Story time! I'm going to share a quick story, then connect it to fear. Then share three quick tips to reduce fear.
I did a Polyvagal presentation for police.
I was with Mercedes (one-time co-host and best friend of the podcast) and we were teaching about the defensive states and how they might be felt as anxiousness or anger or depression.
They balked at the idea of being in a defensive state. "You're either made for this job or you're not!" they said.
Mercedes and I love the challenge and pushed them. "You've never experienced panic on the job? You never get scared? You're not worried about your safety?"
"No," one of them said. He was a higher-up (sergeant maybe?). "I can honestly say that I don't get scared. When I'm activated for a call, I'm focused and ready. I can't stop to have any feelings because that might cost me my life."
And that makes sense, right? We know that when sympathetically activated, as long as one can use the flight/fight energy, then fear doesn't settle in. There is indeed more focus. There is more quick decision-making. Okay.
(I think I was more disturbed by the cop saying that he was "activated for a call," but that's a discussion for another day, I suppose.)
That officer went on to explain the only time that he did feel fear.
He said the only time he felt fear was when he was "activated for a call" and then sitting in his police car, waiting for the parking lot gate to open. Then he would begin to think about what could go wrong and how he may not make it it intact.
Yes, you read that right. Sitting in his car. Waiting for the gate to open.
But why would that trigger fear?
Because he was immobilized while in flight/fight.
He was expressing how the adrenaline in his system was immobilized. He couldn't advance to where he was needed. He was primed for duty and stuck behind a slow-moving gate.
Once immobilized while charged, he felt fear. And then his story followed his state and he thought of what could go wrong.
I share this as another example, to build on the last blog, of how fear works. And how closely connected it is with the immobilization of freeze.
3 tips to reduce fear before Stucknauting
1. Develop your safety state - your vagal brake must be strengthened before delving into your stuck defensive state. Before you attempt to go into the immobilization of freeze. Through developing the vagal brake, the intensity of the fear will reduce and open up the possibility of thawing the freeze state. Building Safety Anchors is designed for exactly this purpose.
2. Use your safety anchors - you should know what grounds you in safety and do them ahead of time. Make sure your active and passive safety cues are ready to roll before putting on that Stucknaut helmet.
3. Give yourself top-down safety anchors beforehand - Besides your active and passive safety cues you've established, give yourself some top-down cognitions to further anchor in safety. Things like, "I deserve to live a life with more safety" or "I can handle this, I believe in myself" or "If I need to stop, I know how to do so and I am allowed to."
I of course teach much more in depth about all of this in my course, Unstucking Defensive States. You can find out more about the course by clicking the link below.