Fight, Flight, or Freeze
by Cari Moffet
Bring yourself to the present, that is all we have, and as Eckhart Tolle says, “This is the only place that we can live.”
It was the middle of March, a week before we were mandated to shut our wellness centre. My next client came into the treatment room and started relaying her fears of all that was going on. I listened, while designing her treatment plan for the hour, hoping she would find some relief. At first, I thought she was just overly stressed, but then I realized it was fear. Her body was holding a different tension than I had ever felt.
I continued the session and didn’t feel very successful in relaxing her. The tension in her tissues felt the same at the end. My next client showed up and the exact same thing happened. I pulled out all my tricks and tools, but I could not relax this body. I was starting to doubt my expertise in stress and relaxation.
I have been working with bodies for over 22 years. Just when I thought I had seen it all, life presented with something so unique. I have worked with pain. I have worked with stress. I have worked with tissue damage, anxiety, depression, loss, heartache, and more, but I have never worked with present fear—ongoing fear. This was a new ballgame, one that school and textbooks did not prepare us body workers for.
During the eight weeks mandated off from work [due to COVID], I found myself frozen on the couch, in the fetal position, unable to move or do anything. Sometimes I would cry, most times I would listen to live meditation concerts where they encouraged us to sing with them. I couldn’t make a voice. Was this also fear?
I never understood the term “fight, flight, or freeze.” It was the freeze I was stuck on and hadn’t heard before. When an animal, or a human, has a threat of danger, there really are three responses, not two. We can fight, we can run, or we can freeze. Now, why would you ever want to freeze?
If a tiger is chasing a herd of goats and one just happens to fall from the pack, it knows it has no chance to fight the tiger or run from it, so it freezes. It does this for a couple of reasons. Supposedly the body actually dies (likely from fear), and the animal doesn’t feel the pain. The goat’s body can also come back to life, and if that tiger just happens to drag it to another area to feast on later, the goat may just run away. I have never seen this happen, but when I think about it, have you ever seen this with a fly? You whack it and moments later it flies away. Did it practice the freeze technique for survival?
Humans have given us conditions for this type of response—Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), or Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). Humans are so advanced, we have labels and drugs and therapy for our stressors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad there is help out there, but why does it get stuck in the body, why can we just not move on like the goat?
It’s our brain. Our thoughts create the stress over and over and it paralyzes us. We may also be reliving past trauma and be triggered by this new stress. I wonder how much less the goat thinks. Is living moment to moment our salvation out of all these disorders? I’m asking this question without minimizing any condition you may be facing personally.
The first weeks back into my practice, I was met with dozens of clients who felt this same thing. They were numb. They, too, had moments of being frozen. Some of them have booked sessions with a counsellor. Wherever you are at, get the help you need. Recognize your response (fight, flight, or freeze) and stay in each moment as best you can.
One of my favourite tips for staying in the moment includes tapping into your senses. We do this in meditation. What do you see, hear, feel, taste, smell? Bring yourself to the present, that is all we have, and as Eckhart Tolle says, “This is the only place that we can live.”
Cari Moffet is a Registered Massage Therapist, Life Coach, Reiki Master, Certified Medical Intuitive, and author who has more than 22 years of experience in the areas of stress reduction and joyful living. She is also the owner and founder of the award-winning business Wholelife Wellness, and has become a mentor and inspiration for other women in business. She loves showing others how to de-stress, relax, and change up their energy after loss or trauma. She currently lives in Meadow Lake, SK. For more information about Cari and her work, or to purchase her latest book, It’s All About Energy, visit www.carimoffet.com. Also see the display ad on page 12 of the 26.1 September/October issue of the WHOLifE Journal.