Fight or Flight?

Yesterday I left a party around 12:30 in the morning, walked over to my car, and saw a man with a gun sitting in the driver’s seat.

I turned and ran.

Fortunately, this was a dream I had last night, not a real experience. Unfortunately, the dream didn’t end there. I ran and ran until I realized that the man wasn’t chasing me, and then I chased after him to find out who he was so I could report him to the police. Then he chased me and shot at me, then I chased him again. And so on. It was exhausting.

The point: When I encounter fear or antagonism in dreams, I run. I choose flight over fight.

When I was a child, I often dreamed of burglars breaking into the house. The vast majority of those dreams involved me opening my second-story bedroom window, crawling out onto the parapet, running into the woods, and covering myself in leaves to hide from the robbers. Yes, the impenetrable defense of leaves. That’s what I chose.

Are dreams representative of real life? I don’t know. My theory is that dreams reorganize your thoughts in the same way that a defragmentation of your computer sorts out all those bits and pieces that your brain hasn’t fully processed.

I think perhaps that these dreams could be applied literally to my life. I have an unnatural paranoia that someone will break into my condo, just as I have an unnatural fear that I will be robbed on my street. My plan for those situations? Run. (I’m fast.) Perhaps my dreams are reinforcing that plan.

What about you? When you experience antagonism or fear in dreams, what is your reaction? Fight, flight, or something else? How does that apply to the way you live your real life?


11 Responses to “Fight or Flight?”

  1. Dionne says:

    My brother used to suffer from night terrors growing up. He would wake us all up in the house with his shouting that there was a bomb in the house and that he had to get us all outside so he could “take care of the bomb”. My parents never tried waking him up in the middle of his night terror (which was always accompanied by sleepwalking), but instead would just repeat to him “it’s only a dream” and then would guide him back to his bed where he stayed asleep until morning with no recollection of what happened earlier. My brother grew up to become a soldier in the Army. I think there is a correlation.

    • That’s a really interesting correlation. And I’m glad you brought up sleepwalking–I was just talking about that to someone the other day. I used to sleepwalk quite a bit when I was younger. Now I just sleep talk/laugh.

  2. J. Koyangi says:

    What an interesting post. Thinking about it, anytime I’ve had a dream like that, it’s usually some sort of monster or supernaturally powerful person. I’ve noticed I’ll gather as many people together as I can and try to escape with them because I don’t want to leave anyone behind.

    • That is really interesting that you’d gather people together to escape together. Is that a reflection on your real-life personality? Are you the person who arranges for your friends to get together?

  3. Dionne says:

    My dreams always deal with irrational fears (e.g. a loved one dying or gone missing) or wants (e.g. to have a baby). I’ve never laughed in my dreams like you have, Jamey, but I have been known to cry and to tell people off. Usually I end up waking myself up if I’m crying. I can tell when I’m going to have an interesting dream because if I’ve had an anxiety riddled day then I know I’m going to dream about it.

  4. Red says:

    The vast of fight or flight always ends in flight. Unless you kill someone, someone ends up leaving. I think whether flight is your first instinct or not depends on how fast you think you are. Knowing that I’m not fast BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, I’m afraid that I’d probably have to be a fighter.

    Does that mean taht I can’t be a lover too though?

  5. T-Mac says:

    I wonder if massively strong people (like The Rock, NFL linebackers, or John Donovan) still dream in “flight” or if their subconscious just kicks other people’s asses in dreams (murderers, burglars, etc).

    Dreaming would be a lot more satisfying if you weren’t always running away from fearful things.

  6. Red says:

    Having asked The Rock (at the time Rocky Miavia) that same question I feel I can answer you with confidence. Winners dream in victory. Fight and flight are concepts too finite. Dream in WIN.

  7. Love this post! Thanks for sharing this…..

  8. T-Mac says:

    I had a flashback to this post this morning because of something that happened during the night last night. I was woken up at 1 o’clock in the morning by my dog barking in the yard. I looked out the window, and he was standing in front of the garage door, just growling and barking. We’re building a deck and we’ve been storing the materials in the garage, so my first thought was that someone was in there stealing the materials. It was clear that the dog wasn’t just barking at nothing, so my adrenaline started pumping. I quickly put on my shoes, grabbed a small sledge hammer, and headed out into the back yard. My plan was to yell for the person to get out of the garage. If the intruder didn’t come out waving a white flag or somehow indicating there was no chance of potential harm, he or she was getting a faceful of sledge hammer, no questions asked.

    THANK GOODNESS it ended up being just a big ass opossum and not an intruder…but the point is that at some point in my life I’ve changed from 100% flight to a willingness to fight in some situations. Has anyone else experienced this? If so, what was the impetus for change?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Trev! You just passed the test of manhood! Moreso, it’s interesting that the “fight” part of you kicked in. Not that you had somewhere to run, but that your instinct was to protect your property.

      What did the opossum have to say for himself? Did he address the issue of the silent “o” at the beginning of his name?

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