If we watch animal documentaries we notice that the instinctual reaction to conflict with another species is immobilisation, fleeing or fighting. In the evolution of species the immobilisation was the first strategy used by preys in front of their predators. Later as a better defence mechanism they developed the fleeing and fighting. An animal that flees or fights however, and experiences a drawback or temporary inability to escape from the predator falls back into immobilisation. Another thing you see in animal documentaries is that animals also have a quick recovery mechanism within themselves. When they are attacked and escape the danger, stress in their body releases quickly and they’re back on the pasture digesting grass.
Evolution has not deprived humans from these defence strategies, but has equipped us with another one: social engagement. When human beings have conflict between each other they can call on social processes to resolve them. When a child wants a toy and the mother is unwilling to buy it for him, she can explain her reason in nice understandable words and the child doesn’t immediately needs to freeze in front of the mother, run away or fight against her decision. Same if someone attacks us, physically or verbally, we’ve got the chance to gather our feelings and explain ourselves often in a conflict resolving way.
However, even if this opportunity mostly stands in front of us, it is not what happens in the majority of cases. Depending on the person – often also the institution, group or company – and their prior experiences we often tend to fight back, run away from the situation in one way or another or in more complex cases, possibly connected to a deeper trauma that happened in our lives, to freeze and immobilise.
Now this fighting, fleeing or freezing is often just a temporary resolution that might work well in some rare cases where animals are attacked and manage to escape from their stronger predator. However in complex social settings, a human being who has mostly lost his or her connection to the sensory body and therefore to the earlier mentioned quick recovery system. In his or her mind he/she is often attached to one side and can’t connect to that compassionate form of social engagement, therefore resorts to the fight or flight alternative leaving the conflict unresolved. I have witnessed in conflicts people freezing because they are traumatised by their prior experiences that take away any faith in a resolution. People fall into depression and non-action, not wanting to talk, not wanting to engage in any way in the physical world.
For this reason not only physical therapies that engage the person in seeing, observing, hearing and listening, doing and participating are helpful to resolve traumas on a deeper level. These actions make us connect to our physical and vital body, our senses to break blockages and traumas on the emotional plane. We connect to our ability, our confidence, our self-esteem and the possibility of healing.