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Flight, Fight, or Freeze

Recognize Survival Responses

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) increase the likelihood of adult diseases. Some may be traumatic experiences that begin while still inside the mother. However, by recognizing the behaviors associated with trauma (fight, flight, and freeze); a sense of empowerment follows this awareness. Knowledge of the unhealthy thoughts or actions provides an option to modify unhealthy behaviors. If someone denies their smoking habit is linked to personal trauma; then there is not a clear path to modify the behavior. When this person in denial contemplates that smoking is a survival reaction to something that is no longer happening; here, the option to modify the behavior arises because such trauma is not in the present moment.

"As the number of ACE experiences increased, so did the chances of the individual experi­encing cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures and liver disease. The correlations between addictions-nicotine, alcohol and illicit drugs-and early adverse experiences were so strong that the researchers concluded that "addiction" is more attributable to characteristics intrinsic to early life experiences than to characteristics within the drugs themselves." according to Robin Karr-Morse's book: Scared Sick: The role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease.

Traumatic experiences appear unrelated to the individual; but are in part related to a social condition, such as war, adoption, or poverty. All have lasting health effects. Control over survival responses and unhealthy behaviors affect every individuals' health. Prevention of traumatic experiences early influences recovery from disease throughout adulthood. How important is recovery from trauma within your community? Benefits of collaborative effort to reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences include; a reduction of obesity, addiction, heart disease, and promiscuity, among other self-soothing behaviors.


I read your posting just now. It reminds me the children in Aceh, Indonesia who were ion conflict and armed conflict for more than 30 years. I need to learn more about it.

Best Regards

Tabrani Yunis

arcomeau's picture

Thank you Tabrani

I tend to focus on where we are now, in relationship to what we know and cannot change about the past. Its has been tremendously helpful to use this knowledge when working with children who are still pliable and change quickly. Although they may not have the tools to notice their own behaviors, it's possible to ask them when they are participating in those three behaviors... flight, fight, or freezing up. Its even more helpful for adults also experiencing trauma. Remember to ask "Is this reaction about something that is no longer happening?"

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