The flight or fight instinct has been debated in academic circles for years by those that have never experienced it. Some in academia believe it is instinctive and coded into human DNA while others believe it is a learned response. They point to parents that put themselves into life threatening situations to save a child or loved one. Even strangers will rush in front of a train to save the life of another stranger. Therefore, they ask how strong is the will to survive if a person risks their life for another.
Evolution may play a part. In years past humans were confronted daily with death. Large predators roamed freely and were a constant threat, and humans had to fight for their life and territory, with other humans almost daily as well. Over time the immediate threats lessened, humans became dominate over wild beasts, and threats from others depended on their ability to create bigger weapons so it became survival of the smartest and not always of the fittest.
Once nature realized that humans did not need to respond as often physically to threats the body and mind changed, to less muscle and more intelligence. Humans learned to plan for calamities and to put systems in place to protect themselves and each other.
The quick instinctive reaction to a threat was no longer needed, and yet. You turn over a rock and a scorpion lunges, you jerk back. A snake appears on the path in front of you and you feel the urge to run or find a stout stick, snakes are dangerous, you know this instinctively even if you have never seen one before. You smell a rotting animal carcass and know it is not a food source and it may harm you if you ate it, you know this how.
The mind and the body are programmed to respond to immediate threats and all the studying and practicing is not going to stop you from flinching away from a snake or any type of predator. Your mind will not allow it. You have the will to survive but you also need knowledge and training to get you beyond your initial reaction. You run to survive a fire, but you cannot run forever, so nature gave humans the ability to reason through problems so our body does not take the brunt of every confrontation. Humans have the ability to perceive a threat and to plan instead of reacting only when the threat appears.
Survival Is Planning Ahead
Giving all the information on the Internet and reality televisions shows some people may become convinced they can survive any situation. They believe if they awaken in a remote desert one day with just the clothes on their back they can emerge three days later unscathed. Some think that the will to survive will allow them to survive. The will is reactionary however, whereas surviving a crisis depends on planning and having skill, knowledge and materials.
The flight or fight instinct keeps you away from deadly snakes and causes you to run when you see a fire or large predator headed your way. It will not provide you with water and shelter. No matter how much your body tells you to give it water you cannot unless you have the skill to find it. Granted the will to survive will spurn you to greater efforts but still you need knowledge and skill, which are learned and not always instinctive.
Humans have the ability to predict threats and to plan for them and yet many do not. Skiers, hikers, campers and hunters continually go into remote areas with just enough supplies for the time they expect to be gone never considering what happens if they are gone longer. The key word is “expect”, they did not plan for the unexpected. Humans have the ability to look ahead, so why then cannot hunters and hikers see that if they twist an ankle or become lost the three hours of supplies they carry will not last. If asked what happens if you get lost their response might be, they do not plan on getting lost therefore, have not planned for getting lost, they may not survive.
The absence of daily treats has lessened human’s reactionary response. No obvious threat means a lack of response. It would appear that the ability to reason and to think ahead is a learned response. For the average person getting lost and suffering the cold and dehydration just one time would be enough for them to prepare better next time and have supplies just in case something happens. They have learned what happens when they do not prepare. However, for some reason they could not predict it could happen, and only realize it after the fact.