Fight, Flight or Freeze

According to all the literature there are three basic responses to trauma, all of which remain responses until they’re trained out of you. If you believe in the NARM and think you can retrain yourself. If you follow the Dr’s that subscribe to the brain damage models I suppose you’re screwed.

I choose to believe I can overcome anything. I just need to learn to recognize my own triggers and responses and find the tools to help me do it.

**Excerpt from “Healing Developmental Trauma” By Laurence Heller PhD and Aline LaPierre PsyD. Published 2012. Page 116-117*

The Fight-Flight-Freeze Response

Essentially, the goal of the fight-freeze-flight response is to prepare us to defend ourselves in a situation of threat or to run away if we cannot defend ourselves. The fight-flight response is mediated by high arousal in the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system as it prepares the body for self protection and survival. The freeze response is mediated by the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. There are two aspects to the freeze response:(1) freeze as a highly charged but immobile defensive maneuver and protection reaction, which is used by all animals, including humans, to avoid being noticed by a predator and (2) freeze as a collapsed fallback position when fight-flight is not possible.
A common metaphor used to explain fight-flight is to compare the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system to the gas pedal and the parasympathetic to the brakes, In trauma, the sympathetic branch is fully engaged (that is, our foot is pressing the gas pedal to the floor) to mobilize massive amounts of fight-flight survival energy. At the same time, the parasympathetic branch is applying the brakes in an attempt to modulate the dangerously high sympathetic arousal. In essence, both the gas pedal and the brakes are simultaneously pressed to the floor. The result is high tonus in both branches of the autonomic nervous system: the engine is turning at high speed but the brakes are fully engaged leaving the car at a standstill. This standstill involving high tonus in both branches of the autonomic nervous system is a particular type of freeze response called tonic immobility. The state of tonic immobility should not be confused with the collapse response, which is a type of freeze in which the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is dominant.**

Ive always considered myself a fighter but Im not. Not really. Not according to all these multitudes of psych texts. Im not even fully a runner, or a freezer. Whenever things get too hard, too emotional or too scary I shut down completely. But first I get mad about it. Or mad at myself for being so out of control emotionally. And then I either try to run or fall apart and shut down. Im not talking about a bad day at work, Im talking about extreme events. At least to me they’re extreme.

That being said apparently Im pretty much hardwired to think most situations are extreme. I dont really have a scale. It’s bloody awful or it’s nothing at all. There’s no real middle ground.

I tried to role play a rape once with my Dom while I was in training. All he did was grab me and throw me down and I totally shut off. No reaction, no noise, just a silent, limp body. I didnt even know I’d done it until he told me. I wish I’d processed it when it happened but I was embarrassed that I’d failed at the task he’d set me to do. I dont like to fail. I dont know how to over come that reaction if I dont even know Im doing it. I feel like a fainting goat, just easy prey for anyone. I wish I thought that was as funny as it sounds.

I dont know why Ive been thinking about that a lot recently.

My ability to tuck tail and run is legendary and well documented but I think Ive almost got a handle on that response.

I feel like my fight always shows up late to the party. After I needed the muscle when there’s nothing left but pools of blood and pieces on the ground Fight saunters in and tells me how I should have handled it and what I should definitely do next time.

I feel like Flight is the only one that’s never let me down. And that’s saying something. Everyone lets me down. Everyone. Ironically it’s also the only one I can half ass control. Funny how that works.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s