Tag Archives: Fight flight freeze

* * NOWHERE TO HIDE * * Roberto’s Dissociation Defense



Roberto seems aloof, sometimes labelled as disrespectful.

Underneath that “tip of the iceberg”is a person.  A person with a story.


Roberto’s mother abandoned him, as an infant.

Then he was ‘placed’ into foster care with strangers.

Later he re-united with his father, but soon afterwards Daddy was imprisoned.

Roberto moved in with Grandpop.  Grandpop was ill, terminally ill and on house arrest.  And angry.  Roberto was scared and essentially on “house arrest” too, except for school.


Three+ childhood traumas.


During school Roberto often refused to sit at a desk.  He slowly, calmly walked our classroom perimeter, stopping to stare silently out our windows. Other times he quietly put his head down on his desk.  Either way, he  ignored all efforts to communicate.

Roberto was not normally aggressive or hostile; sometimes, he simply, silently walked out.

The signs are easy to miss completely in classroom settings.  Roberto’s behaviors are not distracting.  Even when recognized, they are tempting to ignore in favor of focussing on peers with different, disruptive aggression.  Yet, Roberto is every bit as injured and hurting.

This is beyond momentary daydreaming:  extended, vacant staring,  no empathy, no emotion.  Robotic.  Social interaction is rare.

In large groups or unstructured settings, like lunch and recess, Roberto did occasionally get vicious in his frustration, after losing patience with pushy peers.  Those were rare exceptions.


Back in the classroom, although a bright boy, Roberto usually didn’t know what we were learning about and often had no sense of time.


Roberto defends his current self by separating from his  memories  of himself — past experiences of neglect, intense fear, and abuse. He’s perfected “emotional numbing”.  It’s called “dissociation”.  


Splitting off parts of one’s own mind from consciousness, “dissociation”, is sometimes termed a disorder,  but it is a logical, common, neurobiological defense after developmental trauma. A very different defense than “hyperarousal.


Meanwhile, the toxic, childhood stress is changing the physical architecture of Roberto’s brain.


Whether abuse, family dysfunction or neglect, trauma impacts 2 out of 3 kids at some level.  Experts call it “epidemic.”


Trauma-Informed adults CAN make a difference.


Get Informed.  Click on links below.



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




Dissociation FAQs:         International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation                                                           Click HERE


National Child Traumatic Stress Network; Trauma Defenses                                                                                                                                  CLICK HERE


Understanding the Behavioral and Emotional Consequences of Child Abuse                                                                                            CLICK HERE


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



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.)


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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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