Following the Christmas break, you could be forgiven for
thinking this stands for Fat, Flatulent and Fund-less. It is
however the classic human response to stress, flight, fight or
freeze as described by Dr Steve Peters in his excellent book, The
Reading in recent news the report into
why our fingers and toes wrinkle when we spend too long in the
bath, made me realize yet again what primitive creatures we
For a long time, it was assumed that the wrinkles were simply
the result of the skin swelling in water, but recent investigations
have actually shown the furrows to be caused by the blood vessels
constricting in reaction to the water, which in turn is a response
controlled by the body's sympathetic nervous system.
That an active system of regulation is at work led scientists
into thinking there must be some deeper evolutionary justification
for the ridges. Turns out that the wrinkles improve our ability to
grip items when our hands are wet which was the small evolutionary
advantage to one set of our ancestors when searching for food along
river banks. Not much use now of course.
Much of which is also true of the classic human response to
stress, which made our forbears more likely to survive literally
millions of years ago.
Consider primitive man walking across the savannah. A sudden
sound, or a flash in the corner of his eye, would create a stress
response. Should I run, stand and fight, or freeze and hope to
remain unseen. Making the right choice quickly and instinctively
could be the difference between life and death.
Rather like the finger wrinkle response, many of our stress
filled situations today are hugely different yet our brain triggers
similar synapses when we face them.
Imagine the difficult or competitive negotiation. Should I
fight, take control, 'win'. Should I run away, avoid the conflict
altogether so I can fight again another day. Or should I freeze,
try to become invisible by switching sides or agreeing with their
different point of view.
Or of course I could use my higher-level brain to over-ride the
Chimp response and find more advanced consensus solutions.
That of course requires self-knowledge, skill and almost as
Make 2013 a year of evolutionary thinking.