The freeze response

The freeze response is one of the most primitive and life-saving. It is used in situations the body/mind considers life-threatening. When a person can’t fight, can’t run, and feels they are going to die, they freeze or collapse because those are the only options. The freeze response¬† conserves resources and numbs psychological and physical pain.

To freeze lets a person put energy into surviving the event with the least possible impact on psyche and ability to function. However, the brain and nervous system can be over stimulated and trained to overreact to lesser situations. This is generally the result of chronic unpredictable toxic stress, particularly in early childhood. That becomes the way you are wired because you never get the chance to express that traumatic energy. It becomes stuck in the body.

A freeze response is actually very helpful for a child who is in grave danger from a terrifying parent. The freeze response can help the child emotionally protect. For instance, an alcoholic parent who becomes violent when drunk. If the young brain has witnessed or experienced sporadic and repeated violence it will learn to be much more fearful of life and peole than that of a child in a healthy environment.

The traumatized brain and nervous system can be retrained to fear less, although this takes great time and effort. I work each day to resolve a tiny bit of the trauma that could not be released because a highly toxic developmental environment disallowed completion of the trauma response cycle. My body became stuck on red alert because there was no resolution. Unresolved trauma is cumulative and compounded, so it’s far easier to not jank up the kid than to unjank the adult. This is why we need a #TraumaAwareAmerica

 

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