15. Freeze and Friend

Freeze and friend responses


Freeze and friend are the more common types of threat responses. They are survival mechanisms. They are safer, often reducing the risk of a situation escalating, especially when the threat is a person with more power and control. However, as they are less known and less understood, survivors who reacted in these ways often feel additional guilt and shame.


Freeze responses include

  • Zoning out
  • Dissociating
  • Losing time
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Feeling stuck
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless


Friend responses include

  • People-pleasing
  • Acting servile
  • Forfeiting needs or rights
  • Blending in
  • Shifting focus onto others


Over many years we have learnt that the ‘freeze’ and ‘friend’ responses are common, and often safest, for children experiencing abuse. Understanding that these are valid and effective responses to threats faced during abuse, and that these reactions are not at all indicators of any form of implied consent for what happened, can be an important step to letting go of misplaced guilt and shame.

A child is never to blame for the abuse they experienced, under any circumstances.


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