where wildly different is perfectly normal
Fight, Flight, or Freeze
Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

If you’ve taken any kind of health class, you’ve heard of the fight or flight response. It’s the reaction to an outside stressor; you either do battle with what’s threatening you, or you run like hell. If outside stressors are chronic, the body can’t handle it and it begins to break down in various ways. This happened to me; I used to joke in college that I didn’t need to exercise because I just stressed everything off. Sure paying for that now.

I’d like to posit a third response. Freeze. Do battle, run like hell, or just stop dead and not move. Unable to decide what to do or how to do it or in what order or when or if it’s even necessary or if I’d be any good at it or if it even matters please pass the wine. Paralysis by analysis. I’m really good at this one. Primo good. First chair, top of the heap, Queen of the Hill, eat my dust, take no prisoners, bow.to.me good. As you can imagine, this is not healthy.

So many things to do, so many decisions to make, so many options to consider…so I just shut down. And waste time doing mindless things, just scratching the surface of my life. I’ve ridden this rock around the sun nearly 38 times and I feel like I’ve lost my last dozen spins. I have only myself to blame, no one else is living this life o’ mine.

My danger response of choice, Freeze, is wreaking havoc on me these days. Combined with the unholy stress of moving a family and 14 years of Colorado living across country, I’m really feeling it. I am frozen, looking to the future and into the past, but unable to move. Unable to appreciate the now. Trying to make plans for the future, but frozen. I need someone with ice melt or a blowtorch to amble by and melt me enough to crack the rest of the way through. I’m tired of being frozen. It hurts in every way imaginable. It’s time to melt, choose a path, and stick to it.

Fight. Flight. Freeze.

What do you think?


  1. Super Anonymous

    It’s so understandable the stress level you have now. And I get the freeze. I hope you give yourself enough time to breathe through all of it. Sounds like something like that may help.

  2. Trish

    This is how I’m feeling lately, too. I think sometimes you do need to give yourself permission to be frozen — let yourself procrastinate and do nothing for … a day, a weekend, a week. And then dive back in.

  3. I think the opossum has perfected this response, but it doesn’t do them much good when they’re in the middle of the road. So, if danger is just watching from a distance, go ahead and freeze, but if it is coming at you 65 mph, I’d suggest flight and if it is already sniffin’ you out I think you’re left with fight.

    Take a look at http://spynotes.wordpress.com/ who is living in Chicago and just offered a job in NYC. (Blogs a lot about gifted issues too btw.)

  4. Allison

    I hear ya! Freeze tends to be my default response. Also what is commonly referred to among my friends as “ostriching” — resolutely sticking my head in the sand and pretending problems, challenges, anything even vaguely unpleasant does not exist. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good advice about curing it. Let me know what you come up with…
    But do know too that you have a whole hell of a lot of support out there, in spirit if not actually lending a hand. Small comfort, I know.

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