*This post on fawning stress response contains an affiliated link.
A recent email about Fawning Stress Response caught my eye. I was curious, so I looked it up and found a number of academic and clinical papers describing “fawning behavior” as overly compliant, solicitous, behavior often displayed in response to stressful or abusive situations or environments.
Fawning Stress Response is often associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because it is one of the four options one has in responding to traumatic or stressful situations. When confronted with a traumatic or stressful situation, we typically consider fighting or fleeing, but there are actually two additional options: freezing and complying. We fight when we know we have a possibility of winning, we flee when we see the chance of winning is less or not an option. We freeze when we are uncertain of our options and we attempt to comply and make the situation better by becoming helpful and indispensable.
While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is common for those returning from active military duty or living in severely abusive environments, but depending on one’s emotional make up and experiences, we can experience Post Traumatic Stress without it developing into a diagnosable disorder. Yet it can shape behavioral patterns and cause us to react to situations and people in ways that don’t serve us, leaving us to wonder what was at play.
We may wonder why we find ourselves reacting in fight, flight, freeze or “fawning” modes under stressful situations or with certain types of people. These strategies are often established when we are children. Small children might attempt to flee or freeze because they know they can’t win a situation by fighting. They may learn early to employ helpful behaviors to avoid punishment or abuse. Sometimes fighting a situation is veiled by more subtle behaviors such as undermining or passive aggressive behaviors.
I’ve noticed during these middle years, that I’ve gained a lot of wisdom just from surviving the variety of experiences in my lifetime, and, over time, I’ve gotten pretty good at sorting things out, but every once in a while, I’m surprised to find myself reacting by not responding “freezing” or by attempting to placate, or please someone when I know that better options are available. I just can’t seem always upon them in a stressful situation.
We’ve been through stuff. But every once in a while it’s not a bad idea to take note of our reactions and behavior patterns to see if they are really effective, or if we just do them over and over because that’s the only way we have considered responding.
Sometimes, we need help working our way through various issues in our lives. I have turned to therapy several times along my path to healing. Recently, I learned about Better Help, an online non-emergency mental health program that pairs you with an online therapist. It’s completely confidential and because it’s all done online you don’t have to worry about going in for an appointment. Click HERE for more information. *this is an affiliate link