What is the Fawn Trauma Response?

“Unlearning trauma also means unlearning the behaviours you adopted and inherited as survival tactics.”

Most of us have heard of fight, flight and freeze as typical responses to experiencing a trauma.

However, there’s a fourth response which is much less discussed, despite the fact that it’s also very common. This is what’s known as the fawn trauma response. Essentially, it’s a people-pleasing response, and one that’s been described in the following way[1]:

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.”

Symptoms of this fawn, or people-pleasing, trauma response are:

– Desperately trying to figure how you should “be” in order to fit in, or please a person who’s significant to you. What is the Fawn Trauma Response?

– Feeling afraid to be yourself (as the cost could be the loss of the relationship).

– Feeling you can’t be honest and state your true feelings, wants, needs, preferences and desires.

– Not being able to talk about yourself because the other person “needs” you to focus on them.

– Always prioritizing the other person’s needs, feelings, perspectives, wants and demands (and often to your own detriment.)

– Being quick to flatter and appease other people.

– Feeling used and unseen.

– Feeling unappreciated; feeling as if you’re unimportant and disposable.

– Never bringing up how the other person hurts, disappoints, or affects you negatively.

– Constantly battling low self-esteem

– Avoiding conflict at all costs.

This is a self-protective trauma response. It’s an unconscious way of keeping ourselves safe when we feel under threat, or we fear we are at risk of losing something that matters to us. And this could be an intimate relationship.

If this is something you relate to then a key part of your healing will be learning to listen to your own wants and needs, and to establish and assert healthy boundaries with others.

As you set off on this journey some things to bear in mind include:

– Your wishes, wants, needs and perspective are as important as the next person’s wishes, wants, needs and perspectives.

– You have right to be seen and heard.

– You have the right to take up space in the world.

– Your thoughts, feelings, memories, opinions, perspective and boundaries all matter – and deserve to be respected.

– You are already enough. You do not need to change, “improve yourself”, or do anything at all, in order to be accepted, and acceptable. You are absolutely fine just as you are. Period.

[1] http://pete-walker.com/fourFs_TraumaTypologyComplexPTSD.htm

10 thoughts on “What is the Fawn Trauma Response?

  1. I’ve never heard of the “Fawn Response,” but this is exactly what I did to try to please the person I loved. Most of my energy want into keeping my family together and appeasing an unhappy person. Being assertive about my own needs went out the window. By the way, during this time, my therapist recommended a great book, “The Assertive Christian,” by Michael Emmons and David Richardson (by Winston Press). The book discusses how some Christians feel standing up for their own rights is somehow un Christ-like. It was written back in the early 80’s but used hard copies are still readily available. Anyway, I’ve read, and reread, the book many times. I recommend it highly!

    Thank you for offering such timely and helpful advice. God Bless.


    • My tendency was also to please … and, when it is a dysfunctional response, it gets you nowhere in the end!
      Thanks for the book recommendation. I will see if I can find it.
      I have also found that many Christians feel it is wrong to stand up for their own personal rights, and it is wrong to enforce boundaries … neither of which is true or healthy.
      Have a great weekend, David!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s