Tag Archives: Stress response

Freeze – Fight – Flight!


Freeze!          Fight!            Flight!

That is the human response to overwhelm. We may literally be unable to move or speak, or at a reduced capacity, in the face of extreme danger. That is the freeze response. But think about it, freezing up is often a response to more subtle feelings of danger or less obvious overwhelm. We may be slower to respond, not because of laziness but because of the freeze response. We may be judged as procrastinating or delaying in decision making.

We know what fight looks like. Of course. But do we understand that in the fight response the ability to reason is lessened. The bulk of our resources are harnessed for the fight in a survival instinct! And there are different methods of fight. It may be a physical fight or perhaps we feel like fighting but have some restraint so we punch the wall or yell or stomp or throw things. The fight might be mostly a shouting match, but whichever way, it is a survival mentality, born out of fear.

Then there is flight. The felt need is for escape, and it can be strong. Sometimes children run away from home, or attempt to.  (You might take a walk or go shopping) While in this mode of flight from the overwhelm or danger, decision making and executive thinking is degraded so the dangers of running away, even if known, are not fully considered. That really goes for all three responses.

So dealing with responses in a logical, thinking way has to be done either before or after the stress response, with assessing what happened, dealing with the results, and planning ahead for next time.

Can you identify in your adopted or foster child whether they tend to revert to freeze, fight or flight?  Perhaps they have exhibited all three.  Are there certain responses that upset you more?  Do you respond more calmly to freeze, or shutting down perhaps, than you would to fight or flight/escape. Or perhaps flight scares you when it tends to happen in public places where you envision more danger.  What is your go to response? Can you relate to the child better if your typical responses (or what you feel like doing even if you do not follow through) are the same? Different?

Make it count. If a full blown stress response has happened, after the cool down, do not fail to make it count by revisiting what happened. Use the opportunity to take preventive measures toward the next time. Failure to do so will inevitably result buried feelings until the next eruption knocks the top off of them. A little understanding will go a long way.  But remember that it is an ongoing process, not a one time fix.

“Orphan mentality”

You may be wondering just what is meant by the term, “orphan mentality”.  As an orphan advocate and adoptive parent, I have observed (along with many others who are much more expert than I) some particular differences that are often manifested in someone having an orphan viewpoint or mentality rather than the viewpoint of a person who has a confident assurance that they are a beloved child. We deal with these types f differences day in and day out.

While children, orphans from traumatic backgrounds, may demonstrate traits of an orphan mentality more strongly, more intensely and/or more overtly than others in general, I have found that it is not strictly limited to orphans.

Here are a couple of examples:

First, a child who has an orphan mentality, though he is in a family with loving parents may view a minor correction as a sign that he is not loved or valued, whereas a child who is confident of his parents’ love and acceptance may feel a slight sting of guilt at disappointing a parent but understand that they are still deeply loved and valued, and can be taught that even the correction is made from the parent’s loving concern for their well-being.

Secondly, a child confident of their parents’ love might show annoyance at the correction, or even voice their disagreement, but still have an underlying understanding that regardless of the parent-child conflict there is a foundation of unconditional love and acceptance; whereas the orphan mentality says they have done nothing wrong, are their own judge of what is right for them, and their disdain for this parent who dares attempt to correct them. It has to do with the foundation. The foundation of love and acceptance, protection and provision, safety and security must be built but it is much, much easier to establish when there is not already an opposing foundation from a traumatic background and in place.

As a child of God I know I am valued and dearly loved by my Creator, yet I sometimes get into a bit of an orphan mentality, feeling like I am unloved, or like I have not done anything wrong and should not be corrected. The stronger the foundation of love and acceptance, the more consistently in touch with God I am, the quicker and easier to overcome this type of sinkhole thinking.

I have noticed as well that the orphan mentality is self-perpetuating to a degree. A person feels like the world is against them and so they find “evidence” to back up this belief and it grows stronger and stronger. This tendency makes it hard to battle and overcome.

Orphan or not, belonging to the family of God is available to everyone who sincerely calls on the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness. That is because you are dearly loved and precious, so precious and valuable that God sent his son, Jesus to suffer and die in order to have a relationship with you.

Matthew 7:25  says, “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  Jesus is the rock that provides a firm foundation for us as well as our children.


Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions.  As a parent, I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them tools to help. While not a substitute for professional help when needed, there are some natural products we have begun using in our family that make a big difference in helping kids (and their parents) be ready to learn appropriate ways of coping with their big feelings, to focus and be more settled.  Let me know if you are interested in learning more about specific products.

If you like this blog post you may like to check out and follow the Yesterday’s Orphan Facebook public page here, or if you are a parent/caregiver and would like to join our closed member Families group you can do so here.

Lastly, if you are interested in the natural products I’m using to support our health while avoiding many common toxins comment and ask me.  I’m happy to share!