The Three F’s and Their Impact
Amygdala – The amygdala is the almond shaped part of the brain which is responsible for basic emotions such as fear.
Autonomic Nervous System – This is the part of the nervous system which affects unconscious bodily functions such as temperature, digestion, breathing, and heart rate.
Dissociation – The state of being disconnected.
Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis or HPA Axis – The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are located in your brain and your adrenals are located on the kidneys. Together, these structures regulate your response to stress.
Intuition – The ability to understand something immediately, without need for conscious reasoning.
The Three F’s — Everyone has heard of the concept of fight or flight, but there is a third option: freeze.
When a person is in a situation in which they feel imminent danger, and they know they cannot escape (flight) or overpower (fight) in order to defend themselves, they instead, freeze.
This means the person does not know what to do, so they are just paralyzed with fear: like a deer in headlights. This is a natural response and is nothing to feel ashamed about.
In nature, most mammals that experience the freeze reaction are able to reset themselves through their autonomic nervous system (ANS). However, in cases of chronic distress or repeated traumas, the ANS is unable to reset and the freeze behavior becomes ingrained.
This chronic fear based response manifests itself psychologically, physically, and behaviorally.
All of these symptoms and feelings are enough to make a person want or need to dissociate.
Dissociation can create a barrier to experiencing the pain and the feelings within the mind and body. It is a coping mechanism.
What are some things that can be done to help reconnect to the mind and body?
Body: Whenever you think of it, just notice your posture. How are you standing or sitting? Are you leaning or slumped? How does the alignment of your back feel? Are your muscles tight or sore? How does your stomach feel? How do your joints and feet feel? Is your jaw sore or tight? Are you hungry or thirsty? Are you tired? Are you restless? Do you need to stretch or move around? Listen to your body.
Mind: What are you thinking about right now? What emotions do your thoughts and observations bring up in you? Are you feeling frustrated with yourself, your situation, or other people? Are you feeling stuck or hopeless? Are you dwelling on past events or worrying about the future? Remember, the only time is the present time. Deal with what is going on with you in this moment. You can’t change the past, the future hasn’t happened, but you are in control of what you are doing in this moment. Notice the recurring thoughts, feelings, and themes in your life. What does your pattern tell you?
Your Mind and Body have intuition, and although many of us have learned to ignore that intuition, it can be relearned through practice. Listening to your intuition about what your mind and body needs will facilitate healing.
Grounding Techniques – Sometimes, due to how we feel, it can be difficult to stay present! Here are some methods of grounding:
- Carry a stone, crystal, guitar pick, or other small trinket that you can fit in your pocket or purse, to look at and feel whenever you need to
- Wear a ring, bracelet, or necklace which you can twist, tug on, or feel as needed
- Identify 4 colors around you, 3 sounds, 2 smells, and 1 thing you are grateful for in the moment
- Focus on your breath
- Focus on specific muscle groups, tightening them for a few seconds and slowly releasing them
Gratitude – Every time you feel upset, angry, frustrated, or hopeless, (acknowledge those feelings and know your feelings are valid) and balance it by finding something you are grateful for.