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Coming Out Of Freeze

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

Coming out of freeze was a very confusing time for me. By the time I found brain retraining, I was in a pretty deep freeze response most of the time. I didn’t realize I was in a freeze response, I just knew that I really didn’t feel well and was not capable of doing much. (For those of you that are very familiar with polyvagal theory, I am using freeze and dorsal vagal shutdown interchangeably to simplify a complex topic).


Thankfully, there is a lot more information and discussion about freeze these days, and I

find that clients understand a bit more than I did about how freeze is tied into what they are experiencing. What isn’t talked about quite as much, is what coming out of freeze often feels like. Most of us think that coming out of freeze will be a wonderful experience of being more present, more in our body and feeling more regulated. Cue the triumphant music while we celebrate joyously with our arms outstretched.


In reality, it often doesn’t look like that. What usually happens, is we come out of freeze

and go into a predominately fight/flight state. Anxiety often shows up (it was there all along and simply masked by the shut-down) and we often start to notice more challenging emotions coming in. We often feel quite a bit more physically, mentally and emotionally. It can be a lot, and it often creates fear because this new state can be intense and feel very different than freeze. This new, intense experience and the fear that can get stirred up, can then bump us back down into freeze because we think something is wrong.


I thought I was doing something wrong because it seemed that I suddenly had anxiety, out of absolutely no where. I would have sworn that symptom wasn’t an issue for me when I first started brain retraining, so what the heck? How could that be a good thing? Surely that meant I was getting worse or doing something wrong.


I now understand that it’s progress. Coming out of freeze and moving into a predominately fight/flight state is a normal step towards regulation. Understanding that the intensity of now being in fight/flight is a positive change doesn’t make the experience any less intense, but it does help us move through the intensity with less fear. This often helps us not bump ourselves back down into freeze because we have a framework and explanation for what we are feeling. Understanding the science behind what we are going through can give us the confidence to embrace this different state and know that we are moving forward and making progress.


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