Troubled Fetal Position

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A common sitting position for an introverted, shy, depressed character or perhaps one that is going through a breakdown or some Sanity Slippage is for them to sit with their knees pulled to their chest perhaps with their arms wrapped around their knees. If the character has gone through something traumatic expect them to rest their head atop their knees so that their hair falls around their face. Sometimes, they may rock their body back and forth while muttering something incoherent. Also considered a form of Wangst. Someone taking a Shower of Angst is likely to do this.

Different from the Corner of Woe in that this trope is usually done in a dramatic fashion; could also be done as a result of coping with some Paranoia Fuel or Nightmare Fuel.

Contrast with Fetal Position Rebirth, where the pose conveys a different symbolic meaning from angst.

Examples of Troubled Fetal Position include:

Anime & Manga

  • Momo from Peach Girl does this out of insecurity sometimes, and later on after she thinks that she was raped (she wasn't).
    • One scene had Sae hiding from a porn star and his camera crew who wanted her to film with them. She thought it was a video game shoot but Ryo lied to her about it. She hides in the bathroom, crawls into the bathtub, and starts sobbing while cuddling her legs close to herself. Thankfully Momo and friends save her before anything happens.
  • SHUFFLE!: After Kaede snaps, she is shown taking a shower like this.
  • Ako Izumi from Mahou Sensei Negima! takes a Shower of Angst in this position after finding out that the guy she loves doesn't exist.
    • Asuna does this in the beginning of chapter 352.
  • Peacemaker Kurogane: Several characters tend to do this, most notably Tetsunosuke, especially after he almost gets killed by Yoshida. As well as Suzu after he discovers his beloved master Yoshida dead.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Nanami goes into the Troubled Fetal Position after discovering that Akio and Anthy, who are brother and sister, have been regularly having sex.
    • And Utena does this in episode 10 while lamenting that perhaps she, being a girl, can't become a prince after all.
      • She also does it in episode 12 after losing the duel and Anthy to Touga.
    • Wakaba does this in episode 12 too.
  • Lain from Serial Experiments Lain does this a few times.
  • Simon from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann does this when he has his Heroic BSOD after Kamina's death.
  • Mima from Perfect Blue indulges in a Shower of Angst and does this underwater.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion gets a bit of mileage out of the trope, with the pose exhibited by Misato (The Birth of Nerv), Shinji (especially in The End of Evangelion), and Asuka (At Least Be Humane and End of Evangelion).
    • Rei does it in Angelic Days here.
  • Usagi from Sailor Moon does it in a phone booth after Mamoru breaks up with her.
  • Melfina from Outlaw Star has done this a few times.
  • Naruto: Lots of characters. With Sakura, Gaara, Hinata, Juugo, and Naruto being the most notable.
  • Lucy of Elfen Lied did this a lot after she ran away from the local Orphanage of Fear and later on she does this a lot when she's reverted from Nyu into murderous Lucy mode.
    • Mayu after she runs away from home and is living on the street.
  • Hatchin in Michiko to Hatchin does this in the first episode during her Shower of Angst.
  • Hatsumi from Hot Gimmick goes into the Troubled Fetal Position here once she returns home after almost getting raped.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni's second witches' tea party, Bern and Lambda make a few different comments ("What? Are you still hugging your knees?") that imply that Battler wound up doing this after everything that happened in the second arc.
    • At the beginning of EP4, Ronove alerts Beatrice that Battler has assumed the Troubled Fetal Position once again after her fake Heel Face Turn at the end of EP3 ("he has been crouching and clutching at his knees for some time now. I spoke to him several times, but he did not answer. I also carried him food, but he made no effort to touch it"), and that he probably won't be able to continue the game unless she snaps him out of it. Of course, Battler's just sleeping in the fetal position, but why tell Beatrice that when you can trick her into making an idiot of herself trying to cheer him up?
  • Sawyer the Cleaner from Black Lagoon, after she loses her voice machine.
  • While Soul Eater's Crona has sat in a Corner of Woe (played for humor), there are instances when he/she has done it in a more serious sense. One involves a scene where we see Crona inside of his/her soul (or mind) which is shown as an empty desert. Crona sits in the fetal position and his/her shadow asks all sorts of questions in which Crona answers with "Pass." At one point he/she sobs into his/her knees. Considering Crona's past with his/her abusive mother Medusa, it's no wonder.
  • Renton & Eureka does this in Eureka Seven whenever they are troubled or sad.
  • Aine does this in chapter 8 of Sensual Phrase when worried about whether or not she can remain as Lucifer's Lyricist.
  • In episode 11 of Ghost Stories Satsuki ends up doing this after spending just about the whole episode being stalked by an extremely Creepy Doll.
  • In Gankutsuou Albert does this while taking a Shower of Angst. He later does this after his engagement to Eugenie had been canceled and she becomes engaged to Andrea against her will.
  • Loly does this in chapter 274 of Bleach after Orihime reattaches her ripped leg and revives her partner Menoly.
    • And young Tsukishima does it in chapter 477.
  • San finds Luna in this state in the 2nd Seto no Hanayome OVA, following an encounter with a ghost actually San's childhood friend, Saturn.
  • Yuki of Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru goes into the Troubled Fetal Position in episode 2 while in the rain after being told rather harshly by the guy he thought was his friend that no one needs him.
    • Uzuki does this in episode 4 while depressed and wondering why someone like him is still alive.
    • Hotsuma in episode 10 when Shusei goes missing.
  • Myung from Macross Plus takes this pose while lying in bed.
  • The Keroro Gunsou anime has Dororo often take this pose while in his Corner of Woe. Normally Played for Laughs. The episode that introduces the Soul Diver plays it a bit more seriously, as he gets stuck in his Trauma Mode and has to be pulled out of it, with Dororo staying in this position the whole time.
  • Tsubasa does this in episode 4 of Starry Sky.
  • After her hideous ordeal during the Eclipse, Casca from Berserk is seen in a very paranoid, hostile fetal position. She seems to stop doing this after the Time Skip, when she goes into the more carefree Ophelia stage of her insanity.
  • Yae from Hanjuku Joshi does it here.
  • So, in One Piece at the beginning of the Skypiea saga, Usopp nearly drowns on the way up through the Sea Clouds. Then he jumps out thinking he's going to swim, only to fall right through, barely saved by Luffy and Robin. He then spends half of Chapter 237/Episode 153 curled up in a fetal position muttering "sky island so scary".
    • In a much more serious variant, we have King Neptune, who went into this after his wife, Queen Otohime, was assassinated, as he desperately attempts to hold back his murderous rage over it so as to avoid ruining everything she spent her life working toward.
  • Allen does this in chapter 206 of D.Gray-man.
  • Clannad: There is a scene where there was a bus crash and Kotomi has a break down, complete with her in a fetal position and muttering "I will be a good girl."
  • In chapter 62 of Hen Chizuru does it here.
  • In Madoka Magica, the titular character rests sits on her bed in this position after the deaths of Kyoko and Oktavia (Sayaka as a witch).
  • In Axis Powers Hetalia Russia of all people does this when his little sister Belarus tries to break down his door and demand that they get married.
    • And Germany does a more comedic version of this in episode 5 when Italy makes them both white flags to wave meaning they surrender.
  • Nakaba in Reimei no Arcana does this a lot.
  • Haruhi of Ouran High School Host Club is terrified of thunder and goes into this position whenever she hears it. And in a more comedic example Tamaki often does this when he goes into the Corner of Woe.
  • Trigun: Vash shoots Knives and then runs away after Knives first tests his angel arm. Knives clutches his wounded thigh and cries, "My leg! Why is there so much pain in my leg? Did you shoot me? DID YOU JUST SHOOT ME?!" while he and Vash are looking at each other in horror. Then Vash lets out an almighty scream and runs away. After that, Knives curls up in a fetal position while crying his eyes out.
  • Sometimes occurs in Pandora Hearts like with Oz, Alice, and Gil.
  • Daisuke of D.N.Angel does this in episodes 2 and 14 and 24. And Satoshi does this in episode 4. And Mio Hio does this in episode 20 because she's actually a voodoo doll and doesn't have that much time left to live as a human.
  • Touka does this in episode 7 of Tokyo Ghoul after failing to help Hinami save her mother.
    • Hinami also does this at the end of episode 7 most likely due to depression over mother and father's death.

Films -- Animation

  • Peter Pan: Return to Neverland: Jane, Wendy's daughter, goes into this position frequently throughout the movie.
  • Coraline: After Coraline figures out that the Other Mother wants her to sew buttons into her eyes Coraline gets scared, runs up to her room, locks the door, and hides under her blankets in this position repeating, "Go to sleep... Go to sleep... Go to sleep..."
  • Chihiro does this on the stairs, while saying "Go away, Go away... Disappear..." after the events of the beginning of Spirited Away have unfolded.
  • 5 from 9 drops into this complete with rocking and frantically muttering the first time he, 9, and 7 take cover from the machine, right after 2 is killed.
  • Jesse of Toy Story 2 does this when she tells Woody about how she was abandoned by her original owner Emily.

Films -- Live Action

  • In the 1996 version of A Little Princess, Sara goes into the Troubled Fetal Position whenever she's in her new room in the dirty attic. Her dad supposedly died so she's forced to work as a servant.
  • In The Princess Diaries, Mia returns home after being humiliated by her supposed "friends" and she cuddles with her mom in a position like this and cries.

Mia: It was really bad -- my foot didn't even pop!

  • Drew Barrymore's character in Ever After does this occasionally, most notably towards the end where she is sitting in the rain, still in her ball gown after being publicly humiliated by Prince Henry.
  • This Spider-Man 3 poster fits.
  • Dirty Dancing: Johnny and Baby discover Penny in a Troubled Fetal Position after an encounter with Bobby.
  • Pink Floyd: The Wall is fond of this.
  • Raymond from Rain Man has periods of this.
  • Unsurprisingly occurs at least once in Requiem for a Dream as things go downhill for the main characters. Happens for all of them at the end of the film. One of the ones mid-film was a frame-for-frame recreation of the scene in Perfect Blue.
  • Used a good deal and doubly justified in The Elephant Man. The title character even sleeps like this. If he doesn't, he'll die.
  • Evey in V for Vendetta does this a lot when she is captured, imprisoned and tortured by the fake government which turns out to be V himself.
  • Vesper does this in a Shower of Angst in Casino Royale. Originally she was supposed to be in her underwear in the scene, but she argued that, traumatized from seeing Bond killing several people, she wouldn't have stopped to get undressed.
  • In Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, Beverly does the "rocking back and forth" variation at one point.
  • Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk enters this after a particularly nasty Flashback Echo hits him when he's in the shower.


  • The standard "panic position" for the Pierson's Puppeteers of Larry Niven's Known Space stories is to tuck their heads (they have two, on really long necks) between their legs, and collapse into what looks like a perfect imitation of a hair-covered footstool..
  • The protagonist of Stephen King's Pet Sematary goes into this after his wife is killed and eaten by their toddler son that he brought back from the dead as a demon-possessed zombie.
  • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines Novel Dead Sky, Black Sun after escaping from a daemonic womb that has been trying to take his genetic material via tendrils through the interface sockets in his body Uriel Ventris does this, screaming and crying in rage and horror.
  • The Night Lords series fields another Warhammer 40,000 example with Uzas of First Claw who tends to curl up in his room muttering to Khorne and begging it/him to stop rearranging his mind.
  • In Who Cut the Cheese? by Stilton Jarlsberg, Hi starts hyperventilating after discovering that CheesyWorld has run out of cheese, and Ho suggests that Hi calm down and assume the position.

Live Action TV

  • River does this from time to time in Firefly, most notably at the end of the second episode when she's going on about "two by two, hands of blue".
  • Lots of inmates in the show Oz are shown curling up in the fetal position, particularly after all the ordeals that most of them endure while in prison, namely Beecher.
  • In the Father Ted episode "Cigarettes and Alcohol And Rollerblading" Dougal sits like this while suffering withdrawal symptoms from being forced to give up rollerblading for Lent.
  • In the CSI episode "Nesting Dolls", Sara adopts a Troubled Fetal Position when she talks to Grissom about her past.
  • During the American Whose Line Is It Anyway?? run's (in)famous Living Scenery game with Richard Simmons, Wayne assumes the Troubled Fetal Position in his chair after the game. It's not very surprising.
  • iCarly: Since it's a kid-tween show, depressed adults are extremely prone to this trope.
    • Spencer in iHeart Art. Lies down on the dining table with his face in a bowl after being criticized by his art idol.
    • Lauren Ackerman in iHave a Lovesick Teacher. Curls on the teacher's table and bawls in front of class after her recent bad breakup.
    • Ricky Flame in iCook. Slumps to the ground after losing in the cooking competition, then once again after Sam pins him down in the wrestling gym.
    • Lewbert in iFind Lewbert's Lost Love. Traumatized after seeing his abusive ex-fiancee once again, he locks up himself in his office, rocking to and fro in the corner.
  • In Doctor Who episode Midnight, the Doctor sits like this while the he and the other passengers wait for the rescue vehicle to arrive. Definitely significant in context.
    • The Eighth Doctor does this, while rocking back and forth, in one of the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels, during a conversation about the imminent destruction of the multiverse and the fact the few remaining survivors of his own species have dubbed him "the Blessed Destroyer", for reasons he just barely remembers. It probably doesn't help his state of mind that he also just had something close to a near-death experience.
  • In season five of Dexter, Lumen does this upon hearing the sounds of people having sex in the hotel room next door, covering her ears with her hands as the sounds remind her of her own traumatic gang rape. Dexter has also done this when flashing back to witnessing his mother's gruesome murder.
  • In The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Allison From Palmdale," Allison is shown in this position while in her prison cell.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oz sits like this in his holding cell after the Initiative has experimented on him.


  • The video "Everybody's Fool" by Evanescence features Amy Lee in this position.

Video Games

  • Kingdom Hearts: Kairi in this shot of her.
  • The members of the Beauty and Beast corps that Snake fights in Metal Gear Solid 4 are female soldiers brainwashed into perfect soldiers from an early age so that war is all they know. If Snake manages to defeat them nonlethally with his tranquilizer gun, they curl up into a fetal position on the ground, having been forced to face the horrors of their past.
  • Left 4 Dead: The Witch. She just wants to be left alone. Don't disturb her.
  • Sakura's Game Over animation in Street Fighter IV, although she squats instead of sitting. Also, awww.
  • Saavedro from Myst 3: Exile goes into one of these near the end of the game.
  • From Touhou, Parsee's flight pose in Subterranean Animism, partnered with a giddy smile and attempted murder. Alice provides the picture, but isn't an example in-game.
  • In the opening cinematic of the StarCraft: Brood Wars expansion, a Goliath unit does this as its operator waits helplessly for the overwhelming Zerg forces to reach his position.
  • Pressing the secondary action button in Yume Nikki with no effect that uses it makes Madotsuki sit like this. After a few seconds, she lowers her head invoking this trope.
  • In the Superstar expansion pack of the original The Sims, your Sim can do this in Studio Town if their mood is low enough. Watch out, though - the next tabloid might just report that your Sim was spotted in that position and that things might not be looking too good for them.

Web Comics

Web Original


A depressed loser cowers in a corner. According to a new Stanford University study, there is no hope for such people.

  • Salad Fingers does this as well as cry in the cupboard when Roger assaults him with Brown Notes.
    • He also does this during a Freak-Out after a little girl speaks to him.
  • Happy Tree Friends: Flippy in "Double Whammy" after coming out of his Ax Crazy state and discovering himself to be covered in the intestines of one of his friends.
  • We first meet the transformed Stuart in this position in The Jade Box.
  • In Survival of the Fittest: The Program, Marilyn Williams does this in reaction to being thrown into the compound, under a bed, no less.

Western Animation

  • Raven from Teen Titans, to help cement her earlier status as a loner.
    • Terra too in mid-air after losing control of her powers.
  • Tyler from Total Drama Island goes into this position when he has to face his worst fear. Chickens.
  • Family Guy: Meg Griffin does this occasionally.
    • In the episode "Dial Meg For Murder" Peter is shown in this position after being raped by a bull.
  • Aelita from Code Lyoko, from times to times.
  • The Crimson Chin from The Fairly OddParents undergoes one of these when he was told that he is a comic book character.
    • As does Cosmo whenever someone mentions Supertoilet. "So... much... clogging!"
  • Played for laughs with Squidward in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Band Geeks", after another screw-up by his slapdash marching band.
    • SpongeBob does this for a whole episode in which he becomes afraid to go outside, so he decides to live inside his house for the rest of his life. Thankfully, he got over it.
    • One episode had Kevin the Sea Cucumber sits in a fetal position and cry for his mommy and blankie when attacked by a King Jellyfish. The other Jellyspotters join in shortly until Spongebob saves them all.
  • The title character from As Told by Ginger does the Troubled Fetal Position a few times, especially in the episode where she and Darien broke up.
    • Considering how socially awkward and shy Macie is, she tends to do this too.
  • Jokingly done in an episode of The Simpsons where Homer writes a bad review for a restaurant and is ridiculed for it. To cope he is later seen sitting in the fetal position in the tub, looking on traumatized with wide eyes as he crazily scrubs at his skin repeating, "Still not clean, stink of failure still on me! Still not clean, Still not clean!"
    • Also "Lisa's First Word had Bart getting really terrified of a scary clown bed and in the morning he is shown rocking back and forth in the fetal position saying "Can't sleep, clown will eat me. Can't sleep, clown will eat me." over and over.
      • He also did it in "Camp Krusty": "Krusty is coming. Krusty is coming. Krusty is coming..."
  • On an episode of Gargoyles, Goliath was fooled by a hologram of Angela taking this position.
  • In the Hey Arnold! episode "Das Subway", after the subway train breaks down, the conductor eventually confesses over the train's intercom system that he's doing this.
  • Wasp of Transformers Animated is doing this after having escaped from the Autobot stockade where he'd been unjustly imprisoned for what is implied to be a century at least. Flashbacks show him to be a snarky Jerk Jock, his whole escape is done with style and flair (including a quick salute to his former drill instructor), and the episode ends with him hiding behind some wreckage, clutching his knees and rocking back and forth, muttering to himself, a broken shell of the 'bot he once was. Autobots are harsh.
  • Amalia from Wakfu, especially in episode 25 when she feels the destruction of the forest by Nox's infernal machines.
  • 2D of Gorillaz has been huddled like this in his room at Plastic Beach for several months, in terror of the whale outside his window.
  • Rainbow Dash in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Sonic Rainboom" ends up like this when the time comes for her to compete in a flying competition due lack of self-confidence.
    • In "Lesson Zero" Twilight Sparkle does this on a bench, but the way she strokes her tail at the same time is unexpectedly cute.
  • On the Young Justice episode "Home Front" Artemis, the least experienced member of the team, goes into a this when the rest of her True Companions have been captured and face imminent death.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Band Geeks", Squidward tells the flag-twirlers to speed it up, which then leads to their flags acting like propellers, sending them up hundreds of feet and crash into a blimp, which then explodes, followed by another band member playing Taps (poorly) and Squidward quietly going into the fetal position.
  • In the much loved Disney series Recess, Miss Finster comes with a new type of playground punishement- the box, which is just a square painted on the blacktop. T.J. ends up having to get put in the box shortly after it's announced. At first he laughs at it, but it eventually breaks him. Ten minutes later, Miss Finster finds the poor boy in the fetal position singing "This Old Man".
  • Rugrats: Stu during his Sanity Slippage moment in "Angelica Breaks A Leg".
  • The Phineas and Ferb episode "Bully Bromance Breakup" sees Phineas doing this while being dragged up a mountain in a harness. (He went into Heroic BSOD mode because Baljeet put the kibosh on him and Ferb inventing anything to help them climb.)
  • There are quite a few in Adventure Time. Notably, there's Incendium, when Finn is rejected by Princess Bubblegum. There's also Too Young, when Lemongrab does this after Finn and PB beat him up.