When I am not at 'my best', my tendency is to be on the sad, melancholy and even frozen side.
It appears lazy, sluggish, procrastinating, unmotivated... whatever judgements we have about slowness, can probably be applied here!
It's a real challenging place to operate from, because, by the very nature of being 'frozen', we are immobilized. It feels paralyzing, our minds go blank, we lose ability to operate in an embodied & authentic manner.
I've noticed over my lifetime of being with other humans, and especially working deeply with emotions & embodiment with clients, that when stressed, people generally tend to lean toward the sad/frozen side or the angry/fight side of the spectrum.
This isn't to say that I never get angry or never fight - I do. Some special select people in my life have seen this side of me ;) But, it is extremely rare in comparison to my overwhelming tendency for sadness & freezing when I'm stressed.
This also isn't something new... it's well observed by many psychologists & people specializing in emotional work. One of my favorite books on this is "The Language of Emotions" by Karla McLaren.
I felt called to share my own lived experience & observations because I understand the unique challenges that come along with this kind of stress response.
First off, there is something really important to understand if your typical stress response is to 'freeze'... you might not even know it's happening.
A fight response, by it's very overt nature, is quite easy to spot. It's loud, aggressive, volatile, explosive, harmful even - even if it's just voice & words, we can tell when someone is in 'fight' mode.
Flight is also pretty easy to spot... someone simply leaves a situation. Either physically, or emotionally checking out & disengaging.
Freeze might sound obvious - and it is in more extreme scenarios like when a deer is literally frozen in the headlights.
In day-to-day life, the freeze response can be much more nuanced and subtle.
(I love nuance & subtlety... no coincidence I suppose!)
When someone whose typical stress response is Freeze, and they experience some kind of stress in normal life it can look like nothing out of the ordinary.
* Your mind goes blank/you don't have any words or feelings to respond to the current situation
* You feel flat/numb/blank
* Your heart rate stays the same, or even gets slower
* Shallow/restricted breathing (upper chest)
* You feel an subtle but intense quiet come over you
* You bump into things a lot more (loss of body-awareness)
* Literally feeling paralyzed/frozen in motion
* Heavy, even like collapsing
Over time, if the frozen stress response isn't allowed to process through the body, this can look like...
* Melancholy & depression
* Frequent sadness & crying (this is actually one way your body processes the stress)
* Flat mood, Unexcited about life
* Fatigue, brain fog, lethargy
The primary issue, in my own experience, lies in the fact that the after effects of this stress response aren't obvious, until they become dire.
Then, people who have this tendency, who are repeatedly under perceived duress, and who are not able to release the frozen tension - such as if they are experiencing this stress response in relationships, they can turn from Frozen to Fawn. (Fawn is the stress response when we focus on care-taking or people-pleasing another.)
This is what I did for many years.
By the very nature of FREEZE, you are unable to feel yourself.
You are numb to yourself.
If you are numb and frozen to yourself for too long, this leads to a lack of connection to your authentic self and will drive you to find any kind of way to feel connected elsewhere - drugs, tv/social media, dysfunctional relationships etc.
If you go the relationship route (which most do, because we're all human and we all crave connection!), it likely has led to codependency & fawning.
Now listen... if you can relate to this and are already starting to feel sad or down on yourself... there's no need.
These stress responses are perfectly NORMAL.
There is actually nothing wrong with the fact that you freeze, fawn, flee or fight when you're stressed.
When we're stressed, our bodies simply take over - we have no control over it. The Autonomic Nervous System kicks into gear and takes over, according to what your body is experiencing and what your genetics have inherited about what to do when stressed.
I used to make it so freaking wrong that I would freeze when I was stressed. And, it didn't help that my ex aggressively made me wrong too (while he was in fight mode).
He'd say things like "You clearly aren't listening." "You never pay attention, how can you have nothing to say?!" in response to me going totally blank.
Talk about an unhealthy dynamic.
Whenever things calmed down, I would go into fawn mode to try to make him happy again.
All-the-while, utterly disconnected from myself.
This is also in no way blaming him.
You see, so much of pop-psychology & insta-meme culture only shares one tiny bit about issues that are much more deeply ingrained than we understand as a general population.
If you have zero control over how your body automatically response to stress... why are you making it wrong that you respond that way?
Wouldn't it be much more helpful to simply know the signals (especially for us freezers!), so we can tell when we're in stress response... and then do something about it?
That is what we do have control over.
The list I shared above of frozen stress response is a good place to start noticing....
Next time you are in a challenging situation, notice if any of those symptoms are present.
If you are in a situation involving someone who tends to go into Fight mode, it can be particularly challenging for you to articulate what's happening because your body is quite literally FROZEN.
So, AFTER the situation has calmed, take some time to reflect - journal - and notice how your body automatically responded. And, if the stressful challenge involved someone else, you can take this information to them and let them know what's happening inside you during those moments.
This sharing of your inner world may feel vulnerable, and only do so if you wish to create a deeper/safer connection & intimacy with the person(s).
And, this kind of sharing is such a gift to them. If their normal stress response is Fight especially, they may not have any real embodied understanding of what your Freeze experience is like.
It is subtle. It appears like all the 'wrong' things our society judges as 'dumb', 'lazy', 'careless', 'thoughtless', 'unmotivated', 'procrastinating' etc...
but these are simply judgements on behaviors most don't understand.
The next thing after you start bringing awareness to what's occurring in your own experience during the freeze stress response, & sharing it with others when appropriate... is to notice when the long-term effects of not having processed it have added up in your body.
This is where the the moods come in such as melancholy, depression, flatness, regular sadness, lack of enthusiasm/excitement about life, lethargy, brain fog, fatigue etc (This is not to say that if you experience these things, that there aren't other underlying issues. That is for you to know & figure out with trusted persons.)
When I experience unprocessed, accumulated freeze response... I can get on with my life for a while, seemingly in a normal/healthy way... but sooner or later I get to a point where I feel quite flat & collapsed. I lack much enthusiasm or motivation - even for the things that I normally love. When these moments happen, I used to think something was wrong with me. Now I realize it's a moment for me to honor the slowing down and be with myself.
In this context, 'depression' is also a judgement.
There is so much heavy & wronging connotation about being in a 'depressed' state... but if you're able to release any judgement about it being wrong, and any story of what it's about or what it means about you... and JUST FEEL IT... it can be released.
If you're feeding a story that feeling depressed or collapsed is 'wrong', it will make it worse.
If you simply feel the collapsed state for what it is, it will release its hold.
I know it's easier said than done, unfortunately due to so much deeply ingrained context around feeling this way, but please trust me, nothing's wrong with you.
It's taken a lot of practice & undoing of social conditioning & B.S. stories (sorry, but even trained psychologists too often prescribe depression when it's about how the person responds to stress - this is why I chose the somatic/embodiment path in my life's work).
whenever I feel this way...
* I note the feeling (usually I label it as 'collapsed')...
* I allow myself to feel it FULLY (I will even lay face down on the ground and feel like a collapsed animal who escaped a predator)...
* and then it can release into moving vital energy once again (sometimes I shake or roll around, often I cry. both are releases).
If this isn't your own lived experience, just take a moment to think about the people in your life that it might be.
Just because people are quiet, subtle, introspective, not loud & obvious, doesn't mean they aren't experiencing a deeply complex & rich world inside that can be very challenging to express in this overstimulating world.
I specialize in helping you learn the signals of your own body, so you can trust yourself on a whole new level.
If this resonates with you, & is helpful let me know.
If you'd like to work with me, you can send me a message or book a free call with me: https://www.meganhart.coach/private-mentoring