* * NOWHERE TO HIDE * * Maria: Fight, flight, or freeze?


“Fight, flight or freeze” responses are logical defenses to an overpowering threat, like Maria’s older, stronger cousin.  He sneaks into her room once or twice a month when he has stays over with Maria’s brother.
 Maria shifts quickly to ‘high alert’.  She shakes under her sheets, in her own house with overwhelming fear of what he might do, too scared to speak.

The more primitive, or “survival-focused” part of Maria’s brain, her amygdala, works to keep her hyper-aroused, and focussed on the immediate threat.  Simultaneously,  the amygdala mutes the thinking or cognitive part, her pre-frontal cortex.   Stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol begin pumping, her breathing, heart rate and blood pressure all increase, and digestion slows .  These are only a few of the natural neurological and biochemical responses to threat.

But there is a price to pay for the experience of chronic threat…

Chronic ‘fight, flight or freeze’ brain-use causes Maria’s natural, neurobiological defenses to develop into deeply ingrained or  grooved pathways and connections in her young, developing brain  — leaving Maria always on ‘hi alert’.  Even after the immediate threat is gone, the  dysfunctional,  anti-social behaviors can linger, can frustrate, can be quickly re-triggered.


The relentless fear and toxic stress is actually changing the physical architecture of Maria’s brain.

Public health research reveals that Maria’s health can also suffer  lifelong, traceable to her developmental trauma, including depression, severe obesity, lung disease, liver disease, heart disease, drug abuse, alcoholism, teen pregnancy and it may end in her early death — early death by as much as 20 years.
Whether abuse, family dysfunction or neglect, childhood trauma directly impacts about 2 out of 3 of us at some level.  Experts call it an “epidemic.”


Trauma-Informed adults CAN make a difference.
Get Informed.  Click on the links below.



Informed already?  Then, please “share” the blog post.  Help grow awareness of this secret epidemic destroying childhoods.


Toxic stress changes brain architecture                            CLICK HERE     (2 minute video)  


Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University    CLICK HERE 


Understanding the Behavioral and Emotional Consequences of Child Abuse                                                                                         CLICK HERE


Defensive behaviors stay turned on      (“Clinical Implications”, PAGE 10)                                                                                            CLICK HERE

Perry, B.D. The neurodevelopmental impact of violence in childhood. Chapter 18: In Textbook of Child and Adolescent Forensic Psychiatry, (Eds., D. Schetky and E.P. Benedek) American Psychiatric Press, Inc., Washington, D.C. pp. 221-238, 2001





Look for other parts of this series “Nowhere to Hide” on LucidWitness.com  for more information.


Trigger warning:  the children’s experiences in the vignettes are unvarnished.  Their traumatic responses may trigger painful memories.



Nowhere to Hide the Elephant in the [Class]Room   (overview)


Nowhere to Hide.  Maria Fight, flight or freeze?

Nowhere to Hide.  Andre’s fear.   What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?

Nowhere to Hide.  Jamar’s Hyperarousal

Nowhere to Hide.  Roberto’s Dissociation

Nowhere to Hide:  Danny’s Memory

Nowhere to Hide:  Ashley’s “Normal” Education?   Part 1

Nowhere to Hide:  Ashley’s “Normal” Education?   Part 2




Click below for more “Peek Inside a Classroom”;

The  original series, “Peek Inside a Classroom”, provides much more detailed looks inside my classroom, primarily focused on specific students: Jasmine, Danny and Jose.  Other vignettes are captured in broader looks at education reform concepts: “Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm?” and “Effective Education Reform.”

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Jasmine

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Danny

Peek Inside a Classroom: Jose

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm?

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Effective Education Reform (with Dr. Sandra Bloom, M.D.)




“Like” us at  “Trauma-Informed Pedagogy” on Facebook



Want more ?    
CLICK FOR MORE RESOURCES:  Developmental Trauma

1.   Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Studies:   CLICK HERE

 2.  Impacts of Childhood Trauma: Overview               CLICK HERE

Click for Resources: Social Media on Impacts of Childhood Trauma

Click for Resources: Journal Articles on Impacts of Developmental Trauma

 3.   Trauma-Informed Schools                                               CLICK HERE 

 4.  Trauma-Informed Social Services                                CLICK HERE 

 5.   Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice                             CLICK HERE

 6.  Trauma-Informed Public Policy                                   CLICK HERE

 7.  Childhood Trauma Training and Tools                     CLICK HERE

 8.  Book and Publication selections                                CLICK HERE

9.   #800 phone numbers                                                         CLICK HERE



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24 thoughts on “* * NOWHERE TO HIDE * * Maria: Fight, flight, or freeze?”

  1. I did not have a name/handle for ACE but had to work with these kids and their school staff as well as parents. Towards the end of my tenure as principal at Bovill School, we had the good fortune to tap into the Positive Behavior Supports program and Jerry Lilly. We were able to team-up with parents, teachers etc. and devise a plan of action that worked every time—-every time—when we were able to get all parties on the same page. The Cooperative Discipline program from AGS was also a way to train staff on identifying why the child was misbehaving and providing a number of positive interventions to use. Both of these programs take extra time, training, and coordination. Time better spent, I think, than on test prep and developmentally inappropriate curriculum/standards. Suspending and expelling students should be a last resort unless life-threatening issues are at play. What I hear from the field is that the number of kids with emotional/behavior concerns is drastically on the rise. Teachers, support staff and parents need more supports asap. A much better place to spend $27.5 million dollars a biennium than on the Smarter Balanced Assessment testing in Oregon???

    Liked by 2 people

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