When to Play Dead and When to Take the Risk


The fight or flight response is a healthy survival feature inherent to all sentient beings.

If an animal in the wild sees or senses a predator, the fight or flight response will kick in, adrenaline will course through the system and the animal will make a choice to either stand its ground and fight the predator, perhaps making the attempt to chase it away, or to turn tail, run, and hope to escape.

We all have seen this drama unfold between the animal hunter and the hunted on wildlife and nature programs on our television screens.

Another less seen fight or flight response is playing dead…


Those who have traversed the wilds of Alberta and British Columbia, Canada, are familiar with the many signs that warn to play dead if you are accosted or threatened by a grizzly bear. We are informed that there is no other option, since the grizzly ultimately runs faster than any human, climbs trees more efficiently, and possesses many times more strength than any person.

Playing dead, and hoping the bear will lose interest and move on is also an outcome of the adrenaline fight or flight response.

These are healthy fear responses. If we sense danger we will feel fear which in turn will activate adrenaline to cope with the danger.

An unhealthy relationship with fear produces anxiety. When we haven’t owned our trauma fear will run rampant, both in our emotional system and in our lives. Uncontained fear is anxiety.

Anxiety directly affects our comfort with risk. Anxiety will precipitate the avoidance of risk as well as for some the willingness to take too much risk.

The latter can result in the acquisition of wealth. Many individuals who are head-on risk-takers profit tremendously from the willingness to take risk. People who are aggressive risk-takers may strike it rich from stock market speculation, investments pay offs, and making it big in business. Intuition and experience often accompany such speculation. But essentially such risk-taking is a gamble.

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The more honest gamblers will tell you of the addictive rush accompanying the risk of gambling, and more so the adrenaline high that surges through the system when the gambler places a bet and, if ever the risk pays off, they win.

Risk-taking and the subsequent feel-good that results from it are part of being human.

I fervently believe that one of the jobs of each subsequent human generation is to evolve beyond the limits set by the previous generation. This pertains to everything: scientific achievement, lifestyle comfort, the discovery of new frontiers, becoming better parents, understanding and caring for each other, in the nurturing and appreciation of our environment.

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We cannot move beyond any of our limitations if we do not take the necessary action to move beyond them. Any action taken to move us potentially beyond our comfort zone or a set limitation is a risk.

We need to take risk to ensure the survival of the human species and to satisfy the creative sense of curiosity inbred into humanity. Risk needs to be on the leading edge of human behaviour.

It is when we become invested or dependent upon the adrenaline rush that we become addicted to the rush as well as the behaviour that best incites, leads to, or triggers that adrenaline high. Then risk becomes a secondary behavior: secondary to the need for the high.

If I become too dependent on staying within and never going beyond my comfort zone, then I am afraid to move beyond the boundary set by the herd. Thus in life, I may never move away from the beaten track. I never take steps beyond what I might consider risk.

Staying within these confines may preclude someone coming to see me for help because I may not be the type of practitioner the doctor recommends, it may keep someone from exploring a new type of relationship with a friend or a potential boyfriend or girlfriend, or prevent a person from booking the vacation he dearly wants to take outside of the country he resides in thus breaking the mould of vacationing close to home which is something he does and has done every single summer.

In life it is healthy to do both: to hold some cards in the pack of life that guarantee a comfort zone, dependability, and predictability, as well as some aspects of life that involves an element of risk-taking.

This is healthy because then we stretch ourselves beyond our capacity, while at the same time we have a familiar nest to go home to and to call our own.


Thank you to the 347,641 people who visited my Book Blog this last month!

Contemplation Questions

Do you see value in taking risk?

When have you, or when do you take risk?

Has taking risks benefitted you, or has it not benefitted you?

Do you consider yourself a risk taker, or someone who is less inclined to take risk?

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