In this episode, I continue your audio Polyvagal Master Class with a lesson on the Freeze mixed state.
My name is Justin Sunseri.
I’m a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist obsessed with the polyvagal theory.
Welcome to Stuck Not Broken.
But before I get into things -put yourself first. I keep every episode as safe as I can, but just by the nature of the topics, you may experience some stuff come up. Take a break if you need to.
This episode might be challenging for you.
This podcast is not therapy, nor intended to be a replacement for therapy.
We hear about ‘freeze’ a lot, what does it really mean? This is the polyvagal-informed definition of freeze, also aligns with somatic experiencing. Might not align with general usage.
TOPIC - MIXED STATES
Primary states are like primary colors
What we already covered
safe/social, flight/fight and shutdown
Red, blue and yellow
Problem with assigning colors to states
Specific pathways associated with these states
These states exist on their own, nothing mixes to create them
Mixed states are like mixed colors
Primary colors mix to make mixed states
Two pathways are active at the same time
TOPIC - FREEZE
Shutdown + flight/fight
Dorsal vagal parasympathetic + sympathetic
Immobilized while ready to run or fight
Motor is on
Heart beat is up, muscles are tense
Immobilization can come from force or perception
Such as during a restraint, like a sexual assault or anaesthesia
Or a perceived/neurocepted danger, like during a panic attack when triggered by something
TOPIC - DIFFERENT THAN SHUTDOWN
Limp immobilization vs tense immobilization
Shutdown can come from an overwhelming attack, like a mouse vs cat
Freeze can come from an overwhelming attack as well
Porges often talks about limp immobilization
Levine often talks about sympathetic immobilization
Examples in my blog of shutdown vs freeze - https://www.justinlmft.com/post/shutdownvsfreeze
Shutdown can come from many sources, but not getting needs met during childhood is one
Chronic disruption of connectedness
I associate with CPTSD (episode 52), though not an exclusive thing
Person is in a prolonged period of captivity
‘Captivity’ is applicable to children in abusive homes as well since they cannot run or fight
Lack of development of reliable co-regulation, then no self-regulation and ability to climb ladder out of shutdown
Pattern of unstable or dysfunctional relationships
Inability to recognize safety
Lots of shame, guilt, unworthiness
Freeze also from many sources, but acute incidents likely
I associate with PTSD (episode 47), though not an exclusive thing
Exposure to the direct event(s)
flashbacks, nightmares, reliving it, triggered by cues of the event(s)...
Body stuck in that moment in time
TOPIC - DAILY EXPERIENCE OF FREEZE & WHY
Experienced as panic, rage or overwhelm day to day
Experienced as flashbacks, nightmares
Body is stuck in that moment and triggered by similarities to that moment
Outside of certain contexts, the stuck energy might not be a huge issue
But when triggered, it can be
When that freeze energy is triggered, it looks like rage, panic or overwhelm
TOPIC - COMING OUT OF FREEZE
Animals can shake it off
Peter Levine’s work
Humans can cry
Spontaneous breathing, shaking, trembling
We get the shivers and shake it off
Like if a spider is on us, we freak out to get it off but then quiver to rid the charge
Feel up spine
Longer term - a little bit at a time typically
Easily overwhelmed and not helpful if not ready
Simply revisiting the traumatic events is not necessarily helpful, will be potentially reinforcing of the stuck freeze energy
Big discharge is possible, but not likely
Might attempt to discharge and come out as panic or overwhelm or rage
Crying that turns into rage - client story
Client that came into session in a crying panic story
Got through it but was not completely ready
Safety pathways need to be exercised to handle this
“The vagal brake” is necessary
Build this through exercising the safety pathways, which BSA can be helpful in.
If enough, the discharge will be a much different experience
Spontaneous breathing, surge of energy, waves and tingles
The stuck sympathetic energy will be experienced for the sensations that it is, not as rage or panic or overwhelm
Generally we are looking for a thawing of the freeze mixed state
THANKS SO MUCH FOR LISTENING!
I hope you’ve learned something new to help you climb your polyvagal ladder.
Building Safety Anchors - https://www.justinlmft.com/challenge-page/5180d0d1-fa0d-4833-8a96-b41546791435/
This week’s Patreon episode -
Intro/Outro music & Transition Sounds by Benjo Beats - https://soundcloud.com/benjobeats
National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1 (800) 273-8255
National Domestic Violence Hotline -1 (800) 799-7233
LGBT Trevor Project Lifeline - 1 (866) 488-7386
National Sexual Assault Hotline - 1 (800) 656-4673
Crisis Text Line - Text “HOME” to 741741
Call 911 for emergency
This podcast is not therapy, not intended to be therapy or be a replacement for therapy. Nothing in this creates or indicates a therapeutic relationship. Please consult with your therapist or seek for one in your area if you are experiencing mental health sx. Nothing in this podcast should be construed to be specific life advice; it is for educational and entertainment purposes only.