Don’t fight, flight (or freeze) your body and emotions


From a distance, procrastination looks like a time management problem. There is growing evidence that it is rather an emotional management problem — a flight response. Instead of facing the problem, we evade it. And how do other fear responses work? Here we go:

  • FIGHT: last-minute deadline crunch (“I will never surrender!”)
  • FLIGHT: procrastination (“let’s keep it at a temporal distance!”)
  • FREEZE: staring at the “chapter 1” of an unwritten report, piece of code, or email
Flight and freeze at their best. From PhD Comics and BoJack Horseman.

Attachment style

What are you afraid more of — loneliness or being in chains? Do you under- or overreact? What annoys you more: a partner being unresponsive, or too pushy and controlling?

  • FIGHT: chasing and checking (anxious attachment style)
  • FLIGHT: needing space, avoiding difficult subjects, ghosting (avoidant-dismissive attachment style)
  • FREEZE: learned helplessness, hopelessness, or depression
From Attachment Theory — How Your Childhood Affects Your Love Style by Charisma on Command

Body sensations

You accidentally hit your finger with a hammer. What’s your first reaction? And then: what do you do next? Do you try to resist pain, talk with someone to shift focus, or try hard to not feel it at all?

  • FIGHT: grit one’s teeth and resist
  • FLIGHT: distracting ourselves
  • FREEZE: cutting ties with a body part / dissociating
Thanks to Jeziorko Czerniakowskie and Naturalne Morsy Warszawa, I am where I am — in cold water! Thanks to Stefan (from W Gruncie Ruchu), I am able to embrace it better.


Similarly as with our body — what do you do with difficult emotions? From small conflicts and frustrations to deep wounds from unsatisfied childhood needs, worst traumas, and feelings that bother you on a daily basis?

  • FIGHT: anger / pushing
  • FLIGHT: distracting oneself
  • FREEZE: numbness, depression, learned helplessness
Now I read one of my favorite childhood games more metaphorically.
  • Denial → flight
  • Anger → fight
  • Bargaining → fight/flight (or maybe fawn)
  • Depression → freeze
  • Acceptance → no fear response!
“Don’t be afraid Mithrandir, you are not alone” — one of the most beautiful scenes from the Hobbit (movie).



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Piotr Migdał

Piotr Migdał


PhD in quantum physics, deep learning & data viz specialist. Founder at Quantum Flytrap. /