Stuck in Frozen Fear
Struggling with past trauma or difficult life transitions can leave a person feeling stuck.
Maybe you’ve felt stuck in fear, or stuck in a cycle of negative circumstances. It can be hard to know what to do when you feel stuck.
There are tips to help someone get unstuck, keep reading for resources that can help you get free when frozen in trauma or fear.
This article has resources about restoring wellness, and is based on my research and my experiences. This information is not meant to take the place of counseling or therapy. If at any time you feel uncomfortable or need to talk to someone, wellness resources may be helpful.
Feeling Stuck in Trauma
When recovering from trauma or during difficult life circumstances, you may feel stuck, especially when struggling with nightmares or night terrors. It can also be normal during the Fight/Flight response for to wake up from the dream with a fast heartbeat, eyes panicking and glancing around for danger, and breathing fast. There may be feelings of escape, fear, and/or anger. Depending on what emotions and memories are triggered, there are feelings of sadness, disappointment, shame, vulnerability, and/or confusion.
Some common feelings are panicking and Frozen in Fear. Being stuck in this state of feeling fear makes it hard to move out of bed or even go the bathroom. This fear feeling is normal during a Fight/Flight response. The feeling of being stuck or Frozen in Fear may stay with you after waking up from the dream, you may be stuck in the state of fear. Maybe in your daily life, you are going through a really difficult time and your mind and emotions are processing everything at night when you are resting.
It is common to be stuck in whatever feeling you woke up from in the dream. For example, waking up feeling stuck in deep sadness, or wake up feeling stuck in shame, or wake up feeling stuck in danger. Being stuck in that dangerous place in the dream may remind you about a past experience of feeling in danger. Sometimes, past experiences of danger or traumatic experiences have left a person in fight/flight response.
What feelings do you have when you wake up from dreaming? Do you feel stuck or Frozen in Fear when waking up from a dream?
If yes, it may be helpful to talk to a trusted friend or a licensed mental health counselor. Counselors have training in how to help people gain emotional wellness.
Here are a few resources that may be helpful during recovering from trauma and restoring wellness.
Identify the Stuck Trauma Feeling
Identify that the stuck feeling may connect to a past experience or trauma situation.
This may help you realize that being stuck in Fear and the Fight/Flight response is normal. This feeling and response are trying to help you. Maybe at one time, it was helpful to feel alert and there might have been a need to escape a potentially dangerous situation. Understanding that the fear alert and the Fight/Flight response tries to protect you, that is the purpose the feeling and the response. You may be able to step away from the feeling and response to evaluate its helpfulness in your life.
Sometimes the Frozen in Fear feeling and Fight/Flight response triggers a person back into a traumatic memory of being in danger and it is difficult for that person to realize they are safe. When this happens, it can be difficult to remember their present coping skills and their present safety. There are ways to get unstuck when Frozen in Fear or in Fight/Flight response, below are a 4 steps that may be helpful.
4 Steps to Get Unstuck in Trauma Fear:
Here are 4 steps that are helpful to get unstuck from Frozen in Fear or in a Fight/Flight response, particularly when waking up from a dream or nightmare and feeling stuck.
- Acknowledging thanks for trying to protect yourself.
Say to yourself, “Thank you for trying to protect me.”
Your response is trying to help you in some manner, and maybe at one time this response would have been helpful. By saying thank you, you are actually honoring yourself and acknowledging that you are trying to protect yourself or help yourself. This brings acceptance and compassion to yourself, no judgment or criticism; which helps the body and mind feel calmer and loved. Feeling thankful ushers in positive emotions such as compassion and opens the door for healing and acceptance for yourself.
Accepting the memory
- Acknowledge the memory of being in danger, or the potential present threatening situation.
Say to yourself: “I could see how that situation could seem dangerous or threatening at the time.”
By acknowledging the memory of danger and the potential present threat, the connection is feeling in danger. You are honoring your protective nature and striving to be safe. Connecting the memory of being in danger and the present feeling of potential danger, may help you understand your reaction to protect yourself and wanting to be safe.
Because you may not know if the present situation is actually dangerous, it is all right to just acknowledge that you feel unsafe. When you’re stuck frozen in fear, try showing compassion and acceptance to yourself.
Say to yourself, “This situation is scary to me.” or “I accept this situation as feeling unsafe.”
After accepting and acknowledging the memory, you may begin to feel a little calmer. Once your memories connect to the present moment, your emotional right-brain can naturally calm down. Now the logical left-brain can be free to think again.
- Acknowledge safety now.(As long as the current situation is safe. If the situation is unsafe, please call 911. The following resources are for people in safe situations struggling with trauma triggers, which may be safe situations seeming to be unsafe.)
Say to yourself: “Right now I am safe.”
You may feel unsafe when a trauma trigger has been activated. Therefore, you feel unsafe because of the trigger, even when the reality situation is safe. Knowing that a trigger may have caused your feeling of danger, and that there may not actually be a real danger may help calm your anxiety. For example, loud noises including a door shutting in the middle of the night, may trigger a person to suddenly wake up frightened and be in a state of panic. Even thought the person is not in danger, they wake up feeling in danger. Saying out loud “I am safe.” will help the brain and body begin to calm down.
Relaxing & centering
- Using this relaxation technique, it combines grounding, deep breathing, and thinking of helpful resources. This relaxation technique centers the body, mind, and spirit to the present moment and most ages and more populations of people can learn this technique.
Ground yourself by placing one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, if only one hand is available, place the hand on the heart. A comforting safe touch automatically begins calming the heart rate down, even when the hand is your own.
Notice your breathing. Breath a little longer each time and slowly extend your breathing. Take a few deep breaths by breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth if possible. Breath deeply a few times to calm down the breathing, relax the body sensations and thoughts, and to feel more at peace.
Ground yourself and take a few deep breaths now while considering the senses in the space you’re in presently. Consequently, grounding returns your senses to the present moment, helping your mind, body, and spirit return from your safe place to the present moment.
Feeling Unstuck, Free & Safe
You have now seen a journey from Frozen in Fear and the Fight/Flight response, and hopefully been able to go to a happy place. I hope these resources, including the relaxation technique, helps you get free from feeling fear to feeling safe and hope.
Going from stuck to unstuck frees a person’s mind, body, and spirit to think calmer, have compassion, and feel safe.
I hope this resource helps you transition from feeling unstuck and Frozen in Fear to feeling free and safe.
Disclaimer: This article has resources about restoring wellness, and is based on my research and my experiences. This information is not meant to take the place of counseling or therapy. If at any time you feel uncomfortable or need to talk to someone, wellness resources may be helpful.