I am going to describe the flight response by talking about a client whom I will call Dave. An active man, without a history of health problems, his diagnosis of a heart condition took him totally by surprise. His physician presented him with what she thought was the best recommendation, a triple bypass, and then suggested that Dave go home and do some thinking before making a decision.
Dave later reported that the sense of shock continued not only that evening, but for a couple of days afterward. He couldn’t believe that he, of all people, was being told that he was in anything but top condition. And his heart? Not a chance. He told his wife only that his doctor was watching his heart, but that he was absolutely fine, which of course she was skeptical of but knew better than to push if Dave wasn’t ready to talk. Dave describes the next few days like this:
Once the numbness started to wear off, I kind of went into a panic mode. It was like I had this thing around my heart and I wanted it cut out as soon as possible. I was afraid to think because I was afraid I might talk myself into doing nothing, or that I might put too much strain on my heart. I imagined my doctor as my savior. I wanted to put all of my faith and trust in her and have her direct my path. I was in such a rush, I asked her to call the cardiologist she had recommend to try and influence him to schedule me for surgery as soon as possible.
While Dave is placing all of his trust in the first physician, and treatment, he encounters, I have also seen individuals in flight mode attach themselves to unproven alternative treatments and physicians who had great bedside manner but questionable skills. Like falling head-over-heels in love, the flight response doesn’t leave room for obtaining a second opinion on the diagnosis, investigating treatment options, or at least checking into the credentials and track record of the physician. I have witnessed clients in flight mode who attached themselves to an unproven, non-medical treatment with potentially alarming consequences.