Tag Archives: freeze

The Four Trauma Responses: Fawn

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.

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The Four Trauma Responses: Freeze

When someone has experienced trauma, in particular repeated trauma, they learn to use specific trauma responses to help them survive their particular situation.  While many waver between two or more, most people primarily use one trauma response.  Many people raised by narcissistic parents primarily use the freeze response.

Freezing means much like the name implies, you freeze & are unable to handle the situation in a healthy way.  Think of a deer on a highway during the night when a truck comes barreling towards him.  He stands still, staring at the truck & unable to move to save himself.  People can & do react the same way sometimes.  Sadly, freezing often is a good choice when dealing with a narcissistic parent, because it reduces the likelihood of that parent turning even more abusive.  Equally sadly though is this survival tactic doesn’t help when dealing with other people.  In fact, often the lack of response of a victim is taken as consent, so the other, non-freezing person assumes whatever they said or did was acceptable to the freezing person.

As an example from my own life, as I’ve written about before, I lived with awful back pain for ten years.  During a fight with my mother, she threw me into a wall.  I felt my entire spine crack from my tailbone into my neck when I hit the wall & was in pain for ten years after.   I saw several doctors, had over fifty x-rays & an MRI.  I was told no injuries showed up on the x-rays or MRI.  Every single person I saw with the exception of one chiropractor was convinced I was faking the pain.  I should have stood up to all of them, but instead I quietly accepted their diagnoses.  Between that & other people in my life who were convinced I was faking it, I wondered many times if they were right.  By silently accepting people’s accusations of faking my pain, that only seemed to confirm their suspicions of me.  It also made me wonder more & more if I really was faking my back problem or if something was truly wrong.

This happened all because I learned how to use the freeze response so well as a child.

If you have used it as well, you probably can relate to my story.  Also like me, you probably dissociated often as a child & possibly still do to some degree, struggle with making decisions, & isolate yourself. You also probably come up with good responses hours or even days or weeks after a confrontation but can’t think during the confrontation.

While freezing may have helped you to survive the narcissist in your life, it doesn’t help you in other relationships.  In fact, it is likely to hurt you instead of help you.

When in situations that trigger your freeze response, your best place to start is with prayer.  God will help you & ground you so you can function in a healthier way.  Also, please remind yourself that you are safe now.  You don’t have to freeze to protect yourself.  You have rights including the right to speak up for yourself & to protect yourself.  You aren’t doing something bad by taking care of yourself.  The other person in question isn’t the narcissist who would abuse you for taking care of yourself.

Also take a deep breath in & exhale slowly.  It will help you to calm your body & mind very quickly, which will help you to figure out a better way to handle your situation.

Doing this will help you over time to reduce the frequency of the freeze trauma response & enable you to respond in a healthier way.  It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.  Hang in there!

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The Four Trauma Responses: Flight

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. 

Some people favor the flight trauma response over the other three options.  This basically means their instinct during a traumatic event is to do anything they can to avoid the trauma.  If they can run away, they will.  During a traumatic event, someone who favors the flight trauma response but cannot escape will be pretty easy to identify.  They are clearly anxious, which means their breathing is shallow & rapid.  They may be restless, and this shows by tapping their feet or fingers.  Their eyes dart around, looking for a means of escape.

In situations where traumatic experiences are repeated, such as in cases of child abuse, some long term problems develop from using this trauma response over & over again.  Flight is used as a coping mechanism, & it manifests in many ways.  Workaholism, perfectionistic ways, micromanaging others, the need to keep busy constantly, obsession with video games, endlessly surfing through channels or social media, & other avoidance type behaviors can be signs of someone who has experienced the flight trauma response regularly. These behaviors are designed to keep someone from thinking about past trauma.  There are other signs too, such as anxiety disorders, constant worrying, inability to relax, hyper-activity & being overly analytical.

Like other trauma responses, it is understandable a person could react this way to trauma & behave this way after repeated triggers of their flight response.  That doesn’t make the behavior healthy, however.  Being constantly on the go whether it is mentally or physically takes a toll on a person’s mental & physical health.  Changes need to be made & they can be!

As always I recommend prayer to start.  Ask God to guide you, to help you to behave in a healthier way & anything else you can think of.

Look at your life.  What is unhealthy?  Are you constantly working eighty hour workweeks?  Spending every free moment playing video games?  Do you feel as if you must stay busy every waking moment?  These are some examples of red flags.  It also may help to ask those people who are closest to you for their thoughts as well. 

Once you have identified the problem areas in your life, then figure out a plan on how to make appropriate changes.  Cut back on hours spent at work if at all possible, or find another job.  Set times for certain activities & stick to the limits.

Lastly, it will help you tremendously to finally face what you have been avoiding.  I know it’s hard!  I know it’s scary!  I also know that until you do this & focus on healing & becoming healthier, any changes you make most likely will be temporary.  Emotions demand to be dealt with, & if they aren’t dealt with in a healthy way, they will manifest in unhealthy ways.  You’re going to suffer from the pain of the trauma or of the pain of the unhealthy manifestations of your emotions.  Why not make the pain count & focus on your healing?  At least that way, the pain will end & you will be much happier & healthier for it. 

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The Four Trauma Responses: Fight

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. 

During traumatic experiences, those who exercise the fight response do exactly as you would expect.  They fight.  They are obviously angry, they will cry, ball up their hands into fists, their jaws will be clenched tightly, & they look ready to attack anything that is in reach.  Sometimes they do, usually punching walls or slamming doors. 

Clearly this type of trauma response can be useful.  If someone is afraid of you, they aren’t going to attack or abuse you.  Unfortunately though it can backfire, & in particular with children with narcissistic parents.  When a young child gets angry at their narcissistic parent, that parent won’t tolerate that.  Narcissists want their children to show no emotions whatsoever, & anger at the narcissist’s abusive ways is the least tolerated emotion.  Narcissists expect everyone, in particular their children, to tolerate their abuse indefinitely & without complaint.  Standing up to a narcissist says their behavior is wrong & won’t be tolerated, which creates a narcissistic injury.  In other words, their pride is damaged when they are told their behavior is anything less than perfect.  Often narcissistic parents step up their abuse in these situations.  These children learn not to show anger towards their parents, & often take it out on innocent victims. 

The repeated use of this trauma response can cause many problems that last into adulthood.  Some problems are the inability to handle anger in a healthy way, a quick temper, becoming a bully, becoming controlling & sometimes even becoming narcissistic or showing some narcissistic tendencies while not being a full blown narcissist.  It seems to me these behaviors are all about having some control &/or hurting others before the angry person can be hurt. 

This sort of behavior doesn’t have to be permanent though!  With effort & time, you can develop healthier habits!

As always, I highly recommend starting with prayer.  Ask God to help you change, to show you what you need to do & anything else you can think of.

You will need to accept that you don’t have to control or bully others, too.  Remember, even God doesn’t control people.  If anyone has that right, it’s the Creator of the universe!  If He won’t do it, what makes you think you have the right to do so?

It will help to consider other people more often, too, not only yourself.  Consider others when you make decisions, when you make plans, when you speak.  Consider their wants & needs, too.  What do those close to you want & need?  How can you help to meet those needs & wants?

When you feel yourself getting angry, stop.  Take a deep breath & release it slowly.  This will help to calm your body & mind, & that will allow you to think clearly about the situation.  When you think clearly rather than simple react, you may realize the situation isn’t really worth being angry about like you thought it was at first.

Also please know that you are going to need to heal from the events that created this behavior in you in the first place.  I know it’s a scary thing, but you need to face those things in order to heal.  I promise you, it WILL be worth it!

The lasting effects of an overused fight trauma response don’t need to be such a big part of your life.  While it did help you survive for some time, & can be a useful tool, there are clearly many negatives!  You can make healthy changes & live a happier life!

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More Than Just Fight Or Flight

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