Ok, so I missed the Freeze Response. I didn’t think it was relevant to me, but on afterthought it has been in the past. I’m going to slap a big **TRIGGER WARNING** on this post, whilst I am not going to go in to detail of events I also do not want to distress anyone. I’ll also note that I have accepted past events as a part of my history and do not attach emotion (especially self-guilt, which I carried for many years) to them. In effect, they don’t affect me like they used to.
So, the freeze response –
This one was a little harder than the other two to sort out, and I’m still not sure that it’s right, or that I’ve put the correct Internal Triggers in the correct spot, but I’m sure you get the picture 🙂
For me, this response I believe is employed in situations that the flight/fight response are inaccessible. It originates from fear and is a detachment/survival mechanism for self-preservation; as I see it. (I did put Trigger Warning for a reason, please stop reading NOW as I am going to discuss assault).
The freeze response, I believe, is caused mainly by external factors and does the most damage internally. It is traumatic. I’m going to use sexual assault as an example of this response being activated. At the time of the trauma (I will call it trauma, as “event” doesn’t have the right connotations here), I think the mind goes into extreme survival mode – it shuts itself off; which shuts the body off too. After the trauma, there’s a need to rationalise what happened. But there is no rational reason for sexual assault to happen to anyone; there is no answer to “why?” it happens in any form. But that is not satisfactory when you have a brain that craves the answers to “why”. So the shame/blame of the trauma becomes internalised. This is exacerbated by questioning yourself as to why you didn’t get out of there or why you didn’t fight back (even worse if these questions are asked of you when you tell someone you trust with this information) – WHY? You mentally and physically COULDN’T.Triggers that remind oneself of this trauma can activate this same response; or can activate one of the other two; fight/flight.
Therapy and *time* are what healed me to the point I can accept what happened as not my fault in the slightest. But it has done a lot of damage to my ability to trust others. I do actually wonder if this has boosted the fight/flight responses in myself to the point they’re pretty much always on alert to activate as an adult. I had two traumas as a child which I can recall that activated the freeze response – I believe any trauma that a child faces makes them lose their sense of safety; the world is a safe place for children – until it is not. It is a hard lesson to learn at an early age (and a lesson that no child should personally have to learn; or adult for that matter) – that you couldn’t be protected by the ones who are supposed to protect you, e.g. parents, and it’s too late after the fact. I hadn’t told anyone about this before this year – nearly 2 decades later!
I have to reflect on these things to honestly evaluate triggers for this response – if anything it’s made even more sense to me now – not WHY it happened, but my response to what happened at the time, and the subsequent mental health issues that followed. This has actually been quite good self-therapy for me, I am hesitant to share this to be honest as I cringe to think this will elicit sympathy in any form (no thank you) – if it helps someone else though it’s definitely been worth examining this response!