Related Article by Jeremy:
There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become Comfortably Numb
~'Comfortably Numb', by Pink Floyd
Freeze, Stuckness, Fatalism, Learned Helplessness
Our bodies come equipped with natural and effective defensive strategies including fight, flight, and freeze. When fight or flight are not options (as often occurs in childhood when our life depends on a parent that represents threat) then a state of freeze sets in. It may bring a numbness or dissociation from emotions, sensations, memories, or separation from the present moment. It may include a subtle transition from bodily-based living to head-based survival.
In environments of repeated or ongoing threat and submission, the freeze response can become habitual -- a form of hibernation -- preserving that cherished core sense of of Self for some unknown future time when safety is found or permission to live is finally granted by some imagined authority. One challenge at this point includes decreased tolerance for sensory information from the body, knowing that movement (both literal and metaphorical) brings with it a return to fight/flight.
The numbness and held anger (because it would lead out of freeze and into fight) of the freeze state as it lingers and contains over years and decades:
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there,
Become so tired, so much more aware.
I'm becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you.
~'Numb', by Linkin Park
From an integrative perspective (Hakomi Therapy, Internal Family Systems), this is the felt experience of separation from parts self: fragmentation. One part develops to contain and preserve the part of self that seems imminently valuable. This is a natural process of preservation initiated in a time of trauma. There remains an occasional sense of conflict between the part of self that wants to come out -- to be seen and known -- and the part one brilliantly develops to contain and protect that core. The entire experience is sometimes graciously/grievously veiled by the comforting diversion of dissocation (losing connection, 'spacing out', disappearing from the moment, focus on head over body, thoughts over unbearable sensations).
"I want to be me, but it's not safe. I will wait, stay small, avoid attention."
Well I've lost it all, I'm just a silhouette,
I'm a lifeless face that you'll soon forget.
~Lyrics from 'Youth', by Daughter
One way to portray the freeze state is as a revving engine: pressing the gas and the brake pedal at the same time. It's a lot of energy, and the intensity of it is felt, but the car remains motionless. There's a pulsing, yelling, raging...and no movement. A person in this state may appear completely flat and emotionless on the outside.
We drop back into numb complacency.
- 'Learned Helplessness'
Freeze is found on the other side of fight or flight, after both have failed. Due to our biology, the transition back to life requires reversal of that path. Felt peace lies not in dissociation but in return to our bodies, to and through fight or flight. While we may have found some sense of control or security in our heads -- in whatever looping, analyzing patterns we have developed to maintain stasis and preserve our core. The head has access to information only through our bodily senses. If we habitually avoid sensory stimulation, we avoid new information; we avoid change. And the head keeps looping and replaying that old painful, paralyzing information.
Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition leaving opportunities behind.
Feed my will to feel this moment urging me to cross the line.
Reaching out to embrace the random.
Reaching out to embrace whatever may come.