So, my son, Luther, is a wrestler, he is 7 years old, and about a head shorter than all the kids in his class. In fact, he is the shortest in his class, and to be completely honest the shortest in the whole grade.

He is known as ‘the cute one’.

There is a label every guy wants to have, right? Unless you’re Justin Bieber of course…

So we took him wrestling when he was about 4 years old. He was and still is, the smallest on the mat. The reason we chose wrestling is that it is good for boys to learn to fight… in my opinion. There is something there that we need, you can learn to turn the other cheek once you have a cheek to turn.

Second reason, wrestling is a classic sport, and if civilization has been doing something for THOUSANDS of years, there is something to it. It was part of the Greek Gumnasia, the gymnasium, although in the nude… (I’m sure there are places you could still do that, but it might be for higher fee…)

So after nearly three years of wrestling Luther is strong, can stand his ground against boys twice his size, it has never ended in a fight in case you were wondering,has developed insane tenacity, and has learned a thing or two about getting out of a tight spot.

Fight, Flight, AND Freeze.

Most of us are familiar with the fight or flight response that sits in your automatic nervous system.  When faced with danger, or a threat this system is activated to either fight, whether it is punching someone in the face, screaming at your co worker, or flee, that is running away from the attacker, or just out of the office away from the meeting, or putting the phone down in your boss’ ear.

These reactions exist to save your life, to move you away from danger, or to deal with the threat.The freeze reaction is one that I was not that familiar with till recently.

To freeze is a common survival tactic, you often see it in animals and especially some insects even. When threatened, they will often not try to run away, rather they would stand of lie dead-still in an attempt to wait for the danger to pass.

Aka the deer in headlights effect.

Often when a antelope is attacked and literally being ripped apart or mauled by the bear or the lion it will just go limp, play dead, in the however slim hope that predator might just think the animal is dead and relax its grip for a second, enough for the buck to escape, or that the predator’s anger will subside and simply leave, thinking it has won.

The fight or flight response is activated when we believe that there is hope, the freeze is activated when we believe there is little or no hope.

We are no different, often when we experience trauma, we freeze. Instinctively, often as a last resort, waiting for the danger to pass.

Signs of Freezing

  • Feeling stuck in some part of body
  • Feeling cold/frozen, numb, pale skin
  • Sense of stiffness, heaviness
  • Holding breath/restricted breathing
  • Sense of dread, heart pounding
  • Decreased heart rate

This freezing can even go on indefinitely. It can keep you stuck years after  you experienced physical or emotional trauma. Being rejected by someone you love for example, losing a job, being physically assaulted or raped even. Being emotionally abused, called names, manipulated with the silent treatment, whatever abuse, or trauma. Can cause you and me to freeze, to give up, subconsciously hoping that the danger pass.

Ever had the feeling that you don’t know what to do next, that you can’t move, that you are stuck? That its hopeless, that you are trapped.

That’s it.

Maybe you are just waiting for the danger to pass. What if the threat has left, or is just in your head, or worse what if the freeze response isn’t working and you are still being chewed on?

Stuck is just a position

In wrestling being stuck is just one of many positions, not the end of the match. There is a saying, that you are always just a series of small moves away from getting loose. (I vaguely remember Ryan Holiday mentioning something similar in his book, The Obstacle is the Way).

Watch this video on Greco Roman Wrestling, it seems like nothing is happening. It is just a series of small moves, until BAM!

And that is the trick, I believe. Overriding the freeze response and just going for a series of small moves.

You are just a few small moves away from being free.

What is it that you can do now to better your life? To live more aware, more present? What can you do, today, however small to start changing? What can you do to get out of danger?

There is a saying, common wisdom if you like, that ‘If you are unhappy, change something.’ We tend to wait for the big thing, the big job offer, the ‘one’, the raise, the lottery, the miracle drug, the saviour, the knight in shining armour… and though that does happen, lightning does strike, chances are it is not going to happen to you.

What move can you make today, however small, to get you unstuck?

  • Start with a cold shower in the morning?
  • Make your bed?
  • Drink more water?
  • Go for a 30 minute walk?
  • spend 5 minutes in prayer or meditation?
  • Eat less sugar?
  • Tell someone?

Simple things, but start piling them together and they can make a giant difference in the long run.

Since starting this blog, I’ve been getting many emails from all of you telling me your stories, struggling with depression, anxiety, abuse, and just general discontentment, My answer is always the same, what can you do


Just one thing, and stick to it for two weeks. Then add another. It needn’t be big or massive, small is better. Promise yourself a reward at the end of the two weeks if that is what it takes (will power is overrated, carrot and a stick is much more effective).

Do it. Come on.

Then come back and tell me about it.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock