What is our fight/flight/freeze system and how does it work? Introduction to Fred

Many children and adults struggle with self-regulating. They are challenged by feelings of anxiety, anger, or sadness. Unfortunately, many adults are unable to guide children through these uncomfortable emotions and teach them how to manage their systems. They are unable to do this because they never learned how to do this for themselves.

The orangutan Fred represents the fight, flight, and freeze system in our brains. He works with a secret service agent, who is constantly scanning our environment for threats to our physical bodies. If the secret service agent believes that she has found an immediate threat, she will activate the protocol to release Fred. When introducing Fred, it is important that children understand that he is there to help keep them safe. Fred is very good at his job. He will either fight the threat, run away from the threat, or freeze and hope that it passes. He does this by releasing fight, flight, or freezing chemicals into our bodies. When children understand their system, they will immediately recognize the uncomfortable feelings in their bodies that signify that Fred and the chemicals have been released.

The ability to recognize when Fred is out is the first, and most important, step in learning how to self-regulate. Even young children can begin to be introspective and ask themselves why Fred is out. If there is an actual physical threat, children can thank Fred for his protection. If there is no immediate physical threat, children can begin the steps of trying to uncover what was perceived as an immediate physical threat. For example, some children may perceive getting a bad grade, having to speak in public, or being denied a treat, as a threat to their physical safety.

Understanding how Fred and the secret service agent work together is the key to teaching children how to cultivate feelings of well-being in their lives.