Flight, Fight, Freeze, or...Functional

These first three, well-known reactions to new or intense situations has been reviewed and discussed many times by researchers and therapists alike. In these situations we have been taught to believe that we resist, run, or cower/freeze in fear.

I've begun to believe there is a fourth reaction/response that becomes stuck in time and, likely, contributes to our negative perceptions of ourselves.

When we have been repeatedly subjected to trauma in chronically-acute ways, we begin to develop different strategies for survival. One of these looks like FREEZE. However, I believe that it is really more of functional acquiescence.

Many of the survivors I have worked with seem to have learned that no amount of resistance to the trauma they are forced to endure is going to make a difference. In fact, any type of resistance will likely lead to greater pain and suffering.

In these situations, survivors likely go into a "surrender" mode and simply endure in silence. They are well aware of potential options, such as fighting or running. They also know that these options have painful consequences that outweigh exercising them.

In this mode, survivors adopt strategies to wait it out. Sometimes, this may look like dissociation in varied forms. Other times, survivors have stayed physically present and simply chose to take the path of lesser pain.

As functional as this strategy likely is, I have begun to explore what it does to the mindset of survivors. In this situation, it seems the prevailing self-thoughts would have to be about being weak and powerless. When this happens repeatedly, this likely settles into the survivors overall perception of self.

Our beliefs about ourselves, others, the world, and God are the roots of how we think in every situation. If our self-belief is one of weakness, we see every other person or situation as having power over us

When this happens, it impacts every other area of life. We become less likely to advocate for ourselves as we doubt it will produce positive results. We begin to allow our circumstances and others to rule over us due.

Each time we do this, we reinforce once again that we are helpless and hopeless in our situations. It all becomes one huge negative feedback loop.

One of the major benefits of EMDR is dealing with these negative self-thoughts after processing and resolving trauma. With the memories and their corresponding body and mind reactions released, it becomes possible to see ourselves in entirely different ways.

Often, seeing yourself in this new way is an important aspect of healing.

One important element of the Senseless Peace Project course is to identify some of the ways you have come to believe about yourself as a result of the trauma you have been through. More importantly, we look for ways you would rather begin to see yourself and how you might know that would be happening.

Once we reach the trauma processing phase of therapy, we can use EMDR as a way to experientially "wire in" some of these beliefs. We also learn how to begin reinforcing these beliefs through self-administered EMDR and Brainspotting.

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