Many people are familiar with the survivalstates when our nervous system perceives danger: flight, flight, and freeze.But there’s another lesser known survival state: fawn.
Fight: Confront the Threat
Flight: Run away from the threat
Freeze: Shut down to block out the threat
Fawn:Appease the threat
Pete Walker, in his book Complex PTSD, teachesus that fawning is often a trauma response. Fawning is when we try to pleaseand appease other people at all costs, even if it means sacrificing our ownwants and needs. We may fawn out of a need to be accepted or loved, or becausewe feel like we have to in order to survive. Fawning-like behavior is complex,and while linked with trauma, it can also be influenced by several factors,including gender, sexuality, culture, and race. Whatever the reason, fawningoften puts us in a position of subservience and never really allows us to beour true selves.
HowFawning Affects Us
Fawning usually starts in childhood. We learnearly on that we have to please our parents or other authority figures in orderto get love, attention, or approval. This might look like worrying about theparents' well-being or spending time tending to our parents’ emotionalneeds–all while minimizing their own emotions and needs. This can lead topeople-pleasing patterns that can be difficult to break out of as adults. It’shard to say no. You’re fearful of saying what you feel. You’re unsure of whatyou need. When we fawn, we are giving away our power and putting ourselves in asubordinate position. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem,depression, and even somatic symptoms of pain or illness.
A fawn response can lead you to disconnectfrom your own emotions, sensations, and needs. Therefore, it is important topractice listening to your body as a way to come back home to yourself.Accessing your inner wisdom involves connecting with your embodied knowing.Even as you read these words, pause and notice the ways that your intuitioncommunicates through your senses.
Fawning also affects our relationships. Whenwe are constantly trying to please others, we never really allow them to seethe real us. This can lead to conflict and distance in our relationships. Wemay also find ourselves attracted to people who do not treat us well, becausedeep down we feel like we don’t deserve anything better.
Breakingthe Cycle of Fawning
If you find yourself constantly pleasingothers at your own expense, it’s important to try to break the cycle. This canbe a difficult process, but it is possible with some self-awareness andintentionality. Here are some tips forbreaking the cycle of fawning:
With some work, you can break the cycle offawning and start living a more authentic and fulfilling life.