What happens when I'm afraid...
This isn’t a self-discovery post, this is a request post. If you know of any training to convert a “freezer” to a “fighter” or “flee-er,” please share! I’m not quite 40 so, I’m sure there will be other times in my life when I need to be able to DO SOMETHING instead of freeze!
Something happened this week that scared me. I’m not talking the scared I get when a spider eases her way down a spindly line of silk (which also happened this week) and surprises me and makes me scream hysterically. I’m talking the, in-your-face, primal, adrenaline rush kind of fear that blindsides you when the unexpected happens and pushes you up against the core of everything that makes you, you. The kind of fear that sticks in your lungs but won’t let you scream, the kind that sees every thing in slow motion… over and over and over again. The kind that jolts you awake every half-hour in the middle of the night and won’t let you fall back to sleep. You know the fear... we all do.
It’s happened to me before: in a nightmare, in a closet, in a spinning car on a sheet of ice, with a gun drawn and a yelling SWAT officer in front of my car, in the rushing water of unforgiving early summer rapids. I know this feeling and every time... I freeze!
I hate it!
I don’t scream, I don’t yell, I don’t run, I don’t fight (OK maybe I fight a little) but mostly I … just… freeze!
I HATE this! I hate myself for reacting this way! What is wrong with me?! Everything inside me screams; DANGER! RUN!!! FIGHT!!! SCREAM!!! Instead... I turn into an idiot opossum and do nothing! My skill set, when faced with the things that scare me on a primal level includes…
1) Doing nothing...
2) Staring dumbly...
3) Letting bad things happened….
4) Watching wide-eyed as the bad things happen...
5) Pretending to sleep…
6) Or unwillingly playing the reluctant accomplice...
What the heck?! I am a strong, intelligent human being. I’m quirky but I’m smart. I process differently than most but I problem solve excellently. I’m resilient! I’m quick! I figure things out! I am a woman of action! But in every situation where I feel threatened at the core of my being I cease to function and freeze!
I HATE IT!
How do I fix it!?
“They” say we have two primary reactions to fear: Fight or Flight, BUT “they” say, if you face fear as a child, with limited experience, strength and support, “Freeze” (or disassociation) is the typical response to fear. “They” say the body always releases endorphins but in the case of a freezer it serves as an analgesic to make the trauma less horrifying since the brain has decided that it cannot realistically either fight or flee. “They” say once you identify as a “freezer” or “disassociative” that becomes your fear response.
Well, I reject what “they” say! It’s stupid and I want to fix it! I’m a smart, strong, capable adult now… I am no longer a child! I am no longer weak! I am able to resist fear… so…
How do I fix it?!
I don’t have an anxiety disorder but, statistically speaking, if I live an average life span… I have yet to face a handful of traumatic situations where I need to Fight or Flee! Instead my stupid reaction is to disassociate because of trauma in my past. I can’t anticipate a traumatic event or debilitating situation. All I want to do is figure out how to do something when it happens! I’ve taken first aid courses in case I’m ever in a situation where I need to know what to do to treat someone in physical distress. What about when I’m in distress? There has to be training for this, right?! I’m not talking EMDR/ Sensorimotor processing mumbo-jumbo… I know all that. I’m talking about what do I do to avoid freezing and fight when water is pouring over my head in a river and I’m sure I’m going to drown? What do I do to avoid freezing and flee when hands grab me and hold me down, then let me go and I have a split second to run? In those moments… what do I do!? How do I learn to not disassociate but instead use the chemicals rushing through my body to give me the strength to get me out of a dangerous situation?
I NEVER want to feel like this again. I want to analyze a frightful situation and say with confidence I fought my way out or ran my way out, or at least everyone at my funeral can say I died trying. I’m tired of being an opossum… they’re ugly and dumb!
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