What we now know about spankings and the freeze defense mechanism.

  Photo by    Ricardo Gomez Angel    on    Unsplash

This is a touchy topic for most, and I share it as a means for self-understanding primarily (as well as for any of you who are parents who still wonder whether spanking is no big deal).

Published in NPR, a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics says on spanking: “Don’t do it. Ever.”

One thing we know, is that the "freeze" defense mechanism is activated when two forms of abuse are happening at the same time.

In most cases of spanking this is happening. Physical and emotional/verbal. Emotional/verbal because most parents are spanking from a triggered, disconnected space, and are also probably telling the child that he/she is wrong/bad. The child is getting activated in fear of humiliation or abandonment at the same time as being physically "attacked" by someone who is bigger than them (they can't escape or fight back).

The freeze defense mechanism has horribly detrimental, but also very silent, effects on the body, our health, and the way we interpret our experience of the world around us.

The expressions of freeze being activated almost seem energetic and phantom, and are certainly so wide-spread at this point that we often think nothing of them. We might blank/black out in times of stress unless we are overly-prepared (speeches, public speaking, music performances), we may have done literally nothing if we were sexually assaulted (both during or afterward), and probably the most common, is spinning in overwhelming thoughts, unable to make decisions easily.

It's very easy, and very convenient, to "hide" these symptoms, but I assure you, based on every single one of my hundreds of clients I have ever coached, they exist, and are having a massive impact on your life.

What we also know about freeze is that it changes your brain. It changes your ability to access your own declarative (conscious) memory, which means that you may be making automatic decisions about your life based on recalled experiences that have been altered due to trauma.

You may toss your experience of being spanked off as not traumatic. You may remember every single time it happened and say to me "Antesa, it wasn't that bad for me." I'm familiar with that response and recall a college cultural psychology class I took where I broadly claimed that I was not impacted by the spankings I got growing up.

But the truth is, I was. You are. A child necessarily adapts to their environment lightning fast. We are biologically wired to find the energetically most efficient path of belonging to the tribe. Experiencing something as spanking as "no big deal" is another piece of evidence of freeze having been activated. Which means it's likely ruling other areas of your life now.

Were you spanked growing up? What was your experience like? Do you think it's impacted your adult life? In what ways?