Did You See A Bear?

I have noticed that people tend to fall into one of two main categories when disaster strikes:

1/ Action/panic, they run around doing stuff. It’s as if they feel the louder, they are, the more active, the better things will become. This group can get lots done quickly and if the disaster is fast moving, they are ideally suited to save the situation. They certainly move ahead of things.

2/ Calm/non reaction, and here I have to admit I fit. We take stock, think and then act more slowly. It might look cool and collected, but it must annoy group 1 like crazy. Plus, it has the disadvantage of being such a slow reaction that events can overtake you.

I am being deliberately extreme in my categories. I am sure that not only is there overlap, but there are other groups too. But the reason I have set out my stall in this way is to examine a fundamental human response to danger and disaster. The fight and flight response.

I am not a psychologist and therefore no expert. Don’t use my words as the basis for a new way to live. Although there are many people, equally unqualified, who have spouted half-truths and created swathes of followers to their ideology. I am not suggesting that path. In fact, if you are following one of these self-declared gurus of life, I would suggest you stop!

Where was I? Oh yes, I am no expert, instead I have a fair amount of that useful commodity: common sense. It’s something that seems to have gone out of fashion recently. Common sense teaches me that a fight and flight reflex is a useful response to danger. After all, if a bear runs at me, I am going to think, ‘what on earth is a bear doing on Wellington High Street?’ after I have thought that, I will want to get away from it. Unfortunately, my wheelchair is limited to about 4mph, so the bear is going to outrun me. Fortunately, my first thought about bears and Wellington will be accurate and such an occurrence is unlikely. Although, who knows, what with global warming and the re-introduction of extinct species to the UK….

Back to common sense, which I seem to remember claiming an excess of. Fight and flight is a useful thing and running, in my case wheeling, from danger, is another valuable thing. In this modern world we don’t meet many dangers that need us to run away. There are spiders of course. I wouldn’t want to underestimate their capacity to incapacitate people with fear. Mice, rats, clowns, actually when did clowns become an object of fear. I blame all the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s horror movies. All the young people who snuck down to watch them, or watched them secretly. Or are clowns just scary anyway? Must be the red nose. I always find Comic Relief scary.

Back to running away. Actually, in my case and anyone else in group 2, looking and thinking about it first. The adrenaline is pumping, you can probably feel it with all that mention of clowns… terrifying.

What was my point? Because I was bound to have one when I started this. We have gone through an extended time of worldwide difficulty. There has been stress, disaster, death, panic, fear, anxiety etc. We have reacted in many different ways, disbelief, supportive, brave, courageous, fearfully, encouraging, helpful, generous, in laughter and tears. There has been no right or wrong way to react, we are all different. I guess that is my point, if I have one. At the end of all this, when we can finally take off our masks and actually touch each other again. Not in a weird way. We will have all forgotten what each other look like. Just think what a shock we are in for. Our last memory of how friends and extended family looked was months ago. The only updates are social media images and we all know how accurate those are. Who knows, we might get a fight and flight reflex when we see our friends again. As we run of down the road we might well meet a bear; then what? Pick it up and cuddle it? Return it to the child in a pushchair?

Now let’s be serious for a minute. Will we look back at our reactions in surprise or satisfaction? As I said there is no right or wrong in our reactions, we don’t choose our emotional reactions. There will, I think, be a time to reflect on things. Our rose-tinted glasses will come out and we will remember how well we did, how calm, collected and cool we were. At least group two will. Our memories will probably emphasise the generous and obliterate the selfish. We are human, we are imperfect, we tried, OK maybe we sometimes failed. But in the end, it is best to be realistic in our expectations from ourselves. That’s about a minute, we can be silly again.

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Author: Mike Nevin

I decided to write about the funny side of being cared for. I am a full time wheelchair user with daily carers. It's my experiences with my carers that inspired this blog.

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