Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The frozen response

When we're trauma informed, we realise that how we respond to overwhelming experiences is a natural, normal part of our evolution as human beings. Freezing or immobility is extremely common when our flight and fight responses have been thwarted for whatever reason. Freezing helps us to survive and it is an involuntary response, that is, our autonomic nervous system takes over for us in times of severe stress.

Judgements and appraisals from ourself and society such as I "didn't put up a fight", or I "just lay there and didn't scream", are just plain wrong and can make you more predisposed to developing trauma because you feel so ashamed of your responses, among other strong emotions and sensations that you may have. Society often blames the victim instead of focusing on the perpetrator. The victim is burdened with the responsibility of how they responded to threat with little to no understanding of how our bodies and minds work under threat. This is why education is so important, particularly for first responders, the police and the judicial system. It is crucial that we normalise how we respond to traumatic experiences so the likelihood of us developing trauma (and all its many manifestations) is reduced.

Try tapping on the words in this script, of course it is generic so please customise it for you and how you feel, leave out what doesn't fit and insert your own words, feelings and body sensations, which will make it much more effective.

Even though I froze, I accept myself anyway

Even though I’ve no explicit memory of freezing (common in utero and early childhood, the memory will be implicit), my body remembers

Even though my body remembers and that feels … I am trying to accept how I feel about that

Even though I couldn’t call out or move and that made me feel … I am willing to accept how I responded

Even though I now believe … about myself, I am willing to heal that belief

Top of the head: This frozenness
Eyebrow: In my (gut, legs etc) …
Side of eye: I can’t feel …
Under the eye: And that makes me feel …
Under the nose: I can feel … (twists/knots in your gut, stiffness in your legs etc)
Under the chin: My consciousness floated away
Collar bone: And my body stored …
Under the arm: When I couldn’t move or do anything

Top of the head: I was trapped (physically, psychologically etc)
Eyebrow: I was able to escape by …
Side of eye: And that makes me feel ...
Under the eye: I’m stuck
Under the nose: Something is stuck in my body and mind
Under the chin: And it’s causing me stress (list whatever else fits here)
Collar bone: The shame
Under the arm: Of …

Top of the head: The helplessness …
Eyebrow: The horror …
Side of eye: The fear …
Under the eye: The rage …
Under the nose: This helpless anger
Under the chin: I can feel some of it
Collar bone: And lessen the load on my body and mind
Under the arm: Holding all this stuff until I was ready

Top of the head: I’m grateful to my body sometimes
Eyebrow: And sometimes I think it has betrayed me
Side of eye: By not being strong enough
Under the eye: To fight back
Under the nose: Or flee
Under the chin: What else could my body and mind do?
Collar bone: They froze to help me survive
Under the arm: The response was instantaneous

Top of the head: I couldn’t control it
Eyebrow: And that makes me feel …
Side of eye: My mind floated away
Under the eye: And my body tried not to feel …
Under the nose: But it’s all coming up now
Under the chin: And it can be overwhelming
Collar bone: So I need to take it slow
Under the arm: But a part of me wants to go fast

Top of the head: Because I’m in pain
Eyebrow: I accept how all parts of me feel
Side of eye: I want to fight some parts of me
Under the eye: But they freeze
Under the nose: To protect me
Under the chin: Fighting doesn’t always work
Collar bone: There are other ways
Under the arm: To survive and thrive

Top of the head: It is possible to heal from this
Eyebrow: No matter how badly I feel right now
Side of eye: It’s simpler than I think
Under the eye: And maybe even easier than I think
Under the nose: I’ve been trying too hard
Under the chin: Because I feel so bad
Collar bone: I’m open to solutions
Under arm: That I might not have thought of

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