A close to home conversation
I re-connected with my teenage self this week…
I had a coaching call with a young woman earlier this week that both saddened and inspired me, and felt unexpectedly close to home.
This young lady – let’s call her Amber – applied for a complimentary session with me recently. She’s a VCE student currently doing year 12, and shared about having some challenges with her social circle and communication.
The first 20 minutes or so of the call was filled with me asking questions to build a picture of what was happening in her world. The deeper we went together, the clearer the picture became…
Amber is a gorgeously sensitive young woman, living in a world that values resilience, achievement and results. She hasn’t had great examples and healthy role models of how to be with your own vulnerability and then share it with others in ways that are graceful and kind. In response to feeling unsafe around her own and other people’s big emotions, her system has learned a clever adaptive pattern to keep her safe.
The Freeze Response
Amber’s nervous system has learned to protect her by freezing and disassociating from challenging conversations and interactions. She goes blank and can’t feel herself, or think of what to say when confronting moments take place. She’s left feeling frustrated with herself, disconnected from people around her, and understandably quite confused by the whole thing.
Fortunately once we’d identified this pattern, I was able to give Amber some easy to apply tools to use to bring herself back into presence in moments where she freezes, and learn to begin to create more safety in her own system which will enable her to feel herself more.
As our call continued, my empathy and compassion for Amber grew: I was connected with my teenage self, who had learned the same freeze response to keep me safe. I can recall countless moments of confusion, disconnection and pain caused by this protective mechanism in my own life. And the hundreds of hours of healing work I’ve done as an adult to thaw through the deep numbness in my system that was effectively baked in place as a result of staying frozen in protection for so long.
I felt my sadness at the lack of role modelling of healthy vulnerability in many young people’s lives, and my happiness that I was having this conversation with Amber as a teenager!
What will be possible for her if she puts in the energy now to build a new relationship with her own vulnerability? The possibility feels inspiring. I didn’t come to see just how frozen I was until my late 20’s, and many of my clients are professional women in their 40’s and 50’s just coming to this realisation and embarking on healing journeys.
Regardless of how old you are, and how many years you may have been frozen for, healing and re-wiring your nervous system is possible and so worthwhile.
What would be possible for you if you began to thaw through the freeze response in your nervous system?