Trauma and the Frozen Response

One of the reactions to traumatic experiences is the frozen response.

A frozen response occurs when you are trapped and cannot move, most often as a result of something that occurred much earlier in life. For example, as a child perhaps you felt threatened by a raging adult. You might have been stopped by volume of their words, the anger in their face, or even the wielding of a belt. Your natural response to this very real threat was to cower whether it be a much bigger person (ex: a parent) threatening you with a very large angry face, loud roaring with anger, and a belt in his/her hand ready to hit as you crouch in the corner of the room, you’re now totally helpless, frozen, unable to move to protect yourself.

One’s basic instinctual response is to protect oneself from harm. The experience can be so overwhelming for the small child that it completely disorganizes that child. Later on, the child may not recall the actual event, but may be forever sensitive to being cornered, whether physically or emotionally.

As an adult, this trauma-disorganized child will become highly aroused and defensive in situations when he or she feels they do not have control.

One of the often effective methods to calm down your nervous system that can be easily triggered is through meditation.

This resource was put together by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM)

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