As abuse victims mature, we develop emotionally and intellectually, in the process acquiring new coping skills. However, situations which call up the past for us, can still trigger the freeze response.
We may not be aware why this feels like familiar ground; may not be able to identify the similarity to prior events. Triggers can be as subtle as an aroma, or the play of light on the water at a certain time of day.
Subtlety does not though make triggers absurd. We have simply lost their original meaning. It is deeply buried in our past.
Dealing with the Freeze Response
There are strategies victims can use to deal with anxiety and the freeze response . Here are a few suggestions:
Overthinking any problem will only increase the anxiety associated with it. Distraction can provide temporary relief. Options might include a good book, compelling movie, or engaging video game. Online shopping, if to excess, is likely to cause problems of its own.
2. Physical Activity and Sensory Assault
Physical activity can interrupt the feedback loop of paralyzing anxiety. For abuse victims in good condition, vigorous exercise like running, spin class, or racquetball can be helpful.
Some people find that several minutes of blaring music or other noise will bring them relief. Applying ice water to the face, or drinking something vile-tasting can, also, work. Alcohol is not recommended for this.
3. Opposite Action
This requires doing the very thing we fear, for a short period of time. It is one of the techniques taught by Dialectical Behavior Therapy . Even “pushing through” for a single minute is a start.
Amazingly enough, a smile – sincere or not – releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin . These chemicals act to reduce pain, counter depression, and lower blood pressure.
Anxiety anticipates disaster. Worry is future-oriented. Mindfulness is a technique which focuses our attention instead on the present.
“Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Ps. 55: 22).
Prayer allows us to place ourselves and our concerns in God’s hands – the best possible place for them.
Though we are quick to apply negative labels to ourselves, abuse victims are far from cowardly. We have withstood the worst of assaults on our sanity and sense of self, yet survived. And we have done so at the most vulnerable time in our lives.
Like the women depicted in the painting (above), we exhibit courage and anxiety, hopelessness and valor. Many times, in fact, these coexist within us.
That does not make us cowards. It makes us human.
 HealDove, “Paralyzing Anxiety: 5 Things You Can Do When It Attacks” by Greg Weber, 4/25/17, https://healdove.com/mental-health/Paralyzing-Anxiety-5-Things-You-Can-Do-When-it-Attacks.
 HealthyPlace, “5 Ways to Disarm Anxiety by Taking an Opposite Action” by Greg Weber, 7/30/14, https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2014/07/5-ways-to-use-opposite-action-with-anxiety-disorder/.
 Linehan Institute/Behavioral Tech, “What Is DBT?”, http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm.
 Psychology Today, “There’s Magic in Your Smile” by Ronald Riggio, PhD, 6/25/12, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-s-magic-in-your-smile.
The freeze response was discussed last week in Part 1
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