If you are an abuse survivor, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of being frozen with fear.
Getting unstuck when that feeling overwhelms you is one of the first steps in recovery.
The following video is a quick explanation of what happens when you get frozen and how a trauma therapist will help you process through that experience.
Transcript Of The Video
For trauma victims, normal, everyday life isn’t just normal everyday life.
Imagine you’re walking down the street and enjoying the scenery.
You notice the grass, the signs, the buildings… you’re enjoying the weather and you’re not thinking of anything specific.
Suddenly, you’re aware of a scary person you hadn’t noticed before.
You hold your breath…
The only thing that you are aware of is that one specific person.
All that you had perceived a moment ago—the grass, buildings, signs, everything— is gone…
Or is it?
In reality, nothing is gone. It’s all still there. It all still exists.
The only thing that has happened is your perception has constricted to focus only on the portion of the scene that is a threat.
Most everything else retreats into the background—into the hidden crevices of your mind—so as not to distract you from what you must do—which is keep your attention solely focused on the scary person.
Sometimes, you can get stuck in this place. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to pull yourself out of the experience. You’re now trapped and frozen with fear.
When this happens on a daily basis, or sometimes multiple times a day, it can become highly disruptive and even debilitating.
That’s when a trauma therapist can step in and teach you how to get yourself out of the moments when you’re paralyzed by fear.
Here’s how it works:
While in session, you’ll be asked to bring up a scenario that creates the same feelings of fear, panic, and creates that constricted perspective.
You’ll probably only be able aware of the uncomfortable sensations in your body—your heart beating out of your chest, your throat feeling tight, the desire to run for the door… All of those may feel overwhelming.
That’s when the therapist will slowly start to draw your attention outward. He’ll help you become aware of all the things that are around you and have been around you the whole time.
He’ll remind you to breath. He’ll have you feel the floor pushing up against your feet. He’ll help you notice the grass, and the signs, and the sounds, and the smells, and the sensations all around you.
He’ll start to expand your perspective and help you realize that the scary and uncomfortable things are just one small part of your overall experience you’re having in that moment. This will help to ground you.
It will remind you of what is really real.
It will take a little bit of practice to get good at it, but once you do, you’ll be able to pull yourself out of those times when you feel stuck, or, even better, prevent yourself from sliding into those moments when you feel frozen and overwhelmed with fear in the first place.
If you want to do some more reading on trauma and how to process through it, the concepts in this video were taken from Peter Levine’s book In An Unspoken Voice, with the subtitle How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. I’d highly recommend it.