TU116: Fight Flight Freeze … and “Fawn”?? Can People-Pleasing Be a Sign of Trauma?

by | Feb 27, 2020 | Brain Science, Episodes, Neuroscience, Personal Growth, Polyvagal Theory, Relationships, Therapy, Trauma

Show Notes

Freeze Appease Dissociate… Appease is Fawning when it comes to C-PTSD

Are you a huge people-pleaser, conflict avoider, peace-keeper? Maybe you are just being nice, but if you are compelled to do it, driven to not take up much space, to not impose… and you don't have much of a choice about it, there may be something deeper going on. If so, today's episode talks to you, friend.

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This is actually an old term coined by Peter Walker in 2003 discussing Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

Fawn types seek safety by merging with the wishes, needs and demands of others. They act as if they unconsciously believe that the price of admission to any relationship is the forfeiture of all their needs, rights, preferences and boundaries. – Peter Walker on his website.

You may be familiar with fight flight and freeze – the 3 common threat responses that our autonomic nervous system unconsciously engages when it perceives danger. If not, there is a TON of information about this in many previous episodes of Therapist Uncensored. We are interested because it affects how we relate to others and makes us act really stupid at times. 🙂 Well, it's smart from an old survival perspective but can be really bone-headed in our adult lives when the reaction is triggered and yet the threat doesn't warrant such survival response.

Well, when we can't escape the trauma and thus fighting or fleeing isn't an option, our bodies will freeze, appease or dissociate. The appease portion of the response is what Walker refers to as “Fawn.” It is another survival response which is often associated with complex post-traumatic stress disorder. It occurs when survivors recognize danger signals and stay safe by complying and minimizing confrontation.

Freeze, Appease or Dissociate – Fawning refers to Appease.

  • People-pleasing
  • Being unable to say how you really think or feel
  • Caring for others to your own detriment
  • Always saying “yes” to requests
  • Flattering others
  • Struggling with low self-esteem
  • Avoiding conflict
  • Feeling taken advantage of
  • Being very concerned about fitting in with others

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder C-PTSD

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LIKE this episode? Please please please leave us a review and rating on your podcast player. You also may enjoy these:

TU30: The Stages of Change: A Roadmap to Readiness

TU88: 6 Steps to Increase Your Felt Sense of Security

TU08: Understanding Emotional Triggers: Why Your Buttons Get Pushed and What To Do About It


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