Thinking about trauma, reliving it, and avoiding it can be a consuming pastime. To keep ourselves from experiencing such distress, we often go out of our way to escape the internal upheaval, triggers, or perceived danger connected to the past.
Some of us tense for a fight. Others take flight and make a quick getaway. Others shut down completely in freeze mode.
And some people, go another way to feel safer and more in control. We call this trauma response emotional appeasement or “fawning.”
Essentially, fawning is a means of soothing the anxiety and emotional pain with a façade of harmonious passivity and martyrdom to avoid conflict.
What Does Fawning Look like in Everyday Life?
Appeasement behaviors after trauma can happen before we are even aware. Perhaps you recognize the following in your relationships:
1. You People-Please
If you lean toward people-pleasing, often the goal is to avoid doing anything offensive or worthy of criticism. You long for approval, acceptance, or relationship safety. Making yourself as likable as possible becomes a preoccupation and/or reflex.
Saying no becomes difficult, self-sacrificing becomes your M.O. All in an effort to avoid other’s negatives responses or unpredictable reactions to your choices, behavior, or opinions. You may tell yourself that if you accomplish this you will never feel the trauma of abandonment, abuse, or deep conflict.
2. You Experience Disappearing Emotions
People who rely on fawning to cope with trauma, often hide their true feelings in favor of harmony. To mitigate the risk of being vulnerable or disturbing relationships, you may bury or manipulate your emotions. You may even feel unable to open up at all, preferring instead to align your feelings with others. Other’s anger or disappointment feels unbearable.
3. Your Identity Fades
Sadly, appeasement or fawning is insidious in its ability to disconnect you from your sense of self. It’s easy to lose touch with your authentic emotions, preferences, and desires. Honest opinions and goals may be difficult to construct if fawning is commonplace for you.
Losing touch with your inner emotional life in the process of fawning impedes meaningful self-reflection and deep relationships with others.
3 Ways to Ease the Fawn Response to Trauma
1. Increase Awareness of Your Emotions
If you struggle with the fawn response, it will be important to focus on increasing awareness of your emotions. To recover requires awareness of your feelings. Avoidance can no longer be your means of avoiding the past.
Rather than bypasses your own needs, grief, and memories, slow down. Before you meet others’ needs, ground yourself and let yourself feel what you keep pushing away.
Mindfully allowing emotions to come and go will help you tune in and pay attention to your thoughts and memories so that they can be effectively processed.
2. Validate Yourself and Your Needs
Stay self-compassionate, and embrace the present moment as your own. Your life and energy are valuable. Give yourself permission to examine and accept your own needs, just as they are. If you need a therapist, find a therapist to help you. The idea is to genuinely value what you think, and parse out what you need to remain healthy and strong.
Practice daily self-care habits as a means of prioritizing yourself. Journaling and communicating with safe people is a good start. There may be conversations you need to finish or reflections that need to be fully explored. Value your voice time and expressions.
3. Develop Firm Boundaries
Fawning can be tricky because you believe you are deciding to help, keep the peace, or support harmony. In truth, you are deciding to be invisible and perennially available. Boundaries make all the difference. Detailing what you can or can’t do for other people isn’t selfish but self-honoring.
If you can reach a point where you set limits on your pleasing you gain more self-control. Being open about your desire not to do what others want takes courage, but helps you break through the fear of being abandoned.
Release people and demands that box you in. Trauma takes away choices, boundaries can restore your autonomy.
Finally, Seek Treatment and Support
Talk with trusted loved ones. Let them know how you’re struggling. A daily support system matters.
Then, recognize the benefit of professional guidance. Trauma tries to convince you that you’re alone, the world cannot be trusted. Don’t believe it, you aren’t alone. All of your trauma responses deserve attention. Reach out today for a consultation.
Please call my office or visit my page about Trauma and PSTD if you’re ready to take this step.