Have you ever had the impulse to throw up on someone? (and I’m not talking about in college when you were after a night of partying)
Specifically when you’re at the height of emotional despair and someone tells you to just, “get over it”? What do they know anyway!?
Now you’re frustrated. GOOD!
Their lack of empathy actually may have done you a service. Albeit you may not agree at the moment.
Or perhaps you are stuck in shock – like a deer in headlights – uh oh – now you’re good an frozen. Don’t worry there’s a solution. It’s easier than you may think.
Allow me to explain…
When we’re stuck in a disempowered state, feeling numb and foggy. It’s probably the body’s defensive state, a freeze response. It is a biological process, created to shut you down to keep you protected from pain.
It is a good thing unless you are not able to function because the threat was 20 years ago. Maybe it was just 3 years ago, last week or you can’t even identify a time you had to freeze. The point is the threat has passed but your body is still responding as if it is happening now.
How to Tell You’re In A Freeze (Shut Down):
- Digestion isn’t working properly
- Mental Fog – forgetful or can’t focus
- Dissociated – can’t stay present
- Lethargic – chronic fatigue
- Depressed – Numb
- Sleeping too much or
When someone tells you to just “get over it” and you respond with a flare of frustration or even mild annoyance THAT is actually GOOD!
That totally ignorant comment mobilized you out of the freeze response and into a fight response!
Yaye, you’re no longer shut down. It’s a start. Now moving that stuffed (internalized) anger into healthy aggression is for next weeks chat…
Freeze is the most extreme survival state.
It’s natural to shut down if we cannot fight or flee because the threat is too great. It’s a beautifully orchestrated biological process, it’s absolutely NOT cognitive. Your body is doing the work of protecting you automatically. We have discussed the autonomic nervous system previously.
Movement out of the frozen state doesn’t come from cognitive solutions. (I am speaking from experience!) Mainly because the reptilian brain is controlling the show here. Nor do you have to surround yourself with rude people.
The question becomes:
How can I move out of freeze states without having to endure such lack of compassion? How can I navigate out of freeze on my own?
The great news…
You can move out of freeze on your own, slowly and safely.
Start with a sound. The sound of a ship coming into the harbor. For whatever reason, we call harbors safe. If you happen to know where the term “Safe Harbor” originated, please leave it in the comments below. I’d love to know.
Back to you…
When a ship is in the harbor and it’s a really foggy day, so much so that none of the ships can see each other.
You still know they’ll dock safely because…
They can hear the sound, you probably know it. Yes, the fog horn!!! Hear it? (VU) vvvvuuuuuuuuuuu
Curiosity is the key to changing your brain. (We’re laying down new neuropathways around how you perceive a threat).
So with a little curiosity and now that you know how to track sensations. If not think about also downloading my free e-book for greater detail.
An Antidote For freeze:
Give this exercise a try with the attitude of curiosity. (no expectation or agenda, just what might happen…)
Exhale and make the sound VU (VVvuuuuuuuuu) for as long as the exhale naturally lasts
Repeat 3-4 times
Allow the air to fill your lungs naturally, don’t force your breath.
Track the sensations in your body. Is there a difference?
Do you notice if your chest relaxes? belly? any tingling? How does the environment you’re in look? Do you notice anything new? Allow a couple minutes to explore in this way.
Then repeat the sound again for 3-4 more rounds.
Track your experience once again.
This time what do you sense? How are you doing overall? How are you in your body compared to before you started this exercise?
This should be subtle, at times you may notice a significant difference and other times not. The catch in coming out of freeze is an increase in anxiety. Which is why we shut down in the first place. So gentle. Less is more. Slower is better.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate in commenting or reaching out.
Please know that coming out of freeze can be a process of moving through fight and flight as well because you couldn’t manage a response at the time of the threat. Your body may still want to react to the stuffed down experience. It may require more personalized attention.
If the above exercise has been helpful please share it with a friend that might benefit.
Helping to heal the world, one nervous system at a time. We are all in this together!