How we respond when we feel threatened is hugely important. I believe a sense of threat can only be truly measured subjectively. What matters is that the threat feels or is perceived as real.
When we feel threatened and/or frightened we can enter what is called tonic immobility (also called the freeze response) and/or we can peritraumatically dissociate. If a threat is not defused and we internalise it, trauma results. That's how important our response to feeling threatened is and why we need to listen to what people say and feel and take it seriously.
I would strongly argue that trauma cannot be measured objectively and my recent thesis for my MA in counselling and psychotherapy was all about these very topics. I argued that there is an inherent link between tonic immobility, trauma and dissociation (peritraumatic and posttraumatic). It is a subject that I find fascinating and is very close to my heart. Over the next few weeks I will post excerpts of my thesis here.