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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Deer in the Headlights: or the Freeze and Flee Way

Photo by Chance Agrella
As a general rule, in relationships I don't get 'angry', I get 'hurt'. When I get deeply or severely hurt, I have this automated response which likens me to a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming 18-wheeler: I freeze up and shut down. Then, at the last minute: I run.

How this works is if I am in a room with someone and it happens, everything inside of me shuts down. I literally can't think straight and can't talk. I am immediately on 'autopilot' and the only thing I know to do is to leave. It is a primal instinct and one I am still working on gaining some control over.

In the meantime, I have learned from a counselor that it is actually a common behavior. That surprised me. I took a poll of single friends and guess what? Most of them do the same thing! That blew my mind.

The interesting thing about it is how the other person responds to it. In general, when a women displays this behavior it reads to a man that she is angry and giving him the silent treatment. He knows from experience that when that is the case, he is most certainly 'gonna get it' later.

So, when a woman has the freeze and flee issue, while she may not be giving the man the silent treatment, and may not be angry, and has no intention of laying into him later. . .the man assumes this is the case and responds accordingly.

He will pull away so he won't get attacked.

This hurts the woman further.

This cycle can be handled if the couple can discuss what is going on in a non-emotional way when they are both in a good mood. If the man can understand it is an automated response in the woman generated by hurt. . .and is willing to do what she needs him to do in order to help her get past it, things can change. In the meanwhile, the woman needs to find out how to gain control over that response and needs to make the appropriate changes. . .being patient with the man who is working with her on it.

If the couple communicates openly and regularly and both work on it, it can go from being a major issue to a minor inconvenience.

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