The Reflex

fight-or-flight-checkbox-2.american-apparel-youth-tee.light-blue.w760h760We all have certain tendencies we lean toward, especially when things get tough. They’re ingrained in us, hardwired like computer programming, so we turn to them when we need to make quick decisions. I know for me that’s certainly true because if you lay out all of the decisions I’ve made in my life in a line on the floor the line would be long, but the basis for each decision would be a very small list.

I’ve usually made decisions based on self-preservation, or on the pleasure principle. Generally the decisions made to achieve momentary pleasure are followed up shortly by the ones that stress self-preservation. There’s a reason for that. My personality is a large one, which means most times when I make decisions they generally affect more people than just a few. It’s the nature of being me, because people listen to me when I speak.

I feed off of the attention and make even more decisions to maintain that attention, even if the decisions are circumspect. I know this about myself, but only recently have I been able to really derail those poor decisions. Most of them lead to some variations of falsehoods, which of course can put me in tough situations. I know when I’m doing it that I should stop, but the attention fuels the fire.

Then after the fact, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, I have to make the difficult decision to fess up and deal with the consequences. That might not sound like much, but for a person who lives for what others think of him it’s devastating to take back something I said, to be contrite and ask for forgiveness. I do it, though, because going deeper into the situation just makes things worse. You know what I mean.

In the pantheon of decision-making, one of the biggest is the reflex for fight or flight, that idea that most people will either battle it out when the situation gets tough, or they will escape the situation any way they can and live to see another day. In our society those who have the flight reflex aren’t celebrated. We tend to like a good fight, even when we know there can be no winner.

I tend toward flight, to getting out of my own way when the going gets tough, and that can be both a positive and a negative reflex. There’s a difference in running away and not dealing with your issues versus accepting the blame and trying to move on from those issues. While both are flight, one is cowardly and the other is taking responsibility. I’ve done both, and I’m not proud of the first instinct, the one for self-preservation that doesn’t take into account that what I do affects others and I should take that responsibility for it.

On the other hand, I generally only fight when there’s no other alternative. I remember in elementary school there was this bully who liked to chase me around the gym during recess and pound on me when he caught me. Because I didn’t want to get pounded on I would run as fast as my little legs would take me and try to find the nearest adult instead of physically challenging him. Eventually he got tired of having to follow me around the gym for most of recess and he gave up without me having to pound on him in return. Maybe fighting would have gotten me to the same place, but I hardly ever find that out. Unless I have to.


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