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Why are you crashing? Understanding the mechanism of Fight, Flight and Freeze

Let's explore a subject that can confuse some and seem incomprehensible to others: why do we remain silent in the face of a remark or an attack? Even the most combative can, at some point, adopt a withdrawn attitude. In this article we will examine the concept of "Fight, Flight, Freeze" and in particular, the last element: the "Freeze".

The "Fight, Flight, Freeze" :

The concept of "Fight, Flight, Freeze" was defined by physiologist Walter Cannon in 1929 to describe our reaction to sudden stress. When faced with a stressful situation, our brain makes a decision in a split second. The "Fight" involves confrontation, the "Flight" the escape, and the "Freeze" paralysis.

  • Fight: Fighting can take different forms, whether it's a verbal conflict at work or confronting a difficult situation. This option is usually adopted when we have the necessary resources and self-confidence.

  • Flight: Fleeing is the reaction when we think we don't have the resources to face the situation. This can manifest as physical or mental flight, avoiding confrontation.

  • Freeze: To remain silent, remain still, or adopt an attitude of "playing dead" is a brain response when neither fight nor flight seems possible. This reaction is guided by the limbic cortex, pausing the prefrontal cortex.

The symptoms of "Freeze" :

  • Muscle contraction: The body tenses, as if frozen.

  • Dissociation: We can feel like a spectator of the situation, detached from our own body.

React after the "Freeze" :

It is crucial to rebuild the connection between mind and body after experiencing a "Freeze" situation. There are two possible states: the intense shock of stress, which can lead to post-traumatic stress, or anger towards oneself for not having reacted.

The Force of Silence:

Knowing how to keep quiet can be a powerful strategy. Great leaders and successful individuals often practice patience, letting the storm pass before reacting. Responding at the right time, with thought, can be more effective than reacting impulsively to every provocation.

The Courage to Reply:

If the blockages persist, it is necessary to reconnect the body to security. A mind-body approach can help restore balance. Courage lies in action despite the initial lack of desire.


Understand why we sometimes shut up and adopt the "Freeze" is essential for developing adaptation strategies.

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