems to be voraciously consumed at present, including wonderful make work projects like the 2 hours I spent yesterday trying to install a new router which ended up dying on us (we tried CPR to no avail..)

The thing is, most of us are under so much pressure that we not only constantly in Flight / Fight but also we feel we have no time to give serious consideration to things we might want to change, or even to focus on the things we deem important. We opt for the same old routines that have created the problem, because they are all we have time for now.

When I finish writing this, I am stopping for today. I would urge you to be ruthless in creating a little space, be it mental, temporal or physical, in your life and let yourself breathe a little and gain a fresh perspective on what is important. Good Luck .. or maybe I should say “Live long and prosper!”

“Even the wildest dreams have to start somewhere. Allow yourself the time and space to let your mind wander and your imagination fly.” Oprah Winfrey

Handing over the Dosh

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

You may recall that Cooke Towers is having a bit of a refit, and, for the past weeks, that we have had more vans in our drive that a Transit dealership. They are all shiny and new and high spec’ vehicles, so times are good for Britain’s tradesmen.

I have been writing more cheques in the last month than I have done in the rest of the year. I was talking to my darling wife yesterday and we both had noticed an odd phenomenon; when we hand over the cheques which invariably seems to be £200 per day, plus vast amounts for materials, we both notice feeling an odd, almost visceral feeling in our guts, as if we are parting with something more vital than a bit of cash.

What an odd response! We all need money to live on, but it isn’t blood, and yet…. My body ‘knows’ it has roughly 8 pints of blood to keep it going and does a great job of not only keeping it in the right places, but it also repairs and renews it. Our bank balances seem to be altogether more fragile. They certainly don’t self-repair! And when you are running your own business one can never guarantee the income flow. So it leaves one feeling a bit like own is swimming underwater and hording precious oxygen.

The reality is, of course, this is part of a carefully planned strategy, and there really is no need for this kind of emotional response, but of course, our emotions make their own ‘decisions’. The trouble is that others can pick up these odd cues that we give off and feel that we are somehow unhappy with them or their work, and of course, this can lead to defensiveness and all sorts of counter-responses. The good ole Flight / Fight response is doing its job again.

By being aware of these emotional responses we can own them and communicate more ‘cleanly’ with others. Give it a go and see what happens…

“I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.” Jackie Mason
“Money can’t buy friends, but it can get you a better class of enemy.” Spike Milligan

Plastered or just covering up the cracks..

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

You may recall that we are in the middle of a major reconstruction of chez Cooke. Yesterday the kitchen looked like down-town Beirut; our sad old walls were full of gaping holes where the tiles had been pulled off and the 70 year old plaster had fallen off the lathes. It was not a pretty sight. A plaster and his two mates then set to for a couple of days and begun making good. It now looks fresh, clean and youthful. However, in the same way you might wonder how you know that the fridge light goes off when you shut the door, I found myself wondering if the holes were still there under the plaster? I realise that in the ‘real world’ it is a nonsense question, but humour me.

So often in life we cover over the cracks, a little bit of filler here, a bit of paper there and no one will ever know… will they? Whether it be in a relationship with others or issues we would prefer not to face, keeping the surface pretty and neat is so much easier than facing the mess and chaos like we had!

Sometimes you just need to rip off all the old, worn-out dross and take it back to a solid structure and rebuild, in that sense there is little difference between our walls, a relationship or a business.

If you find yourself reaching for the ‘polyfiller’, maybe it is time to ask yourself if you need to get plastered too?

“There is a crack in everything God has made.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder”

Are you suffering from R.A.S.S.?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

In yesterday’s blog I was talking about an apparent conspiracy on the part of seemingly inanimate objects to undermine and sabotage1 us. Although I have a friend who feels strongly that we are entirely capable of ‘fritzing’ computers to cause ourselves problems, and that this is yet another flight/fight2 strategy that we can employ. During the course of my discussions about yesterday’s blog, I came up with the phrase Random Acts of Self Sabotage (R.A.S.S.). We seem to have any number of strategies which force us back into old patterns that no longer serve us. If you think about those people around you who you know well, you can probably see them stuck in these pattern loops, and maybe even catch yourself thinking “Here we go again…!”

Of course observing others ‘tricks’ is one thing, spotting our own is so much harder, and yet logic dictates that is they do it, we probably do too. If you go and ask your partner, they probably can tell you exactly what you do when under stress. When Change comes knocking on our doors, we naturally would love to come out and play only …. (and at this point the sabotage often cuts in.)

Yesterday, I had been planning to take the day off, I know I needed it. I was going off for another hike: the sun was shining, it was a beautiful day, I’d resisted the urge to fix my computer (which is now fine by the way!) So what did I do? I managed to drop a heavy glass on my toe, so the full weight of its edge landed on my toe. Blood… pain!! I went into to shock and was still in real pain 12 hours later. My wife wanted me to go into A&E.

The story itself is daft, as all these tales are; the interesting thing is why did I have to put myself through that? What is so dreadful that I’d choose to suffer like that rather than face it? I don’t have a clever answer yet, though I am working through it. I wonder if you recognise anything in this tale of woe? Are you aware of ever doing this to yourself? If today you find yourself faced with vexations, frustrations and interference, do take a second to ask yourself “What on earth might all of this do for me?” (and assume that there is a positive, albeit warped gain from it3)

“Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage.” Alyce P Cornyn-Selby




  1. sabotage malicious damage done to stop something working
    This word became known in Britain shortly before World War I. At that time there was a railway strike in France; in order to cause disruption the railway workers were reported as loosening or removing the shoes (sabots) that held the railway lines to the sleepers. This, according to many commentators, accounts for the origin of the word sabotage and for its appearance in English.
    They may be right on the second count but not on the first. Sabotage existed as a French word long before this. A sabot was a large, heavy wooden clog made of a single piece of wood and worn by workers. The verb saboter (literally, to wear sabots) meant to clatter about in clogs and, figuratively, to do something ham-fistedly. Sabotage was therefore clumsy workmanship, tools that were no good, low levels of skill, broken down vehicles, etc. – all related to the clog’s clumsiness and lack of refinement. From this general sense of botched workmanship it was a short step to deliberate tile sense eventually taken over into English.
  2. NLP precept “Every
    behaviour serves a positive intention and has a context in which it has value.”


Paranoid… moi?

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Two things happened in the last 24 hours that were nicely juxtaposed to make me ponder. The first was connected to someone whom I had reason to be highly suspicious about, this person had apparently failed to follow through with a promise that they had made. The second came as a ‘virtual’ sideswipe from an online source that I would previously have labelled ‘friendly’.

In the first case I followed up, with a certain amount of trepidation, certainly fantasizing about where this might lead, and fearing the worst. The second case I kind of assumed that I had misconstrued the comment and politely asked for clarification. It appears that the party of the first part (here after designated “the party of the first part”) 1 appears to have been let down by some third party and to have acted in good faith. Whereas the party of the second part here after designated “the party of the second part”) appears to have been having a bilious moment and just taken a ‘pop shot’. Makes you wonder who you can trust?

The more serious component of this is that when these kinds of things happen we have such a limited view of what is going on, and we strive to make sense of the limited data we have, we inevitably jump to conclusions, which is fair enough. It is what we do next that is crucial; do you:-

1. Seek more data in a calm and unemotional way?

    • Go to the source of the problem?
    • Ask others who are connected to them for their insight and knowledge?

    2. Wait calmly to see what happens next?

    • Does it confirm your hypothesis or not?
    • Does nothing happen?

    3. Act on your best guess and either:-

    • ‘run away’2 or
    • ‘attack’

    I would hazard a guess that too many of us go straight to option 3, which can often lead to the very disaster that we have been fearing! So if by any chance you find your self in this situation today, or any time soon, remember, that unless it is literally a matter of ‘life and death’, you are probably better to breathe, and opt for one of the first two options. Good Luck!

    “Facts are not truths; they are not conclusions; they are not even premises, but in the nature and parts of premises” Samuel Taylor Coleridge


    1. This is a nod to the Marx Bros “Night at the Opera” contract scene