I like this from Larkin
People often ask me about the "Fight or Flight"
response when it comes to responding to a violent,
imminent threat of physical attack. When I tell them
that there are actually four responses to this type of
threat I usually get a confused looked.
As a life-long student of violence I constantly
research sources from the academic and literary world
that deal with this very controversial subject. Some
of my research has led me to the fallacy of people
assuming "Fight Or Flight" is the response regardless
of the threat.
So lets clarify:
"Fight Or Flight" is a viable response but only when
the threat occurs between 2 different species. If you
are walking through the woods and a Kodiak bear starts
to rush you, you would quickly either fight if you had
a weapon or run (flight) if you did not.
Yes, you can
use the other 2 responses but for the most part the
meeting of 2 different species results in "Fight Or
That being said lets look at the "Four Horsemen Of
Response" when two members of the same species meet
with one side posing an imminent threat. The other can
respond as follows:
1. Fight - The challenge is assessed and the
response by the target is to fight back.
2. Flight - The challenge is assessed and the
response is to evade the threat and run.
3. Posture - The challenge is assessed and the
response is to feign or posture aggressively with
the ultimate goal being to avoid having to fight
4. Capitulate - The challenge is assessed and the
response is to freeze, lie down, and hope that by
submitting to appease the aggressor.
Most are familiar with the first two options but lets
explore the latter two options. How many times have
you seen a person issue a threat and move towards
someone aggressively and that person's response is to
yell back and strike an aggressive, threatening
This is very common in social violent situations where
there is much posturing for dominance. Often the real
objective is to get one side to back down, with verbal
threats and aggressive postures used to convey
dominance. That is a classic example of the Posture
This is a dangerous gambit for both participants
because it delays the fight option and often wastes
valuable opportunities to end the situation with the
The next response to explore is the all too common
Capitulate Response. This is where an aggressive
threat is met with complete and immediate submission
to the threatening party.
This response is very dangerous when used to avoid
getting harmed because it literally puts you at the
mercy of an aggressor.
You rely on their moral code to
respect your capitulation and have that be a
sufficient way to satiate their desire to aggressively
dominate you. Very risky.
However, when used properly the Capitulate Response
can be an extremely effective manner to get your
aggressor into a vulnerable position to execute the
Fight Response. Basically, you're getting the
aggressor to expose vulnerable areas of his body to
attack by your feigned capitulation.