I recently gave a talk on the Neuroscience of Conversation to a group of job seekers who are all currently unemployed. As part of the presentation, I encouraged everyone to reflect on the negative patterns they have experienced in the job search process. Not surprisingly, freeze was the most common patterned threat response experienced.
There were so many situations in the process that trigger a freeze response. From not hearing back about a job application. To being asked an unexpected question in an interview. To receiving an email, mere minutes after submitting your application with the message - "after careful review of your resume, you were not selected to move forward in the hiring process."
Regardless of the circumstances, the trigger created sensations that caused an unsafe feeling and freezing was the primitive brain's automatic reaction for preserving and protecting one's self-interests.
Unfortunately, freezing in these circumstances has the opposite effect. Doing nothing has never been a recipe for getting a job, it does more harm than good. I know this from personal experience.
When I was in the throes of a depressive episode a few years back, the act of putting myself out there often triggered the patterned threat response of freeze.
It happened when I would send an email to a prospective client and not hear back. Or when I published a new blog post and no one commented. Or when I gave a talk that didn't pan out as I hoped. Those efforts would not result in the outcomes I anticipated, which hurt me deeply. It felt like a stab in my heart. Breathless, exhausted, and beat down, I froze.
The rest of my to-do list for the day might as well have been written in a foreign language. I couldn't tackle any of it. I was drowning in my own tears. Small tasks, like making a phone call, took all the effort I could muster.
Most days I just felt like crawling into a hole and hiding from the world. So, that's what I did. All the while, dumping on myself for being a horrible failure. If I did make it out of my hole, I was quickly met with the in-your-face success of colleagues that was guaranteed to trigger another round of me doing nothing.
Over time, I saw that perpetually freezing hurt my business. For the first time since I started Rosabella Consulting, my income actually dropped significantly from the previous year. My instincts to preserve and protect myself were directly hurting my ability to support my family. I felt like an utter loser.
It's so easy to feel all alone when suffering. To look at everyone else and think that no one else is struggling like you. Despite the desire to hide, what we truly need is to feel seen and heard. To feel connection and belonging.
It is so rare to find a space where you can be real about the challenges and struggles you're facing. Yet, it is essential to find a community where you can be yourself. To find a space where you are welcome to show up as you are. A place where you can be vulnerable and your story is heard.
That's what helped on my own journey. It was one thing to get honest with myself in my journal. But sharing my story with others. Opening up about my struggles among peers who accepted me as I was, helped me to heal the chronic hurt and pain I had been enduring.
It might seem ironic to say, when you're hiding you must reveal yourself. But there is no hiding from our inner suffering. Our doubts and insecurities are not some saber-toothed tiger whose vicious bite we can avoid. We have to face our problems.
At the same time, we cannot just reveal ourselves willy-nilly. Not just anyone is equipped to help us navigate such struggles of the heart and mind. Most people have not learned how to hold space for the suffering of others because most have been taught to either fix or ignore problems. But when we are scared and hiding, we don't need to be fixed. We need to be held, figuratively speaking. We need to be reminded that we are worthy of love and belonging just as we are.
It is through such raw, real human connection that we begin to experience hope again. To receive the message, "you are enough just as you are," so we may have renewed belief in ourselves. With hope and belief, we cultivate our capacity to deal better. The stimuli will never change, but we can repattern how we respond and as a result, we stop hiding and start living.
Are you in need of a safe space to show up as you are? Are you ready to repattern an automatic reaction that's no longer serving you? What if you could experience a profound shift with just 20 minutes of journaling among supportive peers? Check out the next Journal Jam on May 13th. Journal Jams are on a sliding scale, register online by selecting the price that best fits your budget.