We’re all familiar with Fight-Flight. We know that being in this physiological state causes us to lose some of the smart parts of our thinking and our relational skills. And yet, it’s a very natural biological reaction.
There is also a very natural biological reaction that happens in the Fight-Flight sequence which is something we don’t hear quite as much about. And that is the Freeze and Flock. Very often, people think, “Oh, I’m in the Red Zone!” when, for example, something came across your desk that you weren’t expecting, or someone said something, and it really upset you. And we might think that we just go straight to Fight-Flight from there.
What Is the Freeze Response?
Interestingly, where we first actually go is to Freeze. Time seems to slow down, and we pause and think, “What just happened there?” And at this moment, we evaluate very quickly whether we are safe or threatened. For example:
- “Is my reputation safe?”
- “Are my finances safe?”
- “Is my schedule safe?”
- “Is my identity safe?”
That evaluative moment is the Freeze response. And this is a good thing because it makes us really focus on what is happening, and what we need to do about it to be able to feel safe.
What Is the Flock State?
The next place that we often go is to the Flock state. Flock means that we move towards people. Kelly McGonigal in her TED Talk on stress notes that oxytocin is actually released during a stress response and that’s so that we will connect with others to help us get through the stressful event.
Think about the last time you had some sort of unwelcome surprise happen in our world. We typically want to tell someone, talk to someone, or connect with someone. That’s the Flock response. And we usually Flock towards the people who we either feel safest with or are closest to.
And this is a biologically, evolutionarily, and socially supported response because when we move toward other people, it gives us the ability to shift from being dysregulated (the reactive stress response) to getting back to being regulated. People can help calm us down.
With that being said, it’s important to be aware of whom we’re choosing to Flock with! Hopefully, it’s someone who can bring a compassionate and calming presence to us. Worst case scenario, it’s someone who will fan the flames and get us more riled up!
Enter the Blue Zone
When we’re aware of the whole physiological cycle of Fight-Flight — that there is a momentary Freeze response that precedes it, and that we can leverage the Flock response from that dose of oxytocin — we can have yet another tool to help us not spend much time in the Red Zone.
Give some consideration to whom you want to Flock with — those Blue Zone buddies who can help restore regulation so that you feel calm and alert, with full prefrontal cortex functioning back online. And from that state, be able to handle situations in a way that will be the most strategic and relational.
May you be a Blue Zone buddy to others, and may you be surrounded by them yourself when unexpected/unwanted circumstances of life arise!
Learn more about the Red Zone | Blue Zone model that The Academies implements into our neuroscience-based coaching certification programs, and connect with us to explore your curiosities and questions. Contact us on our website or schedule a call today!