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Triggers that May Cause Shutdowns

Sexual assault, sexual abuse, and childhood neglect are all examples of traumatic experiences that can trigger the body's involuntary immobility reaction, also called a shutdown state. Acute events that drastically shock the body/mind can also trigger this response. These include things like vehicle accidents, falls, surgery, emotional distress, and loss.

If you can accept that your inability to move is a normal and healthy response to the stress your body and brain have experienced, you will be able to be more gentle with yourself. The immobility response is often accompanied by feelings of embarrassment and remorse.

You can lessen the awful shame and guilt you feel by learning to accept it as an automatic reflex response and realizing that it was not your fault that you were unable to react.

Patterns of Dissociation: An Exercise

Maybe you know, or are learning to recognize, how you feel dissociated. Ask yourself these questions to have a deeper understanding of your current situation.

Whenever you're under a lot of pressure, do you find that you tend to dissociate or shut down emotionally or physically?

Yes No

Do you know you dissociate, but you can't put your finger on what causes it?

Yes No

Do you know what sets off your dissociation if you are aware of it? If so, please elaborate.

When triggered, do you find yourself feeling bewildered or spaced out? Yes No

Do you tend to stare blankly, unable to focus on anything?

Do you find it simple to drift off into thoughtless inattention?

Yes No

Do you ignore the request to focus on your body?

Yes No

Is your attempt to suppress your emotions by intellectualization and detachment from your body successful?

Yes No

Do you find that you get overly religious when times are tough? Do you, for instance, get stress relief by ascribing spiritual significance to everyday events? Or do you try to prevent becoming emotionally detached by giving a spiritual dimension to whatever is happening? Yes No

Does withdrawing into your thoughts and intellect help you avoid experiencing emotion?

Yes No

Taking into account the number of "Yes" responses you marked, do you recognize any other dissociative tendencies in your life? Define them.

If you catch yourself passing harsh judgment on yourself, keep in mind that these tendencies developed for your own safety.


Mimi Rothschild

Mimi Rothschild is the Founder and CEO of the Global Grief Institute which provides Certification training programs forGrief Coach, Trauma Coach, End of Life Coach, and Children's Grief Coach. She is a survivor who has buried 3 of her children and her husband of 33 years. She is available for speaking engagements and comments to the press on any issue surrounding thriving after catastrophic loss. MEDIA INQUIRIES:

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