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Fight / Flight / Freeze

Discussion in 'Discussion' started by zeldazonk, Oct 12, 2010.

  1. zeldazonk

    zeldazonk New Member

    Hi,

    I've been thinking about the fight/flight/freeze responses to threatening situations. When, as an adult I was physically attacked, and later sexually assaulted, I froze or went limp and left my body. This seems to me a pretty maladaptive response as an adult. I understand that it's a natural response and that other mammals do it and all that, but really, not that useful in those situations...which got me to thinking, is it a learnt response from trauma in childhood that I just automatically went into?

    Does anyone know if responding by freezing to a threat suggests prior trauma - or is it just another survival mechanism?

    Thanks, ZeldaZonk
  2. Ayesha

    Ayesha Beautiful Disaster Staff Member Premium Member

    Its the body's normal response to trauma. It IS useful. You fight, because you think you can or you flight, because you think you can get away, and you freeze because you think you will die.

    Hope that helps you.
  3. zeldazonk

    zeldazonk New Member

    Thanks Ayesha,

    So just to clarify, you don't think freezing is necessarily indicative of previous trauma? Is it just a hard wired response that we're born with?
    I just can't help but feel it's something a child would do in a situation where they literally couldn't do anything else - sexual abuse for instance - and that's what the body/mind returns to during subsequent trauma. Maybe I'm just talking about myself, I don't know.

    Zel.
  4. ClairBear226

    ClairBear226 Irony Consultant and Director of Chocolate Premium Member

    Someone might be able to correct me on this, and if so, I welcome it. But if memory serves correctly, the "freeze" reaction in a mammal is actually useful in a dangerous situation, in that it would cause us to remain very still when a predator is near. If you think about the reaction a deer might have when it hears movement in the woods, it may help. A deer might stop and listen, and be as quiet as it can so as to not alert anyone to it's location. This is biology stuff that I had a REALLY long time ago, so hopefully I'm explaining it in a way that translates well to a human, but the bottom line is, I think it's a natural reaction and not necessarily the result of past trauma.
  5. Ayesha

    Ayesha Beautiful Disaster Staff Member Premium Member

    Completly agree ClairBear226, "I think it's a natural reaction and not necessarily the result of past trauma."

    From Wiki:
    "For example, the fight response may be manifested in angry, argumentative behavior...Males and females tend to deal with stressful situations differently. Males are more likely to respond to an emergency situation with aggression (fight), while females are more likely to flee (flight), turn to others for help, or attempt to defuse the situation – 'tend and befriend'. During stressful times, a mother is especially likely to show protective responses toward her offspring and affiliate with others for shared social responses to threat."


    I used used to freeze or fight during my traumas. Depending on the situation of the trauma. "show protective responses toward her offspring..." would be me.
  6. zeldazonk

    zeldazonk New Member

    Hi, Thanks for the replies.
    I just wrote quite a long response and then accidentally hit reply to thread and lost it all.
    I'll try to do it again later. Too exhausted now.
  7. anni

    anni Bucephalus ( an old war horse ) Premium Member

    I've done that Zelda, or else my internet will burp just as I've written something and it all goes poof. Isn't it maddening?

    I wish I had something useful or knowledgable to add to this, but probably do not. It's something that's worth the question, however because just from experience I absolutely believe one's reactions change because of the trauma. Whether this would translate through childhood into adulthood of course do not know. It's just that I've genuinely thought about what on earth I'd do, if ever, ever brutalized again and think my response would be something terribly explosive,violent, defensive and not at all what it was 'in the old days'. It's not a matter of wishing to sound like a thug but God help the next person who touches me. That's a huge change, and a real shift in the dynamics of how one's head deals with an attack.

    I hope it's not too arduous retyping your post, Zelda! OH I hate it when I do that, too!

    Anni
  8. Ayesha

    Ayesha Beautiful Disaster Staff Member Premium Member

    I totally agree with you anni. I think that the reason you can say this now is because you've been there before. You've had so much time to think about it, dwell on it, and dream about it ( I've had dreams where I fought back) that even if you had so really really hurt that person you would. I know I would. I would no longer freeze or flight, I would really really fight. I wouldn't care if it killed me, but I would NEVER let that happen again.

    Some of the good traits we've gotten from PTSD kick in.
  9. zelda

    zelda New Member

    Hi ZeldaZonk from another Zelda.

    I also froze and left my body when I was assaulted as an adult. What was startling to me was realizing that I had done the same thing as a child. I had forgotten it.

    I would like to believe that, if I were attacked again, I would fight so hard I would scare the crap out of anyone trying to hurt me. But I don't know. I wouldn't have guessed that I would have gone limp and "away" when assaulted as an adult, so I don't trust my ability to predict such things. I just don't know.
    goingonhope likes this.
  10. zeldazonk

    zeldazonk New Member

    Thanks for the empathy Anni!

    Wow. That's amazing Ayesha, I'm pretty sure I'd freeze again.

    I totally agree that freezing is a natural and useful reaction to threat. I never meant to suggest otherwise. I don't know if I'm explaining myself very well.

    "The freeze response is hard-wired in our reptilian brain. When "fight or flight" is not an option, our autonomic nervous system goes into a freeze response and we become immobilized." (my italics)(http://www.myshrink.com/counseling-theory.php?t_id=85)
    This is what interests me. Freeze comes into play when the first two impulses are impossible. Fight/flight seem to be the primary responses. (I've only ever read about the Freeze response (in humans) in trauma literature. I notice the Wiki paragraph, for instance, didn't mention it.)
    I could have fought or tried to run when I was raped as a young adult but I froze and 'left'. I wonder if this is due to the fact that my nervous system was screwed up / programmed that way because I was abused as a child and that's how I survived then.
  11. Ayesha

    Ayesha Beautiful Disaster Staff Member Premium Member

    All I got to say is NO ****ING WAY that I would let that happen again!

    Now I all I can say about the rest of this is...I have no degree. :( Plan to get one, but I don't now. :) I was also abused as child, but don't remember almost any of them. Just yelling, screaming, and the feeling of being pushed down stairs.

    During my trauma's I fought some, but mostly I begged. Cried. Wow just typing that makes me want to cry again. But I fought the hardest when I was pregnant. That was the worst trauma.
  12. Iam

    Iam VIP Member

    Hi Zelda and welcome to the forum. Believe it or not I replied earlier today and it isn't here!!! Guess it went poof! when I hit post..GAH!

    In your original post you sounded like you thought maybe you were abused as a child but don't remember it. In your last post it sounds as if maybe you "know" you were abused as a child? I don't know that it has any relevance or not. It does sound as if you might feel guilty for not having fought back or tried to run. I hope this is not the case. Whatever the situation, being assaulted was NOT your fault. Even though you think you could have done more to protect yourself maybe your brain unconsciously saw that it was futile to try to fight or flee so it allowed you to freeze and just leave.

    I tend to freeze when extreme anger is shown. Even if it is not directed at me. In fact a situation happened recently where I couldn't even see the person from where I was but I heard the raging and I was left a shaking mess. I know this is from previous traumas that I have suffered not only as a child but repeatedly with a family member who does not live with me. So for me, it is definitely preprogrammed in certain circumstances.

    I don't think this has been any help to you but just wanted you to know that I am sorry that you have suffered. I am glad you found the forum. You will find answers to some of your questions in the articles on the home page. You will also find, as I think you have already found, much support here. Welcome to the forum Zelda!
  13. Sammy

    Sammy dog mom Premium Member

    IMHO (I only know my own experience and tendencies), I become raging angry but manage to walk away from perceived "threats" (emotional usually). I learned to keep my mouth shut as a child. But, Lord help anyone that touched me now. I think I might really damage them. At the same time, my first response, even when very angry, is to leave. That all said, I cannot say I have been truly physically threatened in many years. At least, not knowingly. I used to go for walks late at night, alone. (It was a relatively safe place but, you never really know). It used to be almost a dare. I expect walking with a 90 pound German Shepherd made me feel pretty powerful but, I really didn't care if anyone attacked. My approach was "What can they do that hasn't already happened? I dare ya!" I wander... I expect our responses are as individual as each of us and our individual traumas. If it were easy to predict or resolve, we wouldn't be here!
  14. Ayesha

    Ayesha Beautiful Disaster Staff Member Premium Member

    Yes! My old T tried treating me like ; yeah, yeah I've been there too. It's all so individual, so personal, impacts in so many different ways, that you can't treat everyone with PTSD the same, its all so differnet, combat, sexual, abuse,9/11. It's amazing how it brings us all together, when are experiences are so differences, but here we are!

    Rape is not "okay, he's not raping you now right? so what's your problem? " it wasn't just a attack on you, it was an invasion of your body and soul. I can't let anyone attack my soul again, it wont make it.
  15. anni

    anni Bucephalus ( an old war horse ) Premium Member

    I'm really, really happy you've been able to point to the biogenic reason you were not ABLE to fight or run, and did not internalize it as can happen with our whole zero self-esteem, self blame thing. Beyond being flatly informative ( I love 'stuff' I just didn't know before! ) I would hope the whole take of your post would be helpful in torquing head's around on this.

    I think you're right Ayesha- we've had time to THINK, and our heads now know, No doubt the healing has helped because if you think about it, one has to somehow feel deserving of defending oneself, even subconsciously, if that makes any sense.
    Ayesha and Junebug like this.
  16. Ayesha

    Ayesha Beautiful Disaster Staff Member Premium Member

    Had a thought about this...

    I used to have bad nightmares ( for some reason I don't now, I think because I always so to bed very tired) Never about the trauma. I was always being chased, with the feeling that if I was caught I would be raped. Sometimes in my dream I would be trying to call 9-1-1, (like I always wish I had done, instead of nothing!) They got really bad...I mean in one my husband was dead.
    Once I had a nightmare, started scary...but maybe my 'real' self was like " Not this shit again?!" it was the only dream I had were I fought back. I was caught ( because of that stupid other girl in my dream but yeah...) but I thought back.

    Lesson's learned?
  17. Jestadud

    Jestadud New Member Premium Member

    That's interesting that you think freeze comes after fight and flight are no longer an option for I have tended to think of it as the waiting period when you assess the situation, or watch it develop. Put the ball back in their court so to speak or even the lull before the storm.

    I do think it is learned behaviour the same as learning to endure.
    Junebug likes this.
  18. zeldazonk

    zeldazonk New Member

    Thanks for the welcome Iam

    "I have tended to think of it as the waiting period when you assess the situation, or watch it develop" In my experience, once I'm frozen there's no way I'm gonna get up and fight or run. I'm absolutely immobilised until the threat has passed.
  19. zeldazonk

    zeldazonk New Member

  20. zeldazonk

    zeldazonk New Member

    Hi Other Zelda,
    When did you remember that you froze as a child?
  21. macelia

    macelia New Member

    Hi everyone. I experienced and witnessed regular physical and sexual abuse between ages 2 and 12 and then as a teenager and young adult I was raped about 6 times. I just had no ability to fight or flee at all. Now I think about someone trying to rape me and I imagine shooting, chopping, stabbing, burning them ... anything to destroy that person. I'm full of rage at the idea of anyone trying to hurt me again. I even imagine going to prison because I choose to kill the person instead of just defending myself. In my imagination I kill the person, but I honestly don't know if I would even fight back or if I'd go into totally powerless mode. Sometimes I even want someone to try to hurt me so I can totally obliterate them with my rage.
  22. bluecat

    bluecat New Member

    Hi Zeldazonk,

    I just wrote a post in another thread titled "Fight, Flight or Freeze?" and now just saw your thread. What a coincidence that we should both be thinking about the same PTSD symptom.

    As you mentioned, the freeze response occurs in situations where the other two responses (fight or flight) are not possible and in that case does not necessarily indicate a previous trauma. It can however become a learned response if the helpless situation occurs repeatedly and then occur in response to any scary or anger inducing situation, even one where escape or fighting are possible. There is a good article here on the forum that talks about the lower brain's involvement outside of the control of the cortex and the fight/flight/freeze response would be governed by the lower brain. Sorry I can't put in a link, I remember reading the article, not where it is.

    In my situation freezing was a learned response that I acquired in childhood during attacks by my father. I couldn't leave, as I was a child and had no idea where I'd go (even though I am told by my sisters that I tried to run away from home several times) and I also couldn't fight my father because he was my parent and I was supposed to obey and respect him, and also, the bastard was much bigger than me and I was scared that he'd kill me or at least break a limb or two. I felt equally stuck and unable to do either (flee or fight) in my abusive marriage, but in there I eventually figured out that I can escape.
  23. bluecat

    bluecat New Member

    Hi Macelia,

    no wonder you're this angry, every normal person would be in your situation. I sometimes imagine my father abusing my sisters again and me taking a chair and smashing it on his head, until he is as broken and powerless as he made us. Or shooting him in cold blood. It doesn't mean I will go and kill him, but I think its good to put the anger where it belongs. He deserves all my anger and the people who hurt you do to.

    Best,

    Bluecat
    macelia likes this.
  24. Steph667

    Steph667 New Member

    Hi Zelazonk. I have copied a very interesting article below. I know its long but it may be helpful and worth the read. Its related to horses but is still relevant

    This topic has been gaining increasing publicity since Robert Redford dropped 'Pilgrim' at the end of The Horse Whisperer.

    I have been biting my tongue regarding this subject for a very long time, as I was not sure how to express my feelings on the topic. Finally, I have found an explanation that truly resonates...but first, my firm, personal opinions on this topic:

    1. This tactic should be an absolute last resort before dogging/putting down a horse
    2. Under no circumstances should amateurs have the how-to explained to them as this arms less experienced riders/trainers with powerful tools they may not fully understand
    3. It should be used only by highly experienced professionals, and not in the public arena - there will always be an idiot or several who watched and ignore the "don't try this at home" warning


    The following is an excerpt from Linda Kohanov's book, The Tao of Equus. I highly recommend this book to all horselovers, but this particular extract deals with the practice of laying a horse down in great detail. It is long, but I urge you to read through.


    Laying horses down

    "There's a difference between aligning with nature for the mutual benefit of horse and rider, and manipulating nature for selfish ends. THe former leads to greater balance for everyone involved. The latter results in the trainer quickly gaining control at the long-term expense of the horse. Somtimes, even the most well-meaning and experienced trainers have trouble distinguishing between the two. People who lack integrity and self-awareness repeatedly cross this line without a second though.

    The practice known as "laying the horse down" is a classic example. The fact that this tecnique was portrayed during a pivotal scene in both the novel and film versions of The Horse Whisperer sets a dangerous precedent for many amateur equestrians. Shortly after the movie came out, I had to talk several people out of duplicating this method with their own horses, and actually had trouble convincing them to take the time to work through their problems with less intrusive techniques. To the casual observer, it appears an unruly horse can be "fixed" in record time by this impressive trick. However, the act of forcing a prey animal to lie down by tying up one of his front legs, dragging him to the ground, and sitting on him in this vulnerable position until he submits causes such an intense fear reaction that the animal's entire nervous system short-circuits. The result is a sudden change in personality. The horse acts like a zombie, which to people who prefer a machine-like mount, appears to be a miraculous cure for disobedience.


    Though I know of no formal studies explaining the psychological and physiological effects of this tactic on horses, it appears to take advantage of a biological process that shields all mammals from feeling the impact of an attack. After all, when a large predator succeeds in pulling a horse down and immobilizing him, it usually marks the end of the battle. This reaction differs from common shock because an animal can freeze before any physical damage occurs, and, under certain circumstances, can remain in a lesser form of this dissociative state after the danger has past. Some tribal hunting cultures believe that nature has shown the utmost compassion in providing a mechanism that allows a prey animal's soul to leave his body before the heart stops beating, thereby sparing him the pain and horror of being eaten. Tradition equestrian-based cultures in Siberia have been known to perform similar moves on horses about to be sacrificed with the expressed intent of releasing their spirits before striking the fatal blow. To look into the vacant eyes of a horse that has been subjected to this technique is to know there's some truth to these notions.

    Dana Light saw the method used many times during her years working at ranches, training stables, and trail riding operations. Horses receiving this treatment immediately lost status in their herds and were sometimes completely ostracized. She believes that by laying the horse down and holding him down until he submits, the animal is frightened within an inch of his life. "He loses the will to live," she says, "and he simply doesn't care what you do to him anymore. The herd immediately sense this and adjusts to it, in some cases acting as if he doesn't even exist. I would never do this to a horse unless he was so dangerous the only alternative would be sending him to the killer's."
    Some commercial trail riding stables have bee known to perform the procedure on horses most riders would perceive as only mildly difficult. Owners of these operations can't afford to have a member of the string react to unbalanced, sometimes fearful beginner riders by bucking or running off with them. Their horses are obliged to walk the same trails day after day. They're expected to endure people who pull their mouths and kick their sides unmercifully. Some stables also require their mounts to stand around saddled for long stretches of time, waiting for prospective riders. Animals too spirited or willful to submit to these demands can be "corrected" in a single afternoon.

    Long before I really understood what this method entailed, I had the opportunity to rehabilitate a horse who showed all the symptoms associated with this extreme technique. "Spike", a handsome palomino who worked on a dude string, managed to find a new owner when thirteen-year-old "Bonnie" fell in love with him during a trail ride. Her parents bought this older, more reliable gelding on the spot, thinking he would be a safe beginner's mount for their horse-crazy daughter. He seemed the perfect choice, at least at first. Problems arose, however, when Bonnie tried to bond with him and ride him around the arena at a local boarding stable. Spike, who had spent years following the horse in front of him down a well-weathered path, was dull and listless. He had the same glassy, distant look in his eyes that Noche adopted around strangers. While the horse seemed physically capable of doing what Bonnie asked, it took so much effort to direct his every move that she was becoming discouraged. She was also disappointed that Spike didn't seem to care about her one way or the other, no matter how often she rode him.

    Over two months, I helped the young lady gain Spike's trust through a series of exercises on the ground and in the saddle. I also used some simple massage techniques and T-Touches (those gentle, circular touches Linda Tellington-Jones developed to enhance cellular intelligence and mind-body awareness). The goal was to lure Spike out of his perpetual state of dissociation and back into contact with his body through pleasant, supportive, confidence-building activities. I also suggested Bonnie set aside time to hang out with Spike, petting and playing with him without any particular agenda.

    The horse slowly came back to life. His eyes began to twinkle. Soon he was whinnying and running up to Bonnie when she approached his stall. Much to my own surprise, however, the formerly quiet, complacent gelding became difficult to manage for several weeks as a result of these efforts. Once he woke up from his dissociative trance, he wasn't automatically willing to defer to Bonnie's authority, and he didn't seem to remember some of the things he had learned in his previous mindset. Spike, in fact, acted like a completely different horse. He would run off with Bonnie in situations that never fazed him before. Since this slim, teenage girl didn'ta have the strength or experience to deal with her now-unpredictable companion, I decided to treat Spike like a three-year-old. I taught Bonnie how to train him from the ground up as if he had never been exposed to the bit and bridle. He was, of course, more stable and trustworthy than a young colt. We were simply revisiting activities he had learned in a disempowered state, retraining him from this newly awakened perspective. He progressed quickly, becoming more enthusiastic and co-operative along the way.

    As I watched this process, I began to understand how severe a personality change his former occupation - and the training techniques designed to make him more compliant - had induced in him. If laying Spike down had separated his mind and spirit from his body, then correcting this injustice was akin to soul retrieval. Any skill he learned in his previous state of dissociation seemed to be a vague, dream-like memory at best.

    It wasn't until I began working with human trauma survivors in the late 1990s that I found a clinical explanation for this phenomenon. Peter A. Levine, Ph.D., has made significant breakthroughs in treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by studying the predator-prey relationship in nature. The first chapter in his book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma opens with a description of what happens to an impala attacke dby a hungry cheetah:

    "At the moment of contact (or just before), the young impala falls to the ground, surrendering to its impending death. Yet it may not be injured. The stone-still animal is not pretending to be dead. It has instinctively entered an altered state of consciousness shared by all mammals when death appears imminent....Physiologists call this altered state the 'immobility' or 'freezing' response. It is one of the three primary responses available to reptiles and mammals when faced with an overwhelming threat. The other two, flight and fight, are much more familiar to most of us. Less is known about the immobility response. However, my work over the last twenty-five yeras has led me to believe that is is the single most important factor in uncovering the mystery of human traume....The physiological evidence clearly shows that the ability to go into and come out of this natural response is the key to avoiding the debilitating effects of trauma. It is a gift to us from the wild."

    Levine discovered that parts of the brain activated in life-threatening situations are the same parts of the nervous system people share with other mammals. Over time, he also noticed that the human ability for rational thought would sometimes interfere with instinctual impulses to flee or fight in an emergency, leading to an even more dramatic freeze response he calls the Medusa Complex.

    "As in the Greek myth of Medusa, the human confusion that may ensue when we stare death in the face can turn us to stone. We may literally freeze in fear, which will results in the creation of traumatic symptoms....Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the 'triggering' event itself. THey stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged."

    Levine describes the energetic profile of the freeze response as being similar to what happens to a car when the driver floors the accelerator and stomps on the brake simultaneously. "The difference between the inner racing of the nervous system (engine) and the outer immobility (brake) of the body creates a forceful turbulence inside the body similar to a tornado."
    Levine observed videos of wild animals released after the trauma of being captured and vaccinated or fitted with radio collars, an ordeal experienced as a predatory attack. Most interestingyl, even predatory bears coming out of the freeze response would shake violently and then run off their excess energy the same way prey animals do. When Levine slowed down video of the initial tremors, he realized that these strange movements were also related to running. Based on these findings, he beliveds that "the key to healing traumatic symptoms in humans lies in our being able to mirror the fluid adaptation of wild animals as they shake out and pass through the immobility response and become full mobile and functional again."

    The subtleties invovled in various ways of laying down a horse coincide with Levine's theories. A horse methodically trained to lie down by a trusted trainer, for instance, is not the least bit traumatized. The geldings Buck Light laid down at the ranch in Wyoming also remained spirited and alert, despite the fact that they were forced to the ground and no doubt frightened by a group of cowboys who were coplete strangers at the time. However, this rough and tumble training technique was designed to immobilize the horse long enough for the rider to jump into the saddle. The fact that the animal was immediately allowed to jump up and take off running essentially gave him the opportunity to "pass through the immobility response and become fully mobile and functional again."
    Pulling a frightened horse to the ground and sitting on him until he stops struggling, however, is a way of inducing and solidifying the freeze response, creating a perpetually dazed mount who thereafter wanders around in a trance originally designed to spare him the pain of being eaten.

    Years after Spike was forced into the worker drone mindset of an obedient trail horse, he exhibited the same tendency to shake and run when he began to come out of this dissociative state. In reflecting on this response years later, I suspected the horse had been laid down at some point in his training. The only problem was Bonnie happened to be in the saddle when Spike "woke up." Had I understood this, I never would have let my inexperienced student ride the horse during this transition. Luckily, Bonnie fell off only once, suffering little more than a few bruises and getting the air knocked out of her. My subsequent impulse to start Spike from the ground up allowed himto work off theeffects of this internalized tornado of repressed energy as he galloped and bucked around on the longe line for the first few days.

    Comedian Woody Allen once remarked that he wasn't afraid of dying. He just didn't want to be there when it happened. "In this characteristic one-liner," Levine observes, "Woody Allen quips a fairly accurate description of the role played by dissociation - it protects us from the impact of escalating arousal. If a life-threatening event continues, dissociation protects us from the pain of death."

    To give readers an idea of what this protective response feels like, he offers a quote from David Livingstone's diary. While traveling through Africa, the famous explorer, who was almost eaten by a lion, found himself in a strange and comforting altered state after the predator pulled him down by the shoulder and shook him violently. "The shock produced a stupor similar to that which seems to be felt by a mouse after the first shake of the cat," Livingstone reported. "It caused a sort of dreaminess in which there was no sense of pain nor feeling of terror, thought [I was] quite conscious of all that was happening. It was like what patients partially under the influence of chloroform describe, who see all the operation, but feel not the knife. This singular condition was not the result of any mental process. The shake annihilated fear, and allowed no sense of horror in looking round at the beast. This peculiar state is probably produced in all animals killed by the carnivore; and if so, is a merciful provision by our benevolent creator for lessening the pain of death."

    "The best way to define dissociation is through the experience of it," Levine emphasizes. "In its mildest forms, it manifests as a kind of spaciness. At the other end of the spectrum, it can develop into so-called multiple personality disorder. Because dissociation is a breakdown in the continuity of a person's felt sense, it almost always includes distortions of time and perception....[T]he woman being raped, the soldier facing enemy fire, or the victim of an accident may experience a fundamental disconnection from his or her body. From a corner of the ceiling, a child may watch him/herself being molested, and feel sorry for or neutral toward the defenseless child below....In trauma, dissociation seems to be a favored means of enabling a person to endure experiences that are at the moment beyond endurance - like being attacked by a lion, a rapist, an oncoming car, or a surgeon's knife." Or, in the case of a horse, pulled to the ground and forced to lie there until he submits, by a trainer who has absolutely no regard for the animal's emotional and spiritual well-being.


    Related to this issue, however, is an intriguing interpretation of the climax to Nicholas Evans's The Horse Whisperer:

    After all the progress the hero makes with the collaborative techniques depicted earlier in the book and film, the main character resorts to the ultimate quick-fix, force-oriented tactic of laying the horse down at the moment he himself becomes emotionally overloaded by the unexpected arrival of his love-interest's husband. This "kinder, gentler" trainer loses all sense of judgment when his male rival apperas. He dramatically illustrates his physical dominance over a thousand-pound animal whose trust he had been gaining with subtle, humane approaches. The horse whisperer's use of this old trick signals weakness in dealing with his conflicting emotions; it's certainly not a strategy to emulate. (Monty Roberts, in fact, publicly objected to the inclusion of this scene when he heard Robert Redford was making a film of The Horse Whisperer.) In the book, the main character continues to work himself into such a state of confusion and remorse that he finally commits suicide by steppin ginto the striking hooves of an angry stallion who, as it turns out, is simply trying to defend his mares from a perceived threat.

    Ultimately, the sensitive cowboy who helps horses with people problems is incapable of dealing with his own people problems, a downfall I've witnessed in the savviest of trainers. It is perhaps the most potent paradox of the equestrian arts that people can learn to remain calm and collected in the presence of a rearing horse, yet crumble in the face of feelings to strong to be suppressed or ignored, feelings that quite naturally surface in horse-human interactions. Managing authentic emotions, it seems, is one of the last great frontiers in the riding arena, and in life.
    Phoenix_Rising and Junebug like this.
  25. soulofLC

    soulofLC New Member

    Steph667, very very interesting. I was sick as a child, hospitalized for three months at the age of 3 with bone marrow infection (in 1953). I wasn't expected to live. From what I can remember, and what I gather from my mother, I was completely immobilized--physically and emotionally. Seems I read that shutting down is good for survival, bad for aftermath and emotional recovery. If I read your article correctly, (it is late here, so I need to read it again) this is saying the opposite. Perhaps I just need to run crazy and wild like a stallion! I have just started to research this topic for better understanding. Thanks for the interesting post. I will read it again in the morning.

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