"Actually, I'm going to lie down in the fetal position and weep."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. 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. Truth in Television, this is a natural defensive reflex against physical attack (it protects your belly, throat and eyes) and by extension against many sorts of psychological stress and trauma, in the same manner that both physical and psychological trauma can prompt an adrenaline rush. Compare Cradle of Loneliness, which may involve a similar position, but are brought on by loneliness rather than trauma, though there can be overlap between the two. Contrast with Fetal Position Rebirth, where the pose conveys a different symbolic meaning from angst.
— Fastidiious, Sonic Boom
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Anime & Manga
- Peach Girl:
- Momo 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 in this position.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!:
- Ako Izumi takes a Shower of Angst curled up after finding out that the guy she loves doesn't exist.
- Asuna is in this pose in the beginning of chapter 352.
- Peacemaker Kurogane:
- Tetsunosuke often ends up in a fetal position, especially after he almost gets killed by Yoshida.
- Suzu after he discovers his beloved master is 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.
- Utena in this pose in episode 10 while lamenting that perhaps she, being a girl, can't become a prince after all.
- Utena in episode 12 after losing the duel and Anthy to Touga.
- Wakaba does this in episode 12, after a fight with Utena.
- And finally, there's a flashback where the younger Saionji and Touga find a little Utena like this inside a coffin, totally traumatized after her parents' deaths.
- Lain from Serial Experiments Lain does this a few times.
- Simon from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, which is done to signal that he has his Heroic B.S.O.D. after Kamina's death.
- Mima from Perfect Blue indulges in a Shower of Angst and does this underwater.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- The pose is exhibited by Misato (The Birth of Nerv)
- Shinji (especially in The End of Evangelion)
- Asuka (At Least Be Humane and End of Evangelion).
- Rei does it in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days too.
- Usagi from Sailor Moon curls up in a phone booth after Mamoru breaks up with her [[It's Not You, It's Me in a misguided attempt to protect her.
- Before that, Naru is seen twice like this. The first time she's sitting on the bottom of a slide on such a position, as she and Usagi discuss Sanjoin/Nephrite's actions against Naru. The second, she's cutrling up in her bedroom after Nephrite's Redemption Equals Death as Usagi and Umino try to comfort her.
- Melfina from Outlaw Star has done this a few times.
- Naruto: Lots of characters. With Sakura, Gaara, Hinata, Juugo, and Naruto.
- Elfen Lied:
- Lucy, 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 & 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.
- Umineko: When They Cry:
- At 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 all the unspeakable horrible things that happened in the second arc.
- At the beginning of EP4, Ronove alerts Beatrice that Battler has assumed the 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. 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.
- Another notable scene features 2 Meisters and their Weapons in this position after reading Crona's poem and (s)he soon after follows suit.
- Soul Eater has Professor Stein a scene where he's curled up in the fetal position, begging for someone to make the noise in his head go away.
- 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.
- In chapter 199, Orihime adopts this position as she tells Rangiku about her insecurities.
- Loly does this in chapter 274 after Orihime reattaches her ripped leg and revives her partner Menoly.
- A very young Tsukishima does it in chapter 477, right before Substitute-Shinigami! Ginjou appears, cheers him up, and takes him in.
- San finds Luna in this state in the 2nd My Bride Is a Mermaid OVA, following an encounter with a ghost actually San's childhood friend, Saturn.
- Betrayal Knows My Name:
- Yuki 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 Sgt. Frog 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.
- 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 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 in chapter 206 of D.Gray-Man.
- CLANNAD: Kotomi does this in one scene during a breakdown when news of a bus crash triggers memories of her parents's deaths.
- In chapter 62 of Hen Chizuru does it here.
- In Puella Magi 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 Puella Magi Oriko Magica, Oriko Mikuni made the contract with Kyuubey after she had crossed the DEH, when her corrupt politician father killed himself and she was hated and shunned by everyone after having been the most popular girl in her high-class school. When Kyuubey finds her, Oriko is curled up in a corner of her empty home, wrapped in a blanket, simply waiting for death to claim her.
- Axis Powers Hetalia:
- Russia when his little sister Belarus tries to break down his door and demand that they get married.
- Germany does a comedic version in episode 5 when Italy makes them both white flags to wave meaning they surrender.
- Another comedic example occurs when the Netherlands tries to talk to Japan while the latter is in full Hikikomori mode. Just hearing the word "open" is enough to make Japan automatically do this.
- 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 with Oz, Alice, and Gil.
- Daisuke in episodes 2 and 14 and 24.
- Satoshi in episode 4.
- Mio Hio in episode 20 as she grows more troubled about having to sacrifice Daisuke for a chance at truly being human, all while the time in her current borrowed body is running out.
- Attack on Titan: Extreme Doormat Bertolt seems to do this as his default when sitting down. Also a common occurrence whenever something horrible happens, with both named characters and random extras assuming this position as despair or trauma take over.
- In Kimi ni Todoke, Ayane is briefly shown sitting like this after breaking up with Mogi.
- In Digimon Tamers, Jeri Katou spends a lot of time curled up like this while she's held prisoner by the D-Reaper.
- Brock of Pokémon goes sulking into this position whenever someone asks him about his time with Professor Ivy.
- Aya of Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note does this in the part of The Valentine Knows animated in episode 15, after finding her Valentine card to her crush Sunahara being posted on the train station's notice board, and overhearing that it was Sunahara who posted it.
- In the Another anime series, it happens at least thrice:
- Takako screams and then is seen crouching into this position and grabbing her head in horror◊, when her friend Junta not only dies, but his body is accidentally chopped up by a motorboat's engine.
- In the flashback to how the Calamity took place in 1983, when a boy named Jun Hamaguchi is fatally hit by lightning, the girl who was walking right in front of him does this. She might or might have not been Yuki Hoshikawa, the victim who followed.
- Towards the end, Matsuko Arita "assumes" the pose◊ after she barely survives the incredibly messy slaughter of her classmates.
- Fruits Basket:
- Whenever Kyo is genuinely upset, he runs off to be alone and does a variation of this.
- Rin is seen in this position more than once, including a manga cover.
- Klara Prast's last appearance in the Runaways regular series shows her curled up in an unhappy little ball (by contrast, the rest of her teammates are sprawled out in exhaustion.) Given all the shit she was put through in the final arc, this is understandable.
- In a classic issue, Linda does this after learning that one of her professors is dying.
- Kara Zor-El curls up in a ball and cries in Convergence: The Adventures of Superman #1 after seeing visions of her death at the hands of the Anti-Monitor◊ in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
- The Supergirl From Krypton: after crashing into a dirigible and falling through a ceiling, Kara -a teen owning strange and overwhelming powers and stranded in an alien world inhabited by people talking an unknown language- pulls her knees up, wraps her arms around her legs and cries.
- Superman of all people does this in storyline Krypton No More when he sits on a mountaintop and reminisces about Krypton's destruction.
- Kryptonite Nevermore: Superman wants to renounce his powers because he is tired of being a hero but Wonder Woman's mentor talks him out ot it. Superman pulls his knees up and covers his face with both hands while he resigns himself to get his powers restored.
- In Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of The Authority, young Jack Hawksmoor repeatedly ends up in a troubled fetal position after getting repeatedly kidnapped and operated on by aliens.
- In the first issue of the "Moons of Venus" arc of X-Statix, Venus is left in a fetal position after encountering... something while exploring the parallel dimension Sector H-3-Minor.
- Cell: When Gibbs finds Bishop and Tony, who at this point have endured weeks of torture. Bishop is in this position.
- A Crown of Stars: In chapter 25 Asuka waited for Shinji curled up in the bed while she was in considerable emotional turmoil over the nature and the hypothetical future of their relationship.
- Calvin assumes this pose when he finds out they're going camping in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series.
- The Child of Love: Asuka often feels sick or distraught during her pregnancy, and several times she uses this position.
- In chapter 3 an Angel is attacking and Asuka is feeling worried and sick. Misato finds her curled up in her bed, trembling, sweating and grimacing.
- In chapter 8 she is depressed and hurt because Shinji has broken up (momentarily) with her. When Misato returns home she finds her curled up on her bed, looking to the wall.
Misato walks in and shuts the door behind her. She sees Asuka curled up on her bed, facing the wall.
- Evangelion 303: Asuka assumed this pose at the end of chapter 13 after Shinji stopped her from committing suicide.
- Ghosts of Evangelion: Asuka hugs her knees after a particularly bad nightmare.
Asuka awoke with a shout, clawing at her face as she fought to escape the dream's crushing grip. She was in the main living area of their apartment, with Shinji's futon right beside hers. She wrapped her arms around herself and doubled over, trying to calm herself.
Shinji watched her, weary and sympathetic. When she'd calmed a bit he asked, "That was the really bad one, wasn't it?"
- Last Child of Krypton: Subverted in chapter 2. Shinji cowers in the car seat and covers his head so that Misato thinks he is shocked, frightened and distraught because the plane they were going to meet is crashing and she does not suspect he has just rescued it. It works.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: Shinji does this right after the final battle when Asuka is dying.
Shinji curled forward, and he buried his face in his burned hands, and he cried.
- The One I Love Is: In chapter 4 Shinji hurts Asuka and she runs away. Shinji looks for her and when he finds her, she is sobbing and sitting under a tree, her legs pulled up her chest.
"I don't need you! I don't need anyone! Go away!"
This said, she pulled her legs up to her chest, let her chin rest on her knees and then closed her eyes.
"Leave me alone... just... leave me alone..."
This time, she had said the words between sobs.
- Scar Tissue: In chapter 17 Asuka argues with Shinji... and at one point of the argument she feels so exhausted and distressed -she had spent one whole week feeling angry, jealous, worried, frightened, depressed, lonely and barely getting any sleep- that she breaks down, sits on the floor, draws her knees close to her chest, wraps her arms around her legs, and cries.
- Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: In the prologue, after a friend of hers was raped, Shinji shut himself in his bedroom, bent his knees up and went into a fetal position.
- In the The Sarah Jane Adventures fanfiction Everything Will Be Okay Luke Smith does this during a nightmare he has after being bullied at school including rocking back and forth.
- Beth Lestrade in Children of Time, having gone through a massive Trauma Conga Line, having emotionally abused by the man she loves, nearly raped, brutally killed... Now, Back from the Dead, she's reached Broken Bird status and is going through Heroic B.S.O.D., curled up on the floor near Holmes's chair.
- Disgaea fic Fail To The King opens with Almaz in one of these, curled up catatonic in the fetal position from the events of Disgaea 3's Almaz Ending. One Bright Slap that pounds his head into a crater later (what, you expected sympathy? It's the Netherworld!) and he's more or less good to go, though he has to take great pains to remain the Determinator and not slip back into despair when things, inevitably, get worse.
- The Second Try: In the last episode, Rei found Aki in this position, when she was lost and frightened because her parents Shinji and Asuka had disappeared.
- In "Interesting Times", Barney assumes the position when his big brother James has a fight with Ted over who should care for Barney while he's 3 inches tall. The scenario is better than it sounds, and not played for laughs in any way.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Insontis II, McCoy finds Spock in a corner with his face hidden behind his knees after Kirk's near-electrocution.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Retribution, the guilt-stricken Kirk is sitting "with his knees drawn up to his chest" when Spock enters the room.
- Neo Digimon Digital War: At the end of chapter 6, Hikari assumes this position after a particularly bad dream.
- Children of an Elder God: In chapter 18, Asuka curls into a ball and cries after being raped.
And then the memories came, and all Asuka could do was curl into a ball and cry.
- In the opening chapter of Serendipitous Fate, Adrien finds Marinette in this position in Master Fu's bathroom when she's nervous about finding out who he is, though she's not trying to prevent him from recognising her. Adrien tries to bring her out of it by putting an arm around her and telling her that he's not disappointed by who she is.
- John falls into one of these in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World after he is nearly eaten by the Tax Monster and forced to save himself by turning into water—a very traumatic experience for him.
- Also, Mevaryat the musician assumes this position when George is just about to discover that the Cloud Horn is actually a hologram.
- The Ultimate Evil: Valerie is coping with her Heroic B.S.O.D. in this pose in the 25th chapter when Shendu's spirit returns to possess her body.
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.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls:
- In the opening, when demonstrating "nervicited" to Twilight, Pinkie Pie assumes this position and rocks back and forth. "You just wanna curl up in a teeny-tiny ball and hide!"
- Human!Fluttershy does this in a flashback after trying to recruit volunteers for the animal shelter and being ignored.
- Ditto Twilight when she loses hope of getting her Element back before the Celestial Deadline due to the Fall formal being postponed.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks:
- Sunset Shimmer slumps into one after Principal Celestia mentions the Fall Formal, and every student in the gym (save the Humane Five) start glaring at the former school queen.
- Twilight Sparkle gets into one too when the Rainbooms are trapped under the stage and start blaming each other, and she begins admitting that the song counterspell would just never have been ready in time.
- Both Anna and Elsa do this after their parents died at the end of the song "Do you want to build a snowman?" in Frozen.
- Rapunzel in Tangled does this during the "bipolar scene" after she left her tower against her Mother's, or rather her kidnapper's, orders.
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.
- The first time, she curls up in the middle of a "magic circle" she drew on the floor to try to feel safe.
- 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.
- Featured in a poster◊ for Spider-Man 3.
- 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 (2006). 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.
- In the spirit of one upmanship and outdoing the rest of this list, A Serbian Film has Milos have one after learning that he was drugged and made to rape and kill people, including his own son, he was raped himself, and all of it was filmed for a snuff director's entertainment after which we get a Shower of Angst shot with him in the fetal position in the shower. Eventually this leads to him killing himself.
- In Gravity, after making it back to the ISS, Ryan Stone shucks off her space suit and floats in a fetal position as she recovers from the stress of her situation and almost suffocating.
- In Re-Animator Dan drops to the floor and curls up after their first (and second) attempt at bringing a human back to life goes horribly, horribly wrong.
- Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away: Mia after she falls into the forest from the sandcliff, right before the Aerialist finds her.
- Oreg in Dragon Bones a couple of times. He suffers from PTSD, and is magically bound to do as he is ordered by his master, which causes him severe pain if he can't do what he's been told to do. If he feels really bad, he usually curls up on the floor.
- 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.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- 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 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 Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom does this while talking to himself during a delusional spell.
- Bella spends nearly the entire book of New Moon in this state after Edward breaks up with her. According to Word of God, Edward also spent most of this time curled up in a fetal position hating the world, before his suicide attempt.
- Bail Organa is taken aback and more than a little shocked when confident, self-possessed Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi assumes this position during their journey to Zigoola in Clone Wars Gambit. Obi-Wan has just experienced an extremely vivid Flashback Nightmare about a time when he was a Padawan and was almost eaten alive by carnivorous insects, and come out of it exceedingly rattled. Unfortunately for the two of them, it's only a mild taster of what's to come...
- The Ice Palace. Unn ends her life deep inside the Ice Palace, sitting like this.
- In Chapter 25 of The Day of the Locust, protagonist Tod Hackett finds his friend Homer Simpson sleeping tightly curled up into this position after his life in California collapsed around his ears the previous night. He mentally compares the sight to a picture he saw in a textbook on abnormal psychology with the caption "Uterine Flight", and muses on "what a perfect escape the return of the womb" can be.
- 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.
- Doctor Who:
- In episode "Midnight", the Doctor sits like this while 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 the episode "Adam" of Torchwood, Ianto goes into this after being mind raped.
- In season five, 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 Terminator: 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.
- April does this in Home and Away when her OCD storyline hits its climax.
- Stuart from Mad TV retreats into his "dark place" whenever things didn't go his way. He usually has to be coaxed out by his mom.
- Justin from Wizards of Waverly Place almost goes into this in "Third Wheel", although falling debris kept him from completing the pose.
- Elliot from Mr. Robot does this in the pilot episode.
- The Burning Bed : Francine sits this way while she's awaiting the jury's verdict, though her head is up and she's smoking.
- Parodied in Married... with Children. After Peggy not only beats Al's bowling score, but scores a perfect game, she turns around to find him curled up like this, humiliated by having been outdone by his wife.
- In the Bizaardvark episode "Paige's Birthday Is Gonna Be Great" Frankie walks in on Amelia in the middle of this after Frankie's puzzling request for a sideways cake for Paige's birthday.
- A common defensive position taken by pro wrestlers who just took a particularly hard groin shot.
- Mankind would squeal while rocking in the fetal position before his matches.
- Kimberly is seen rocking in this position in anticipation of her rematch with Leva Bates at SHINE 6. She's smiling, but that only reinforces the fact she's troubled.
- 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 III: Exile goes into one of these near the end of the game.
- 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.
- Koishi assumes this pose in Hopeless Masquerade when using her Spell Card "Suppression: 'Super-Ego'". Given her backstory, this provides some rather depressing Fridge Brilliance.
- Heavy Rain has Norman Jayden in this position as he dies of an overdose.
- In the opening cinematic of the Brood Wars expansion, a Goliath unit does this as its operator waits helplessly for the overwhelming Zerg forces to reach his position.
- In StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Kerrigan collapses into this after hearing on the news that Raynor was captured by the Dominion and summarily executed.
- 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.
- In Ib, Ib does this if she's unable to save Garry after he goes insane. Even Mary is disturbed by this.
- Up until The King of Fighters 1998, if you had Yuri Sakazaki in your team and she was defeated, she'd be seen in this position in the background.
- In The Binding of Isaac, this pose is pretty much Isaac's signature pose. He engages in it on pretty much every piece of cover art, during the "vs. Boss" screens, and on the between-level vignettes that show him thinking about all of the horrible things that happened to him as a child.
- In the Silver Surfer NES game, a picture of Silver Surfer in this position is shown when you lose a life. As The Angry Video Game Nerd said, "this image will be burnt into your retina".
- Seen twice in Katawa Shoujo. First, in Hanako's cinematic sequence as he route is unlocked; second, in Shizune's bad ending.
- Salad Fingers:
- The eponymous character 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.
- Parodied in Angel Moxie: "Study paralysis." And then again...
- Bob and George Looks like it, as Mega Man notes
- Pulled off by the title hero of Cucumber Quest when he's seasick.
- Byron the Berserker of Guilded Age in his Heroic B.S.O.D. after returning from the TPK in which he finally proved his epithet and took out two party members and nearly his love interest.
- Ménage ŕ 3: Gary does it here.
- Times Like This: During Cassie's breakdown after her plan to save a Vietnam War casualty failed.
- In Homestuck, John's discovery that his dad is just a boring businessman and isn't really into "harlequins" at all is enough to send him into the fetal postion.]]
- In the Sluggy Freelance story arc "That Which Redeems", Horribus becomes increasingly obsessed with catching Torg as the story progresses, to the point of jeopardizing his invasion of another world. By the end of the story, Horribus is curled up in the fetal position, gibbering about how Torg's behind everything wrong in his life.
- The Order of the Stick: Vaarsuvius is reduced to this, first in "Lack of Foresight", and later in the last panel of "Friend Swap".
- Two Guys and Guy: Wayne goes into the fetal position after seeing a devil for the first time. Frank doesn't see what the big deal is.
- In El Goonish Shive, Grace was in this position when Damien came for her.
- Children of Eldair: In the first chapter, Embera, troubled by demons that have yet to be explained, has a tendency to curl up under her bed.
- One of the scenarios in Play with Me shows the doll grabbing the stuffed monkey and going into the Troubled Fetal Position.
- The picture accompanying The Onion article "Study: Depression Hits Losers Hardest".
A depressed loser cowers in a corner. According to a new Stanford University study, there is no hope for such people.
- 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.
- SCP Foundation: What essentially happens to SCP-096 after a 27 hour fight with SCP-682.
- Putting someone in "Position Latérale de Sécurité" (or "PLS" for short), which means "Recovery Position" is a popular euphemysm on the French parts of the Web, meaning someone was just spectacularly owned and now feels really uncomfortable.
- In Episode 1 of The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air) Julian the Janitor adopts a miserable fetal posture in the aftermath of his latest failed on-air interruption of the eponymous radio Variety Show he loves, mirroring his Fetal Position Rebirth at the episode's beginning.
Narrator: Curled in a ball in the janitor's closet in which he lives, lies Julian, janitor at the Eiffel Tower, crying.Julian: *while crying* I'm not crying!
- Occurs a few times throughout Kim Possible, such as Drakken assuming this position when Shego freaks out in the lair from the Moodulator and when Ron locks himself in his panic room.
Drakken: Uh... did I forget your birthday? Is that what this is about? Because... I'm scared... (sucks thumb)
- Teen Titans:
- Raven, to help cement her earlier status as a loner.
- Terra too, in mid-air, after losing control of her powers.
- Total Drama Island:
- Tyler goes into this position when he has to face his worst fear. Chickens.
- Scott when Dawn guesses that he wasn't held enough as a child, and at times when he has to face against Fang.
- 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.
- Code Lyoko:
- Aelita, from times to times.
- Odd had one in "Tip-Top Shape" when he was about to die. He got better.
- Ulrich in "Cold War" when he thought that Yumi died and he saw that he had no way to call Jeremie.
- The Fairly OddParents!:
- The Crimson Chin undergoes one of these, complete with thumb-sucking, when Timmy reveals to him that he is a comic book character.
- As does Cosmo whenever someone mentions Supertoilet. "So... much... clogging!"
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- Played for laughs with Squidward in the episode "Band Geeks", after another screw-up by his slapdash marching band.
- Played for drama with Squidward in "Enchanted Tiki Dreams", where he's curled up under a chair inside his house, in a pool of tears, lamenting about how he can never catch a break. In fact, he seems to do this quite a bit. It's kind of adorable.
- 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.
- A random guy does this in "Sponge-Cano!" while everyone panics.
- As Told by Ginger:
- 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 often ends curled up.
- The Simpsons:
- Jokingly done in one episode 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!"
- "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.
- Bart was curled up in "Camp Krusty" when the kids were in a summer camp from hell: "Krusty is coming. Krusty is coming. Krusty is coming..."
- In the episode where Homer is publicly and wrongly accused of molesting their babysitter, he tries to watch TV in the Troubled Fetal Position. However, his television hates him.
- 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.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Rainbow Dash is cocky and justifiably proud of her flying abilities, and wants to be sure everyone sees how awesome she is. In "Sonic Rainboom", she's reduced to shivering in a Troubled Fetal Position when she loses confidence and realises she's bitten off more than she can chew in building her performance in a major competition on a trick so difficult she almost certainly won't be able to repeat it, meaning she would fail spectacularly in front of everybody.
- In "Lesson Zero", Twilight Sparkle curls on a bench, but the way she strokes her tail at the same time is unexpectedly cute.
- In "For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils", the final scene of Sweetie Belle's nightmare shows a completely insane Rarity rocking in this position in her darkened and dilapidated boutique.
- In "Do Princesses Dream Of Magic Sheep?", Rainbow Dash gets hit again after the Tantabus turns her dream of beating up Changelings nonstop into a cutesy field with a pink sky and lullaby-singing sunflowers.
- 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.
- 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 B.S.O.D. 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.
- Happens to Sheila in the Dungeons & Dragons series, when she faces her biggest fear ever: being completely alone.
- Pops up in an episode of X-Men: The Animated Series. Morph, who'd just returned to the team after a lengthy absence following a near-death experience, learns the Sentinels, which were responsible for said near-death experience are back, and has a PTSD-like freak out. While talking with Professor Xavier about it later, they're attacked by Sentinels intent on kidnapping Xavier. Morph attempts to fight them off but freezes in fear allowing them to take the Professor. When the other X-Men arrive Wolverine finds him like this, crying.
- Justice League:
- In "Only a Dream", when The Flash thinks he's going to be alone in a time-stuck world forever, he buries his face in his knees and wraps his arms around his legs.
- From the same episode, Superman curls up in his rocket and hides his eyes after his out-of-control superpowers kill Lois Lane, Perry White, and Jimmy Olsen.
- In "The Once and Future Thing Part Two: Time, Warped", the heroes find Chronos curled up sucking his thumb, revealing the frightened little man beneath the supervillain persona.
- Gravity Falls: Mabel assumes this position inside her sweater after being pressured into dating Gideon too many times. "Mabel's not here. She's in sweater town."
- In Steven Universe, Peridot adopts this position when she manages to accidentally join the Crystal Gems, having chewed out and insulted one of the highest-ranking people on the Gem homeworld.
- The Powerpuff Girls:
- The Powerpuff Girls (2016): Blossom did this in "Painbow" when she wasn't the only one who got an A+ on a diorama.
- Quack Quack from Kaeloo does this whenever somebody mentions the death of somebody's parents, since his own parents were killed when he was still in an egg.