I’m reading, The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma (2014), by Bessel van der Kolk.
van der Kolk shows the differences to the recovery of those able to exercise the flight or fight response compared to those who are unable to. He describes this as ‘effective action versus immobilization’ (p.54). ‘Immobilization keeps the body in a state of inescapable shock ‘ whereas ‘effective action … ends the threat’.
van der Kolk explains that ‘being unable to move and do something to protect oneself is a critical factor in determining whether or not a horrible experience will leave long-lasting scars.’ (p.55).
Results include ongoing fear and disease.
I read this book with a mixture of shock and relief. Shock to learn about how freezing to save yourself when attacked can later kill you anyway; relief to understand my reactions were normal for a person taught from birth not to defend herself against an abuser that is bigger and stronger and meaner.
Growing up subjected to domestic abuse, I could never have been able to respond in any other way than to freeze. My attacker, who knew me and knew my family, had counted on this.