Fight, Flight or Freeze
August 6, 2014
“People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.”
After a good “wake n’ bake” morning, and a nice phone call from my brother Levi Pierce, I think he and I realize that we’re more alike than different in a lot of ways. That’s actually more of a scary thing than funny. He and I have discussed since we reunited about whether or not the “karma bus” is plowing us over for being such smartasses when we were younger. I haven’t stopped being a smartass and neither has he. So, I’m guessing that the “karma bus” is following ever so closely behind us waiting to stomp the gas pedal…LMAO!
I have to admit that we are very “hot-headed” individuals that would give you the shirts off our backs. We are both very loyal people which would explain the closeness of our relationship even after not being in contact for 20+ years. However, I will warn you of two things……(1) Don’t ask either of us a question unless you know and accept that you will receive our honest “opinion” and, more than likely, a smartass answer to go with it. (2)And don’t expect either one of us to sit by and watch injustices being done especially to our closest friends and family.
When a perceived threat or an actual threat for one’s safety occurs there will be one of three responses: fight, flight or freeze. I will speak for myself on this one, when I say that when my trauma was occurring, I was a fighter. Anger seemed to be the only emotion that people would respond in a way that felt “safe.” For me, the safety was that people would back away from me and leave me alone. This soon became a very useful tool for me for a means of survival. Tears have always been considered a weakness for me. My tears were always used as a way to belittle me or lead to further abuse. Anger became my greatest motivator. But then anger progressed into rage….
I would go into blind rages where I would have no recollection of the events. Actually, the level at which my anger and rage can get, scares me. I have no idea where this rage comes from. I do know where it began….age 13. I was forced to hold all emotions because I couldn’t win no matter what I did. Columbine had not happened yet and I’m glad the seed wasn’t planted. Because, you had two teen age kids who were mad at the world and were tired of being bullied by adults. Instead of Klebold and Harris, it would’ve been Kendrick and Pierce. We had also realized that other teachers and staff knew how we were being treated and did nothing about it. We had no ‘ill will’ towards any other students, just the adults. I felt as though I had no voice. I would complain about how mean she was and no one ever heard what I was saying. I already had the first of many “labels” I would have throughout my life. I was labeled as a ‘troublemaker’ and ‘behavior problem.’ Once the label was in place, there was no wiping it off even when they were the ones in the wrong. I vowed from that day forward that “no one that I knew would ever have to fight on their own as long as I was around.”
At the point in my life when this was occurring, I remember having my first thoughts of both suicide and homicide. I became very intrigued with death. Like I said before, horror movies always provided relief from all of the rage that was building inside me. The movies provided for me what I wasn’t able to do…”a release for the rage on my perpetrators.” Finally, in my own fantasy world, they were getting what they deserved. The drugs, cutting and alcohol were all just to make living tolerable. Was it maladaptive? Well, of course. All I knew, was that adults were unsafe to me then. Because, all I saw was the abuse of power that was coming from them. So, being raised that “adults were always right” was very confusing .
These thoughts have continued since then. I’m constantly trying to keep the “rage” maintained. My approach doesn’t work all the time. Therapy has helped me to feel that rage on a different level. Now, I’m at least at times able to feel the anguish, fear and sadness behind all of the rage. However, I can still have a hard time crying even with people I trust. Where parents aren’t given a guidebook on “How to Raise a Child,” neither are children given a book on “The Healthiest Ways to Survive Trauma.” So, on both sides of the scenarios, individuals are often given only split seconds to make a decision. Sometimes the decisions turn out to be good and some bad. But, whatever decision you make about the situation, if it works for someone then that person will continue to use those same behaviors as a viable option. If it doesn’t work for you, then you look for solutions until something does work.
There are definite commonalities among children and adults in responses to trauma. However, each reaction will be individual to the person. Up to the point at which the trauma occurs, no one has the same experiences. So, trauma affects people differently. Some experiences even could and can appear to have almost no impact on one person. But, then causes major life disrupting behaviors for others.