The Four Main Trauma Responses
Recently, I shared a trauma series over on my new Instagram account (susan.shehata). I thought it would be beneficial to do an overview here, as well.
When it comes to trauma responses, most people are familiar with Fight or Flight. Some are even familiar with Freeze. But do you know about Fawn? It’s also sometimes called Friend.
It’s important to understand that these patterns show up in daily interactions—not just in extreme situations. They show up in communication, decision making, motivation, and in our breath and body. The more you understand your own trauma patterns, the better you can consciously navigate them. It’s also incredibly helpful to understand the trauma patterns of those close to you!
My invitation to you, through this, is to begin to identify your primary response pattern. From that place, supportive change can happen.
We each have a primary default trauma response (or a combo). The fight response occurs when we perceive that we can overcome the threat. If this has become your default response, here are some ways in which it may manifest on a daily basis. This may be in response to seemingly ordinary stimuli—relational or work issues, etc.
Oppositional defiant disorder and some types of narcissism can also be manifestations of this pattern.
The Flight response occurs when we perceive that the best course of action is to leave or escape the situation.
Some addictions and the hyperactive form of ADHD (whether internal or external hyperactivity) can also be manifestations of this response.
The freeze response occurs when we cannot either fight off or escape the threat. So, we default to a parasympathetic response of freezing.
The original freeze response that happened to our body was protective—it shut down our senses as a way to help us tolerate an intolerable situation. And, now, it continues, whenever we perceive a threat (stress), whether we actually need the protection or not.
The Fawn response occurs when we perceive that the only, or best, option is to befriend, align or accommodate the threat. Like Freeze, this is sometimes identified as a parasympathetic response. Basically, if we can’t fight off or escape a threat, which are active, sympathetic nervous system responses, we default into more passive, parasympathetic responses, simply to help us cope and/or survive.
If you are looking for ways to identify and cope with long held trauma responses, please consider my Breathwork Process, which combines a cognitive and somatic approach to healing. The Core Story Process, which can be done remotely, also offers a deep look into understanding and unwinding these trauma patterns.