In the 2023 update of The Language of Emotions, I separated panic into two categories: immediate panic and frozen panic.
It’s so important to understand the difference between them, because many people don’t know that frozen panic contains the energy we need to heal from past traumas.
Frozen Panic: The Healing Witness
GIFTS: Healing from past traumas ~ Freedom from cycling patterns ~ Completion of unfinished initiations
WHAT YOUR FROZEN PANIC DOES: Frozen panic helps you address unhealed traumas, and it brings you the energy you need to create healing and resolution.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE: The key is to take healing actions with the energy frozen panic brings to you (you could take hundreds of actions, but would they be healing?).
THE INTERNAL QUESTIONS: What has been frozen in time? What healing action must be taken?
From the Panic chapter in The Language of Emotions
We’re all aware of our fight-or-flight responses to danger; these two panic-based responses can protect us from harm, but there is another response that isn’t as well known – it’s called freezing.
The questions for frozen panic are: What has been frozen in time? What healing action must be taken? The word healing is vital! You can take a lot of actions when you’re panicking, but are they healing actions?
In many dangerous situations, fighting and fleeing aren’t our best survival options, because we may not be strong enough or fast enough to avoid danger. If our panic can help us freeze and dissociate (or go into shock or numbness) in response to danger, we can often survive the unsurvivable.
Freezing is a brilliant option in many situations, because it can dull our senses to pain, protect us from overwhelming stimuli, or present a corpse-like demeanor to our attackers, who may become less interested in the attack when we exhibit no emotion and make no sound or movement (this is a possum’s life-saving strategy, and it works!).
However, it can be difficult to reintegrate after a freezing episode, because people often think that freezing equals being a coward.
But if you survived, you’re a survival expert! The work with frozen panic is to use its energy to help you reintegrate and heal yourself.
The messages in frozen panic
Danger is a fact of life. Trees fall, dentistry happens, stressors occur, cars veer, people yell and hit, and molesters prowl; danger is everywhere. The issue is not in the danger or in the panic, but in the fact that we often don’t have the resilience to reintegrate ourselves or regain our equilibrium once that danger has passed.
Restoring our resilience is the key to reintegrating ourselves after traumatic incidents – but that task can seem overwhelming when frozen panic is involved.
Panic can be debilitating, but it has something in common with every other emotion we have: panic contains the precise amount of energy needed in the situation that called it forward – no more, and no less. Your emotions don’t fill you with enormous amounts of energy for no reason! There are no negative emotions!
Healing ways to work with your frozen panic
In the 2023 version of The Language of Emotions, I created a table of healing versus dubious actions you can take with the energy frozen panic brings to you.
This is a short version of the list in the book, but it will give you some ideas about how to work with this emotion (instead of working against it or using its energy to injure yourself).
|HEALING WAYS TO ADDRESS FROZEN PANIC||DUBIOUS ACTIONS TO AVOID FROZEN PANIC|
|Setting your boundary intentionally||Letting circumstances or other people set your boundaries for you|
|Finding a supportive community of people who are working on similar challenges||Isolating yourself or convincing yourself that healing isn’t possible|
|Eating nourishing food on a regular schedule||Undereating or overeating to numb yourself, obsessing on the perfect diet, or avoiding food altogether|
|Developing a regular and healthy movement practice||Becoming immobile, or using exercise to distract yourself, burn off your panic, or exhaust yourself|
|Resourcing and rejuvenating yourself||Using substances, behaviors, or dissociation to achieve a moment of peace, relief, or happiness|
|Working lovingly with your panic||Treating your panic as negative and wanted|
|Choosing healthy relationship partners who are safe, soothing, and loving||Choosing unavailable or unstable partners who activate your panic response|
It’s important to observe any of your dubious actions with compassion. Most of us not only didn’t learn how to work with panic, we didn’t even know what it was!
Congratulate yourself for getting through life in whatever way you could, and support yourself by trying some of these healing actions (or creating your own) to see if they work for you.
We’re all learning and moving toward integration, and the dubious actions kept you going, so thanks are in order.
What to do if your frozen panic won’t resolve
If you try to work with your frozen panic, yet its cycling intensifies, it’s time to seek professional support from a therapist or doctor.
Panic cycles can be destabilizing, and you may require support, therapy, healing, intervention, and time before you can restore your equilibrium.
Reach out. Help is available.