Those of you who have come in for Somatic Experiencing sessions with me have likely heard me talk about the tonic immobility response or “playing dead” as a brilliant survival strategy executed by the autonomic nervous system. The above video of an impala escaping from a hyena is a quintessential demonstration of this mechanism at play.
However, when this freeze response is activated in humans as a result of an event perceived to be life threatening, it often sets the nervous system up for chronic dysregulation. Because of multiple reasons too complex to detail in this article, when humans exit the immobility response, they frequently override embedded nervous system responses to discharge the excess survival energy released during life threatening events. Because the freeze cannot thereby fully deactivate, it must stay in place to counteract the suppressed fight and/or flight responses that had been previously thwarted by the freeze. This is like driving around with the emergency brake engaged. It’s a lot harder on the engine and brakes, takes a lot more fuel, makes the vehicle less responsive, and keeps it from reaching full speed. Situations that can trigger the immobility response are manifold: anything from auto collisions to mis-attunement by a primary caregiver during our developmental years. The repercussions include chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, autoimmune disorders, phobias, digestive issues, chronic pain, and many other conditions.
Fortunately, Somatic Experiencing, which is a modality that combines tracking sensations in the body, dialog, movement and touch, helps gently return the nervous system to a well-regulated state. If you are curious about whether a your condition or that of a loved one might respond well to Somatic Experiencing, I would be happy to talk with you about it. So, give me a call or drop me a line. Warmest regards,