Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fear Paralysis Reflex and Baseball Performance

I recently facilitated a Brain Gym® session with Zane, a 12-year-old boy who’s an excellent – and passionate – baseball player. So, imagine his distress when he began not batting well. For years, he could hit almost any pitch. Then, as he got older, so did the opposing players: some of them were huge and could pitch at 40 miles per hour, or faster. Zane was overwhelmed by that challenge. Together we created a goal for his session: To connect with any pitch at any speed.

Alarmed by 
the approaching ball
We did a pre-check to represent his batting scenario. I handed him a plastic bat I happened to have in my closet; and then I picked up an imaginary ball and put myself in position. I did my best wind-up and pitch. His face showed distress as the invisible “ball” sped toward him, and even though he swung, he “knew” he hadn’t connected with the ball in his mind’s eye.

I was not surprised when the key element to address in Zane's balance turned out to be Fear Paralysis Reflex (FPR). 

The Fear Paralysis Reflex is a strong, compulsive impulse to retreat from anything that seems to threaten our “space,” especially things coming directly toward us. Difficulty with direct eye contact, personal interactions, proximity to others, and even catching a ball coming rapidly toward us, all may be signs of retained FPR. 

(This reflex may also be at the source of “social phobia” as well as the phenomenon of “selective mutism” - essentially paralyzing one’s ability to express language in certain circumstances; and Claire Hocking, my instructor for one of the key reflexes techniques I use, has found it strongly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome.)

One of the pre-checks for FPR is to see how the person reacts to face-to-face positioning – first at a distance, and then closer (if distance is tolerated). Zane was excellent at noticing that, even at a distance, if we were positioned squarely facing each other, his stomach felt tight; I could see that his face was tense with discomfort. However, if I was standing off to the side or facing away, the pressure was off and he felt fine.

I offered Zane a “learning menu” of activities from which to choose. First he selected Spinal Lift, which gently mimics the spinal flexing and release movement that the fetus does very early in its life in utero. Zane completed that activity, but could tell he wasn't quite finished with whatever new learning his mind-body system needed. So he selected again - this time choosing Commando Crawl, a low, cross-lateral crawling movement done with belly in contact with the floor and head up and looking forward, that recreates what should be an early infant movement. He Commando-Crawled back and forth down the length of my office floor a few times, until he finally felt "done." 

At this point, we repeated the FPR pre-check. Zane found that he was now perfectly comfortable when I faced directly toward him, even as we tested this in a more challenging way by taking turns stepping closer and closer to each other. With Zane grinning widely, we ended up almost nose to nose, and celebrated with a high-five! We then re-enacted the pitching scenario, and this time he had a smile on his face, and “knew” he’d connected with the ball. 

Now connecting with confidence
He left feeling happy, looking forward to his next baseball practice.

Three days later, I called Zane’s mother about another matter. I heard Zane’s voice in the background: “Tell her about my batting!” “Oh!” said his mother. “Zane’s batting is totally transformed! He’s hitting even the fast pitches now. Everybody wants to know What happened to Zane?

What had happened to Zane? Without that panic (FPR) reaction activated by facing big, powerful pitchers, and having baseballs zooming straight at him, he could relax into his own natural excellence as a batter.

Want to know more? Click here for my listing of resources for addressing retained infant reflexes. And I have a whole chapter about reflexes in my book, Educate Your Brain. Soon I'll be offering more blog posts about addressing reflexes. 

Wishing you all the best,


Side notes:
• Infant reflexes are nature’s way of “wiring” us for survival, balanced posture, and coordinated movement – and most importantly – our ability to think and learn: cognitive functioning. 

• Another person balancing to resolve Fear Paralysis Reflex may choose entirely different movements. As in any Brain Gym balance, the key was that Zane did the movements that he was drawn to, in the context of the balance for the change he wanted to make. 

• One of the interesting things about the Fear Paralysis Reflex is that nature intends for it to be fully resolved in utero, before we’re ever born. However, in my experience, many of us have FPR still retained in our bodies, to a greater or lesser degree. (Every time I take a course on how to address and resolve specific reflexes, course participants have abundant opportunity to practice on retained reflexes in each other.) And, keep in mind that reflexes resolved in infancy and childhood can spring back into action at any point in life, following trauma or shock to the system: car accident, death of a loved one, etc. Fear Paralysis Reflex can be effectively addressed at any age.

• As an educational model, the Edu-K work uses pre-checks to identify desired skills and functions, without needing to label specific disabilities. The Fear Paralysis Reflex is the name for a known primitive reflex that may inhibit function; the pre-check and learning menu choices that I describe in the story of this boy's session are part of a specific sequence developed by Claire Hocking, a Brain Gym® instructor in Australia. Claire's system includes Edu-K's 5 Steps to Learning, however the pre- and post-check, along with the menu, are her work alone.

Copyright 2013 by Kathy Brown. All rights reserved. 

Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of Brain Gym® International, Ventura, California •


  1. Great story. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for the wealth of information you have chosen to share so openly. You have taught mensouch and opened many doors to various aspects and approaches to reflex integration in children. Aine

  3. Aine, Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad my posts are helpful to your understanding of retained infant reflexes!