This is the last post of the Under the Microscope series, where we’ve been taking a closer look at baby reflexes and the long term impact that they have on our health, development and wellbeing.
In this post we’ll examine the Fear Paralysis Reflex. It’s a biggie so let me explain why.
Fear Paralysis Reflex (FPR)
The Fear Paralysis Reflex develops in utero and should also disappear (or integrate) in utero. In this way it is unique from the other primitive reflexes which exist primarily to aid our survival once born. What this means is that no human being should still have an active FPR but more of us now than ever before still do. Why?
Pregnancy complications, be they of physical, chemical or emotional origin, interrupt the normal process of integration which takes place late in the first trimester. Exposure to toxins, high maternal stress or a medical condition at this time (high blood pressure, threatened miscarriage or Intrauterine Growth Restriction-just to name a few) results in a baby being born with the Fear Paralysis Reflex still intact. Many of these conditions are out of our hands, we don’t for example choose to have the health conditions listed above. Nor can we protect ourselves from the loss of a loved one during our pregnancy. But by proactively seeking good health, physically and mentally, prior to conception, we are improving our odds somewhat.
The Fear Paralysis Reflex is a withdrawal reflex, helping the fetus to retreat from perceived threat, be it a loud noise or contact with the uterine wall. If you still have this reflex, the withdrawal response to stress remains. You are the child clinging with all of your might to mum or dad at a social gathering. You are the adult who removes yourself from the world when things go wrong. Your natural inclination is to retreat and to shut down. Selective Mutism is connected with the Fear Paralysis Reflex, as is anxiety, depression and low self esteem.
If you’re seeking further proof that this reflex is detrimental, know that by being born with it, the body’s natural process of reflex integration is stalled. That means those with the Fear Paralysis Reflex will also have many, if not all of the reflexes discussed in parts one to three of this blog series.
I spent the first thirty years living with the Fear Paralysis Reflex. Life without it is comparatively easy, positive and abundant. It took dedicated daily action to move through the process of integration but my goodness, it has been worth every second.
When primitive reflexes are retained, movement therapy can be used to revisit the integration process, missed during the first year of life. To learn more about reflex development and the two approaches I recommend, sign up to my newsletter list to access your free eBook.