The "Fight or Flight" Mechanism of Human Psychology


Imagine turning off your emotions. That you don't have a nice word to say on a romantic date. In a situation where you are angry, you just regret it without saying anything. That you cannot do the best thing you can do with zero anxiety.

For over 200 years, many thinkers have argued that our emotions are subject-based and actually have a destructive effect. They also stated that humans can control their emotions due to their nature because we learn to control them due to the destructive nature of our emotions.

Emotions have very important functions, especially in our social life. They emphasize that the starting point of our emotions is mind and brain-oriented and that they are shaped by people's facial expressions, physiological responses and experiences.


Darwin interpreted emotions from an evolutionary perspective as responses to events and argued that humanity found which emotions to reveal in which situation by trial and error.

James defined emotions from a physiological perspective as the body's support points in sustaining life in times of fear or anxiety, and as elements that prepare people for the simple physiological need of "fight or flight" tactic. For example, he emphasized that emotions such as fear, excitement, and anxiety increase the heart rhythm in the body, increase muscle tension, and thus activate the nervous system, which causes the jaw and forehead muscles to contract, the teeth to clench, and the body temperature to rise to prepare the body for fight or flight.

Freud, on the other hand, evaluates emotions from a psychotherapeutic perspective as the manifestation of traumatic events and pain settled in the subconscious as "feelings" through evaluation.

From a cultural perspective, it is known that emotions are universal but their meanings are not universal. Namely, in Western cultures, "shame" is considered as an emotion that is avoidant or harmful to the person; In Eastern cultures, "shame" is treated as a more valuable and positive emotion and can be appreciated. Another example is that “anger” is a way for people to express themselves in individual societies. While "anger" is considered as an emotion that should not be done in collectivist societies, should be suppressed and should not be reflected in society.

Another benefit of emotions is that they support us in non-verbal communication, but it should not be overlooked that a single action does not always have the same meaning. For example, "laughing" may be perceived as positive at first glance, but sometimes "laughing" can also mean that we are making fun of the other person or humiliating them.

So what changes do our emotions cause in our body? For example, in the face of a stressful event, our Amygdala receives the signal and sends it to the Hypothalamus, where the chemical messages released activate the adrenal glands and cortisol begins to be secreted. In other words, the body is faced with a threat and is preparing itself to deal with it. In the face of "nerve" and "shame", it increases the activity of the cytokine system, which is a part of our immune system. This system treats these dominant emotions as a “disease pathogen” and tries to increase sleepiness, that is, to minimize body activity in order to heal the body.

With summary information, we see what changes our emotions cause in our social life, bilateral relations and even our body. We see that negative emotions are as necessary as positive emotions, but what harm they can cause if sustained. The key points here are "awareness and knowing ourselves". If we can realize which emotions have a positive or negative effect on us and over what period of time, it will be much easier for us to control them. Let's finish with a quote from Antonio Damasio: “The beginning of everything was emotion. So, feeling is not a passive process.”


With love,


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