Conflicts are a normal part of human relationships and how we handle them can greatly affect the outcome. For some of us, when faced with stress or conflict it is not uncommon to freeze, feel stuck and be unable to express ourselves as freely as we would prefer. For instance, imagine two people involved in a disagreement. One person in the interaction feels frustrated and the other person suddenly freezes, becomes silent, avoids contact, and seems unable to respond to the other person’s concerns. The person feels unable to express themselves or engage in the conversation. However, the other becomes frustrated by the other persons lack of response and the conflict remains unresolved or increases over time.
So, if you are the type of person with the tendency to freeze during conflict how can we break free from this frozen state cycle and manage conflicts with more confidence and clarity? In this Blog Post we shall assist you to understand the freeze response and provide some psychological tips and strategies for overcoming this problem when dealing with conflict.

Understanding the Freeze Response
Basically, the freeze response is a natural defence mechanism activated by the brain in response to threat or danger. It is like our body’s way of saying, “Hold on a minute, lets think about this before making a decision and taking action”. When experiencing the response our body enters a hypoactive state. For instance, our heart rate slows, our muscles tense up and you may find yourself feeling stuck, unable to move and have the inability to vocalise anything.

Ways to stop the freeze response.
1. Take a moment to breathe
Focus on your breath. Inhale through your nose hold briefly. Then, exhale slowly through your mouth, which assists to the autonomic nervous system, and bring us back into the present moment.
2. Practice Imagery
During meditation focus on the inhalation and exhalation of breath, exploring the feeling of safety within yourself and the world around you. For instance, on the in breath notice the oxygen fill our lungs and slight mobilization it has on our body, while exploring this place of rest. On the exhalation of breath, feel it moving out of the body into the world, while testing the boundaries of feeling safe in this experience.
3. Cognitive restructuring
Practice challenging any negative thoughts that catastrophize or magnify the situation and try viewing it from a different perspective.
a. For instance, identify the triggering situation and recognize a part of the conflict that triggered the freeze response, e.g., a particular comment or tone of voice.
b. Identify the frozen feeling during the conflict and identify the emotion.
c. Try to identify the specific thoughts or beliefs that were contributing to the freeze response. For instance, thoughts of negative outcomes or fear of conflict.
d. Challenge the accuracy and evidence for and against the belief, and consider alternate explanations, that you believe are true and also alter the original frozen feeling.
e. Now that you have reframed the thought, express these thoughts on paper or in your mind to yourself. Additionally, you could calmly express your thoughts and feelings to the other person, to set boundaries.
f. Keep practicing these skills and over time you will notice being able to more easily move through the freeze response.