When you’re faced with a life threat: a sabre toothed tiger, a building on fire, a car crash, anxiety at work, clinical depression, we have two basic human instincts – fight or flight.
A couple of years ago, walking through Tesco Extra, a former colleague came up to me and asked, with an ashen face, “Are you ok? Keeping busy?”
Now I knew what this man had done to me, I knew he was a twat of the highest order, and I had two choices.
Punch his lights out or walk away.
I walked away, shaking with anger at the temerity of this man for asking after my welfare after what he’d done.
I could have lamped him, smacked him round the head with a bottle of gin, stamped on his prostate body and shouted “Die” or I could run away.
I walked briskly away.
It was, with hindsight, the best option, the safest option, but unlike the Caveman who can run from the tiger and then return to normal mental health, modern man cannot.
Or I could not.
It made me want to avoid going into that supermarket for some weeks in case I saw him again – as he was, in my mind, part of the Travelodge barrier.
Really though, that instinct – fight or flight – is lodged in all our subconscious states and I was replaying responses from caveman days and my childhood.
I remember distinctly in childhood being forced to do things I did not want to do – and even had a fear of.
The beach was a childhood bête noire.
Holidays in Filey, Cleethorpes and Bridlington, the childhood haunts of many Yorkshire families, saw me in paroxysms of fear when I was forced onto the beach, on sand ridges I disliked, with an innate fear of seaweed.
The irony is that now I quite enjoy a beach and we live near one in Gorleston, Norfolk, but back then I hated the beach, the sand, the sea, with all my being.
I used to fight to stay off and sometimes run away to avoid it, as everyone else in the family seemed to love it and therefore I should too.
You see, I’ve neutralised that part of my memory, just as I have with that buffoon I met in Tesco.
If I go on a beach, or see him again, my response won’t be anger or disappearance, it will be to ignore and move on.
How do you react to tigers or twats?