Fight, Flight, Freeze

Hello to all,
Having a little bit of a time here and while the Therapist is away I have had some time to do some thinking.

For the time I have spent in therapy, I have spent most of it in fight or flight. When in engaged in these two responses, I was moving. I hope this makes sense but I will explain a little. These two responses cause an action to occur, a moving away mostly, but nevertheless, action. So, even if these were counterproductive at least I was moving, there was inner movement.

Now that he has shown me he is constant these two things have diminished by at least 50 percent. The energy I was spending while unconsciously doing this was so physically exhausting in my body. I did not realize for years I have lived this way and my body is tired. Now that I am more conscious of it, I try to not respond in this way, observing the wave but not getting caught up in the wave.

Now, this is my most current situation. I am now stuck in the freeze mode. I had thought at least with the other two I was at least having some inner movement. All I do now is just freeze. In session, in real life. No movement. I almost prefer fight or flight because I felt I had some control. This is particularly difficult because I feel as if I am like a flower/butterfly in a glass paperweight. I can not move and I am locked in with no way out.

I have begun to despair because I literally have been freezing up in the therapy sessions. I just can't keep going in there and saying, "My stomach hurts. I am so scared." I am stuck in this place and don't understand why.

My question is what do you do when you are stuck in the freeze response? How do you know what to do when you don't know what is causing the freeze response? I think he is getting tired of me and is now only tolerating me. I have been seeing him for three years and I can't keep going in there saying the same thing over and over again. I did express this to him and he told me I might get tired of saying it but he wouldn't get tired of hearing it and that I was projecting onto him.

I know I am stuck and I don't know how to get unstuck. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for any suggestions. My desperation has reached a new place as I went and saw another counselor (not to replace him because I needed to see someone during the three week break).

She suggested maybe I need to change Therapist and maybe my marriage has suffered too much damage to be repaired. I told her firmly I was not giving up on my marriage and I did not want to start all over with another counselor. I also told her I truly believe if I can work out all of this negativity toward the Therapist then I would be able to work out all of the negativity in my marriage. Am I a fool to believe this? I don't want to give up but I left there so panicked. Time is running out and no one waits for someone forever to come around. My husband has given me a lot of space and he truly cares for me. I just feel so frozen, as if I am locked into this place and can't find the key to get out.

Couples we have known and who have been together for years are now divorcing and when I saw just last night another couple was going through a divorce, I felt as if my breath was being taken away. I don't want our family broken up and if it takes me years to get to where I need to be, then so be it. I just don't want to give up.

I am sorry for rambling but the realness of this has hit me since seeing the other Therapist this week. She is much more interactive than the other Therapist I see but what I appreciate most of the Therapist I see is he has never told me to give up on my marriage. He also believes if I can work all of this out with him, I can work all of this out with my husband.

I feel so lost.

Thank you for listening and thank you for replying.

T.
Original Post
Sorry it's so tough, TAS. You have stuck with this through a lot and I respect you for that.

Maybe you could tell us a bit more about the fear you experience in session? What is it you are imagining might happen? What would be the worst case scenario? Does anything make it worse? Does anything make it better? If you weren't so afraid, what would you be feeling instead?
BLT: Hey there Smiler Thank you for your reply. I can only say there is an immense fear which causes me to freeze and I don't know where it is coming from. In this experience, I think I have to know the why of something before I can talk about it. If I can figure it out, then I can talk about it. To tell someone I am scared and not know why, seems a little babyish and I feel I must know the why before discussing it. Not knowing why I am scared places me in a very vulnerable place with the Therapist. Shouldn't we know why we feel something? This is where it gets confusing for me.

I don't think I imagine anything to happen except more fear to be unveiled. The worst case scenario is I can not speak (which has happened before). I don't know what makes it worse except it seems to be triggered when my stomach starts hurting and then I don't know what to do with that. As long as I am trying to get away from the feeling, nothing seems to make it better. I am not sure what I would be feeling if I wasn't so afraid.

I don't know if any of this makes sense; I hope I wasn't too vague.

T.
TAS-

I think it's totally okay and even probable that you don't have all the answers, that you don't know what you fear or why it's so strong. I think the autonomic nervous system doesn't work on an intellectual level. We have responses - fight, flight, or freeze. These are bodily responses and don't necessarily match up with our thinking brain. I also think that perhaps your fear/experiences come from a very young age, maybe pre-verbal. You don't have the words for your experiences because you didn't have the language back then. Your body holds the experiences.

I actually really struggle with the freeze response as well. I am constantly shutting down and freezing. I feel so still, like I can't get myself out of it. It's how I handled things when I was young and overwhelmed - I just stood there frozen and never handled any emergencies. I also have strong but underlying urges to run/flee. But the freeze usually predominates. Anyway, I think you should talk to your T about this. Your feelings in your body. They don't have to have words. They can have images, sensations, whatever. As part of my work with a somatic experiencing (SE)/body T, we work on finishing the response. The thing about trauma is that our responses don't get to finish, and therefore, our nervous systems get stuck (either in one of the responses or a combination) and dysregulated. I don't know if this makes sense or is too out there. I'm sorry I can't be better at explaining. I'm only now just learning about SE and the how it works.

My advice would be to talk about this to your T. He's proven quite trustworthy, it sounds! And like BLT, I'm quite impressed by your dedication and perseverance! You've come so far, TAS!
quote:
To tell someone I am scared and not know why, seems a little babyish and I feel I must know the why before discussing it. Not knowing why I am scared places me in a very vulnerable place with the Therapist. Shouldn't we know why we feel something? This is where it gets confusing for me.


It almost sounds like you judge yourself for not understanding your feelings yet, and then you're afraid your T will also judge you? You would feel vulnerable just telling him what you are feeling, and if he judged you for not knowing why that would make it worse? Is that at all close?
Thank you Erica! It helps to hear when others can relate to a similar experience. I just don't know HOW to talk to him about it because just the thought of it makes me freeze. (This is not an excuse but I can literally feel myself freeze). I am definitely going to keep working at it. Thank you Smiler

BLT: The whole judgment thing terrifies me. Truly. I am always worried about what he is thinking and how he sees me. I struggle with my negative behavior towards him and he still accepts me back. This I find puzzling. I do judge myself for not understanding why I feel what I feel. It's as if I should just know and there is no room for any other alternative than just knowing. If he judged me for not knowing, then I am stupid. I should know and then if a professional judges me for not knowing, then that makes it hundred times worse because he is the professional.

Thank you BLT for responding. I do appreciate it.

SmilerT.
TAS, I can relate because I used to constantly think my T was judging me or be afraid that she would. It turned out I was very judgmental towards myself and I assumed she would feel the same way and just confirm that my negative judgments about myself were true, much like you were saying.

In reality a T's job is not to judge the client. If a T judged their client for not knowing something, they wouldn't be a very good T since their job is to help the client figure things out, not tell the client they are stupid. If this is a fear you have, hopefully you can ask him if he is judging you (I have had to ask that many, many times) and if you can look and see that there is no judgment in his face when he says no, I'm not judging you, then maybe that will help a little with the amount of fear you have.
Hi TAS - I hope I didn't come across as dismissive! I totally know how terribly difficult it is to just tell your T about stuff. It has taken me many weeks/months to talk about some things too, so I definitely get how hard it is. But yes, keep going and keep trying. Little by little. That's how I'm trying to look at it. Doesn't have to come out all at once, but taking little risks is so important.
BLT: Thank you. I am petrified at the thought of asking him if he is judging me. I will work on this. You gave me a couple of ideas to get through this and I appreciate this. I am determined not to give up. I believe I can get through this and I appreciate your supportive input Smiler T.

Erica: You truly did not come across as dismissive. Thank you for talking with me about this and sharing your experiences. I know I just have to keep hammering away. He comes back this week and when I think of his return, the thought comes to me: "I don't even know what to say to him." I feel this often between sessions. Thank you so much for your feedback and your encouraging support.

T.

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