Trauma: Fight, Flight, or Freeze


In an emergency situation, we learn in biology class, an animal or human can fight or flee. Adrenaline is called up and the organism prepares for action. The thing they don’t tell us is that the “freeze” response is just as basic. Think of a rabbit freezing at the sight of a predator it can’t get away from. Think of a mouse playing dead in the jaws of the cat, waiting for the chance to dart away.

For those of us who were abused as children, it’s often the freeze response that we experienced. We couldn’t run away if we were small. We couldn’t fight back while we depended for our very lives on the adults who were abusing us. So we froze, with our tender nervous systems at high alert, adrenaline pumping, but unable to act.

Some brave souls among us learned to fight back, whatever the cost. I admire them. I learned helplessness and it’s taken years to learn that I now can fight back. I’ve found out how to yell, pound pillows, stomp around the room, or draw angry red and black pictures. I’ve experienced how cathartic and empowering it is to give bodily expression to anger and outrage in a safe place - not aimed at anyone, just venting. Then I can respond as a grownup from a position of strength and some calm. What a difference that makes!


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6 comments:

Jim Keller said...

Hi Jane...Love your site...and your heard-felt words. Is the art work done by your inner child. Thanks...Jim

Jim Keller said...

ps...I meant "heart-felt"

Jane Rowan said...

Thanks, Jim. Yes, my inner child really likes doing artwork :-)

Jane

Jim Keller said...

Hi jane...my inner child, Jimi, has a website where he writes about God and things like that. He also puts up a photo of a rose to separate the writings. After struggling for years to make some professionally appearing art, I'm getting the clear signal that Jimi just wants to do his own thing with art...so just in the last five min I found a perfect tablet and a box of crayons. So...with the help of a digital camera, jimi's art work may be next to jimi's writing. (We'll see how this goes...afterall, it is jimi's web site...he can do anything he likes there!! Haven't looked at your site too much yet...does your inner child do any writing there? (I did a Google search for Inner Child writing and that's how I found your site but was looking for sites written by Inner Children) you can visit my site if you like at: www.lovingeveryone.com. Jim and Jimi.

Rich said...

Hi,

I ran across your site because I was looking for information on the 'freeze' response that I have when faced with unknown or danger situations. Just wanted to validate your emotions for you.

Jane Rowan said...

Rich,
Thanks. I felt really validated as soon as I realized how basic and natural this response is. It's a shame that kids have to be as scared as rabbits, but it's better to know the truth of it than to feel crazy!

Jane