Fight, flight or freeze aren’t all the options, although for about one second that may be a reflexive response; that’s a response of the reptile brain. Say an unexpected object like a ball is suddenly coming at your face; the reflex is to catch it in your hand, or duck away from it hitting you, or tighten up and receive the hit with resistance.
In a slightly slower modality, such as responding to a sudden and possibly threatening noise, that same reflex pattern would prevail for a second or so, but then there might evolve a more sustained action. Perhaps going into an offensive crouch position facing the threat and raising one’s hands into an attack position. At this same slower time frame one might physically move one’s full body away from the threat as quickly as possible. The third potential action is to go into a muscularly rigid posture and crouch away from the threat. This sequence modality would last for five seconds to a minute while the threat was being analyzed and a reasonable set of actions being considered. This wouldn’t be analytical thinking but just animal considerations of the perceived threat.
If the threat lasts longer without becoming an actual physical interaction, then new opportunities come into the realm of possible actions. If a fear-filled hormonal response hasn’t occurred, then it is possible to begin analyzing the other options for action, but if emotions of fear are present it will be necessary to steady one’s nerves before a comparison of alternate responses can be made. If the event is one where you have some substantial past experience, there may be many options that can be quickly assessed. However, if it is a new or unique experience, then a more analytical and creative response will be available and it will take time to think about the options.
If there is time to think about the options, the opportunities for a really new response to an originally scary situation become available. This is an opportunity for an ah-ha moment and to make a startling discovery.
A really challenging problem is an opportunity to break through to discovery.