The Red Queen Effect is a special form of the fight-flight-freeze response because it is activated by oppressively tight schedules and unrealistic demands on people’s time and attention. In this form of the fight-flight-freeze response, system unity has been lost so that some members of the family, group, team, community, organization, nation or global system feel marginalized.

When people who perceive themselves to be at the top of a hierarchical system respond to The Red Queen Effect, they tend to share unrealistic stress with those beneath them. When people who perceive themselves to be at the bottom of a hierarchical system respond to The Red Queen Effect, they tend to leave or become less engaged in collective goals because they feel marginalized.

The Red Queen Effect was given its name because it is represented by the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland who said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” This is a common feeling in hierarchical systems in which there is a polarizing power differential.

In other words, people doing the work at the bottom of a polarized hierarchical system, often feel marginalized by people at the top who are assigning work with no experiential understanding of how long that work takes to be completed. It is important to understand that both are responding to The Red Queen Effect but in opposing ways due to their position in the hierarchical system.

Mindfulness and adaptive action cycles support a person’s resilience as they move up from marginalized positions into positions of leadership. Until resilient individuals either make their way from the bottom to the top of a hierarchical system or exit it to do something different, they are continually reminded of The Red Queen Effect. It is therefore important to understand the systemwide tendency for fight-flight-freeze responses associated with oppressively tight schedules and unrealistic demands to be activated in hierarchical system leaders and unintentionally transferred to those beneath them generating polarizing patterns of behavior.