Does Your Freeze Response System Engage When You Feel Threatened?
Most people are familiar with the fight or flight response where we react to a real or perceived threat by either fighting our way out of it (fight) or running away from it (flight). There is, however, a lesser know stress response many utilize when confronting a dangerous situation. This is the freeze response. Freezing is a universal fear response. It is like fight-or-flight on hold. When engaged, it permits us to not feel the harrowing enormity in front of us. We become paralyzed in fear.
Imagine coming up on a deer walking through a field. The deer, instead of running away from you stops dead in its tracks and stares. This is the freeze response in action. The freeze response has received little attention in humans, but like our animal counterparts it is also a strategy we use when facing overwhelming circumstances.
Freezing is another one of our bodies natural attempts at keeping us safe and out of harm’s way. Our brain, in a matter of milliseconds, realizes there is no way we can defend ourselves. We cannot defeat the dangerous opponent in front of us and we realize that we cannot get away from it safely. Freezing then, is the next best thing we can do. The goal of freezing is to stop the predator from spotting us in the first place. We virtually try to make ourselves disappear.
Origin Of The Freeze Response
The freeze response is often seen in children, especially in those that experience a large amount of fear in their lives. We are too small to fight with our parents when we are young. We could not run away either. This can leave the child feeling powerless and unable to protect him or herself and their only choice is to freeze up, numb out or dissociate.
In individuals who have repeatedly experienced extreme trauma, especially at the hand of a parent or caregiver, the freeze response may become the stress response they habitually go to. It is usually seen in the most abandoned children, who as adults may be diagnosed with PTSD or c-PTSD. Individuals who suffer from PTSD never had the opportunity to have their unresolved fears fully discharge. This can cause them to tap into an unconscious traumatic memory when reacting to current day trigger. It is as if the past trauma is happening to them all over again and the only way they will survive is by freezing.
What The Freeze Response Looks Like
As an adult, the freeze response can play out in different parts of our lives. Perhaps there was a time when you went to a job interview, had to speak in front of a room full of people or were sitting down for a final exam. With eyes wide open you found your mind going blank. Maybe you did not know what to say or do. These are classic examples of freezing.
Freezing can leave you feeling mentally or physically frozen, as if you are somehow paralyzed. When freezing is your primary stress response, you may find your mind going blank when confronted. You may be challenged in vocalizing your truth or being honest with yourself. You may clam up when around new people who may seem threatening to you.
The freeze response can also manifest as panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors or anxiety. Freeze types often seek refuge in daydreaming, excessive sleeping or becoming involved in activities like watching TV or playing computer games. They often find comfort in the safety that solitude offers. People who are workaholics are often freeze type as well.
The Freeze Response And Life Events
A stuck freeze response might also hold you back in life with fears of moving forward. You might have a hard time making meaningful decisions for yourself or acting on a decision once made. You might end up feeling scared, guilty or angry at yourself because you are not doing what you want or you might feel the world has it in for you. These feelings might lead to self-esteem issues and self-defeating behaviors which only validate the fears you have about yourself and your endeavors. If you have found that you have given up on the idea of love, then perhaps you are in freeze mode as well.
Freeze type individuals often suffer from what is called dissociation. When we dissociate we mentally disconnect from unbearable feelings and emotions that may overwhelm us. In essence, we ‘space out’ from what is going on around us in order to protect ourselves from the challenging situation. The The Dissociative Experience offers an in-depth discussion into the topic of dissociation.
The Dysfunctional Dance Of The Empath And Narcissist may also provide you with some additional insights into the role of trauma in your life and ways to heal it.
© Copyright Rita Louise, Inc. – soulhealer.com. All rights reserved.