Whole Movement Center

Fear Paralysis Reflex

What is the Fear Paralysis Reflex?

The important aspect of the FPR is its amazing ability to be the protective shield for both the mother and the unborn baby. The FPR performs the essential task of fear paralysis (from where it gets its name) when there is a threat. When there is something that threatens the mother, the FPR reflex automatically reduces the demands the fetus places on the mother’s system while she responds to the specific danger. The FPR accomplishes this by immediately surging through the following:

  • Causes the fetus to experience immediate motor paralysis (no movement)
  • Restricts peripheral blood flow
  • Lowers the fetus heart rate
  • Protects the fetus by reducing exposure to adrenaline
  • Reduces absorption of the stress hormone cortisol

In Symphony of Reflexes, Bonnie Brandes states that fear paralysis causes a disabling fear that combines with a decrease in respiration, heart rate and muscle movement. This reflex is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system.

If the FPR does not follow the intended route development and remains active, the child’s system may be locked in a state of fear. There may be chronic phobias, severe anxiety, deer in the headlights response, inability to adjust to social and emotional changes, and even panic attacks later in life. The active FPR manifests itself not only in the waking hours of a child’s life, but also during sleep. This may be one of the causes for night terrors that children with sensory issues often experience. When the FPR does not inhibit before birth, the child typically lives life through a filter of fear.

What to look for in your child

If the Fear Paralysis Reflex is retained after birth, it is usually characterized as the appearance of overall withdrawal from the child’s surroundings. This does not always mean quiet withdrawal. Many times a child that sees fear in everything and will scream and yell loudly in the face of any new or uncomfortable situation.

The Fear Paralysis (FP) reflex is one of the early withdrawal reflexes that emerges two months after conception.

In utero, the withdrawal reflexes are characterized by a rapid withdrawal movement in response to tactile stimulation.

 This reflex is an early intrauterine primitive reflex that emerges in the womb sometime during the second month after conception. The Fear Paralysis Reflex is one of the earliest reflexes and the most characteristic reaction is withdrawal away and/or a temporary freeze from any sudden, unexpected or threatening stimuli, event or trauma. When this happens, the fetus shuts off its environment by producing stress proteins and literally becomes paralyzed by fear.

The pattern of the FP reflex has been described like a terrified rabbit, completely frozen and unable to move. The FP reflex is normally inhibited by week twelve post-conception and integrated into the Moro reflex. If the FP reflex is not inhibited, the Moro Reflex will stay active, and in many cases so will the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex. If the FP reflex is not fully integrated at birth it may contribute to lifelong challenges related to fear and balance.

Some symptoms of a non-integrated  Fear Paralysis Reflex

Low tolerance to stress; a sense of being frozen or feeling stuck

Can cause lifelong challenges related to fear and underlying anxiety

Social isolation and fear of new situations or activities; extreme shyness

Fear of failure; perfectionism

Helplessness; depression

Hypersensitivity to one or several of the senses, especially touch, sound and light

Sleeping and/or eating disorders

Panic attacks and social phobias are often seen in adults

Temper tantrums; holding one’s breath; oppositional or aggressive behaviors can be seen.

Difficulty making or maintaining eye contact or intense staring often without blinking

Some other signs the Fear Paralysis reflex may not be fully integrated:

  • Decreased stress tolerance
  • Over-sensitivity of the senses
  • Motion sickness
  • Difficulties with eye contact
  • Acting out and temper tantrums in children
  • Obsessive-compulsive symptoms
  • Oppositional and aggressive behavior
  • Withdrawal / elective mutism
  • Excessive shyness

A beneficial activity to support Fear Paralysis integration is navel radiation breathing with a toy animal on child’s belly that goes up and down. See the next activity in Session 3 to learn this or watch the starfish video above.

Instructions for fear paralysis reflex integration with tapping 

Fear release tapping points, use rhythm that recipient prefers, for example a 1-2-3 waltz rhythm, tap at one or more of the following or do the whole sequence do lying face down or face up according to preference

  • feet-on the soles in the arch is
  • side of the hips
  • back of the hands between the 4th and 5th metacarpals just below the 4th and 5th fingers
  • arms-the attachment of the triceps just above the elbow
  • arms-deltoid on the outside of the arms just below the shoulders
  • K 27 points called brain buttons which are just below the collarbone beside the sternum or breastbone
  • Chest: one hand taps on the sternum while the other hands’ fingertips lightly touch the xyphoid process at the base of the breastbone
  • Head: lightly on the sides or top of the head or both

Below are embryo-infant movements for unlocking and integrating the Fear Paralysis Reflex. Do these with curiosity, like you are a delighted baby just discovering her body can move in all these wonderful ways.

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