The Freeze Response
Have you ever felt stuck?
Stuck in a situation, relationship, or moment, that left you feeling shut down or like there was nothing you could do?
In these situations when we are experiencing the freeze survival response, our body is seeking to restore safety by getting through whatever distressing event is happening by being still. This happens when our body detects that it is not possible to achieve safety through fighting or fleeing. In these situations, the survival response is to disappear and simply get through what is happening (Seltzer, 2015). The freeze response is also associated with feelings of numbness, disconnection, exhaustion, inability to physically respond or move.
The freeze response is different than fight or flight in that the stressful energy from the event is not resolved and stays within our body. One of the videos below talks about how this can impact someone when they are reminded of the past event, in which they coped with the freeze response. Mental illnesses such as phobias, anxiety disorders, and panic attacks may be symptoms of an unresolved experience with the freeze response (Seltzer, 2015).
Here are two videos that I thought were very interesting about the freeze response:
Tools for Coping with the Freeze Response
These are tools of resilience that can help with coping with being outside of our resilient zone. If you are feeling distressed or in crisis, consider talking with a mental health professional.
- Tune into the sensations in your body. Track the sensations you are feeling.
- Practice grounding. This is the practice of focus on a surface supporting you. Below is a recording of a grounding exercise.
NICABM. (2021). Working with the Freeze Response in the Treatment of Trauma with Stephen Porges, PhD. Working with the Freeze Response in the Treatment of Trauma with Stephen Porges, PhD – YouTube
NICABM. (2020). When a Client Is Stuck in the Freeze Response with Peter Levine, PhD. When a Client Is Stuck in the Freeze Response with Peter Levine, PhD – YouTube
Seltzer, L. (2015). Trauma and the Freeze Response: Good, Bad, or Both?. Trauma and the Freeze Response: Good, Bad, or Both? | Psychology Today
Threshold Globalworks, founder of Social Resilience Model. Welcome To Threshold Globalworks – Threshold GlobalWorks