freeze

Responses to childhood trauma.

Our therapist mentioned a while back that there are common responses to childhood trauma.  The obvious ones being fight or flight. But she said three others were freeze, submit and attach.

I don’t think I understood at the time but looking at my system now I can see examples of all of these responses in system members.

They’re pretty self explanatory I guess but I just wanted to share this for reference if anyone finds it helpful, like I have.  I think these are even more relevant in dissociative disorders such as DID because there are often conflicting feelings towards abusers - we are often attached to them despite their abuse.  For us that has been one of the most grueling things to admit.

I know freeze is very common, in later trauma/abuse as well as child abuse. It often happens when fight/flight can’t happen and is when a child will become silent and still, anything to avoid drawing the attention of their abuser. It comes with a sense of powerlessness.

If the freeze response doesn’t work, the child can “submit” by going along with whatever the abuser is doing, in the hope that if they comply it will be over quicker/they won’t be punished. This can be seen in animals - they “play dead” and hope for the attacker to leave them. Submit parts often feel a great deal of shame and take on the blame/responsibility for what has happened.

It is apparently common to have alters who represent these trauma responses within the same system. I can now see all of the responses in our system, for example, fight presents in hypervigilant alters such as protectors, flight can be seen in those alters who distance themselves from external people to avoid being hurt, freeze is obvious in very scared/traumatised/often younger alters who can be stuck in the trauma, submit parts can feel shame or appear needy, whereas attached parts have a fear of being abandoned/always try to be better.

I’m not sure if this will help anyone but it helped us to figure out why certain alters act in a particular way/believe particular things.