By Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW
Savvy trauma blog readers will recall that the fight-flight-freeze mechanism appears to reside in the limbic system and amygdale of the brain. The term “fight-flight-freeze” bring to mind images of ancient peoples fleeing wooly mammoth. Now days, most of us lack spears and (hopefully) do not engage in hand to hand combat.
Today I’d like to natter on a bit about what fight-flight –freeze, a primitive emergency response pattern, looks like in modern times.
So I’ve translated fight-flight-freeze into updated language: explode, distract and pretend.
Exploders get PISSED OFF. These are the folks who are angry at the government, the lady next door who left her Christmas lights up, and the guy at work for expecting so much. They experience internal discomfort as having external sources.
Distracters use computer screens, video game playing, alcohol, drugs, sex, and shopping, over-exercising, compulsive behaviors of all sorts to escape feelings of discomfort. Anyone who uses an external means to accomplish an internal shift is distracting. Addicts obviously fall into this category.
Pretenders make nice, put their heads down and go to work when there is a problem. Not, mind you, one the problem itself but on their careers, or their kitchen cleanliness or a lovely quilt they have been sewing up a storm on.
All of us rotate on the explode-distract-pretend scale, depending on the issue or problem at hand, our personal trauma history and our current level of emotional resources.
If you find yourself stuck in any one response pattern and feel your life is not as spacious or comfortable as you would like it to be, that is a good indicator that it is time to seek a quality therapist.
- Horse Feathers into Peacock Feathers (seattletherapist.wordpress.com)