Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Between COVID-19, political parties throwing poo like monkeys, protesting, rioting and looting, hatred for the police, and whatever else we face and hear out there, the world is spiraling out of control.

I want to put in my two cents. I have exact change, so it’s okay. (Insert wry smile and shaking of the head.)

First of all, I am not a doctor; this is just an observance. I have noticed a trend, and I have been thinking about this off and on for the last ten years, watching it unfold.

During my college years, I took anatomy and physiology. In this class, I learned that the frontal lobe, which deals with high-level behaviors, such as problem-solving, planning, attention, and motor skills, does not fully develop until approximately 25 years of age. Before that age, the fight, flight, or freeze instinct is more engaged. (i.e., a perceived threat that causes one to react automatically.) As we grow and learn, through school, family scenarios, social activities, playing, conversing, learning social etiquette, and the like, this learned behavior causes our frontal lobe to develop as it naturally should.

According to Healthline, “The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls important cognitive skills in humans, such as emotional, expression, problem solving memory, language, judgment, and sexual behaviors. It is, in essence, the “control panel” of our personality and our ability to communicate.” “…damage can create changes in personality, limited facial expressions, and difficulty in interpreting one’s environment, such as not being able to adequately assess risk and danger.”

Many, if not most, children are introduced to gaming at a young age. They no longer want to play with friends: socializing and learning how to converse, which teaches them how to deal with social issues amongst friends, run, jump and play, walk together or ride bikes. They want to be on the computer killing the zombies, playing war games, and survival games.

Instead of dining together and socializing as a family unit, the kids leave in their earbuds, and their parents glued to their phones. Consequently, etiquette has fallen by the wayside; disrespect is rampant, and social graces are nonexistent. And of these homes, how many only have one parent to take care of them. Sad, indeed.

Worse than this, I believe that playing these games is keeping those who play them in a constant fight, flight, or freeze mode. No wonder anxiety, depression, stress, and suicide are rampant in teens and young adults.

Then, add to this a plague, mandated quarantines, and unwanted homeschooling. Throw in social injustice, protesting, rioting, looting, political upset, bullying and mudslinging, fires, hurricanes, doom, defeat, and despair. Young people who are caught and addicted to these games do not know how to cope. They are stuck in fight, flight, or freeze. There is no reasoning with them, no problem-solving capabilities. They can only lash out at their perceived threat.

Fortunately, not all gamers fall into this problem. But those who are depressed, unconcerned with others, unhappy with the status quo, bullies, or anti-social have a greater chance of becoming aggressive after playing these games. We wonder why young adults are rioting, looting, and spouting absurd diatribes. While some adults out there are losing their marbles, I am afraid some young adults have yet to collect them. Their brain isn’t allowed to grow as it should. It’s devastating them, their parents, and everyone around their influence.

I am saddened, heartbroken for these kids. I am fearful of the society they will inherit and one day rule in this kind of state. What can we do? What should we do? I will leave you to ponder as I have been doing for quite some time.

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