Fort Wellness Counseling

The Fawn Response:
How Trauma Can Lead to People Pleasing

fawn response

Do you often find yourself putting the needs and concerns of others before your own? This might be something known as the fawn response.

Most people are familiar with the fight, flight, or freeze trauma responses. Generally, they arise whenever someone encounters a situation that feels emotionally or physically dangerous. And while the fawn response is less well-known, it’s incredibly common – especially in complex trauma survivors.

What is Fawn Response?

Fawning is a trauma response that involves adapting oneself to become more appealing to the threat. Basically, it involves constantly abandoning your own needs in order to avoid conflict, criticism, or disapproval. For this reason, fawning is often associated with people-pleasing, codependency, and conflict avoidance.

Why Do People Develop Fawn Response?

Researchers found a relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a person’s ability to handle stress. Additionally, they discovered that trauma impacts personality traits like agreeableness, emotionality, and neuroticism (which are all qualities that influence our relationships).

The fawn response is most commonly associated with childhood trauma and complex trauma — traumas that arise from repeated events — rather than a single traumatic event. And fawning is particularly linked to relational trauma involving a parent, spouse, or caregiver.

Signs to Watch For

Signs of fawning include:

  • Over-apologizing
  • Flying under the radar
  • Stifling your own needs
  • Having trouble saying “no”
  • Struggling with depression
  • Struggling to express yourself
  • Denying your own discomfort
  • Having trouble forming boundaries
  • Experiencing chronic pain or illness
  • Rescuing people from their problems
  • Assuming responsibility for other’s emotions
  • Changing your preferences to align with others
  • Holding back disagreeable opinions or preferences
  • Attempting to control another’s choices to maintain emotional safety

How to Recover from Fawn Response

Rest assured that recovery from a trauma response is possible. Here’s how:

Become Aware of Your Actions

Noticing your fawning patterns is the first step to overcoming them. When you notice symptoms arising, ask yourself:

  • Am I saying/doing this to please someone else? Is it at my expense?
  • Do my actions align with my personal values?
  • Am I being authentic? Or am I doing this for someone else’s benefit?

Whenever you find that you’re falling into a pattern of people-pleasing, take a moment to consider what your authentic words and actions would be.

Practice Self Validation

People with a fawn trauma response have often had their feelings invalidated by previous caregivers or partners. Therefore, validating your own thoughts and experiences can reverse fawning behavior and reprogram your thoughts.

Build Healthy Relationships

When you’re in fawn mode, relationships are often one-sided. To counteract this, focus on building mutually beneficial, healthy relationships. Generally, this requires setting boundaries and/or limiting contact with people who don’t meet your needs.

Value Yourself

If you employ the fawn trauma response, you’ve likely built an identity around being likable. Therefore, it can be incredibly freeing to construct self-worth that’s independent of the approval of others. If you’re not sure where to begin, try…

  • Pursuing your personal goals & dreams
  • Accepting that not everyone will approve of you
  • Doing hobbies that make you happy – regardless of what other people think
  • Making a list of your positive traits (that have nothing to do with other people)

Trauma Therapist Fort Worth, TX

When you’re so used to prioritizing other people, it can feel daunting to suddenly prioritize yourself. So, if you need help overcoming your fawn trauma response, the skilled trauma therapists at Fort Wellness Counseling are here for you.

Trauma is not uncommon. And 70% of American adults have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. So, if you or a loved one has experienced a traumatic event, contact our team today.

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