Experiencing trauma, in particular repeated trauma forces people to develop certain responses in order to cope with their horrific experiences. Many people waver between two or even more of the four trauma responses, but usually people use one much more than others. A lot of children of narcissistic parents use the fawn response.
The fawn trauma response is when a victim tries hard to please their abuser so the abuser will stop whatever painful thing they’re doing. They will try to distract the abuser somehow, do something they know their abuser likes, & go along absolutely anything the abuser wants. While this may stop an abuser at the moment, over the long term, this doesn’t work. Fawning shows abusers that their abusive, toxic ways can be used to get whatever they want from their victim.
Fawning still affects a person long after the abuser is out of their life. Fawners are often very devoted people pleasers who have no real boundaries. They falsely believe that losing yourself in relationships is totally normal. They also are prone to very dysfunctional & abusive relationships, including more than one relationship with narcissists. This leads them to focus on the needs & wants of other people much more than their own & often to their own detriment. They also seem to have no real identity of their own, often becoming what other people say they should be.
Fawning often is encouraged in society. Primarily by abusers but also by ill informed people who see people who fawn as generous, loving, even Godly rather than dysfunctional. This makes overcoming fawning behavior especially hard for those engaging in this behavior, because even though it can hurt a person, it also can be the one area they feel gets them love & approval, & maybe even makes them feel worthy of love.
There is hope for replacing this dysfunctional behavior with much healthier behavior. As always, I firmly believe prayer is the best place to start. God will help you, so let Him!
Focus on healing from the trauma in your life that made you develop your fawning ways. The more you heal, the healthier you will become in every way. That means you will decrease your unhealthy behaviors more & more as you heal.
Remind yourself as often as you need to that not pleasing someone doesn’t mean you’re bad, wrong, or unworthy of love. You simply may have made a mistake. Or, maybe they were wrong to expect this particular thing out of you. Don’t assume you were automatically wrong. It is just as possible the other person was wrong.
Feel your feelings. Whatever you are feeling, accept those feelings without judgment. As you do, you may see that they aren’t appropriate to your current situation. They could simply be triggered by old issues. They also may give you insight on ways you can do things better. In any case, they can teach you, so let them do that by feeling them.
Slow down & examine your motives. Ask yourself why are you doing something for someone.. is it out of love or out of hoping to get their approval? Am I saying I’m happy to do this even though it is too much for me right now? Am I taking on too much responsibility?
In time, your fawning ways can & will be replaced by healthy ones.