Updated: Jan 7
“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.” -Pete Walker
“Fawning” is the use of people-pleasing to diffuse conflict, feel more secure in relationships, and earn the approval of others.
If no one sees your authentic self, it can lead to feelings of being misunderstood, and even resent the fact that no one really “sees” you.
Sometimes this can lead to dissociating, where we disconnect emotionally. This can show up as daydreaming, spacing out, withdrawing, or even “going blank” when we’re overwhelmed in social situations.
It can be painful to constantly silence yourself and push your emotions away, all while working overtime to anticipate the emotions of other people.
-Sam Dylan Finch
A “fawn” response is brought about by the attempt to avoid conflict and trauma by appeasing people.
A vulnerable youngster, as brains are still developing, will do anything to avoid danger, loneliness and abandonment.
For children, this behaviour pattern can be defined as a need to be a “good kid” in order to escape punishment by an irresponsible/neglectful parent.
Being a child, bypassing ‘Fight’, ‘Flight’ and ‘Freeze’, the ‘Fawn‘ response seems to be the most adaptive reaction.
It only requires familiarity with the offender’s mentality and skill to pacify them.
As children, we do what we are told, even if it's NOT right/good for us.
This can lead to doing things to make the assaulter happy and cause us less of a threat.
The threat could be social isolation, conflict with a loved one, or unhappiness.
Grappling with abandonment fear, the still-developing brain perceives panic of being left alone and helpless. It responds by attaching oneself to a person believing to need them for survival.
The fawn response is to seek safety, affection and kindness by allying with the wrongdoer.
We need to see, listen, acknowledge and embrace our inner-child with heartfelt compassion and unconditional love.
Let's take baby steps to unlearn fawn (people-pleasing) response…
Some questions to ask yourself during a conflict:
Is the stance I’m taking and my reaction to this person feeling aligned with my values?
Am I deeply respecting the humanity of the person in front of me (while being seen and held in my humanity)?
Am I speaking from the heart?
Am I being authentic — or am I giving apologies that I don’t mean or appeasing somebody else for the sake of it?
Am I taking responsibility for how I’m showing up while not burdening myself with what isn’t mine to hold?
Am I looking to quickly exit this conversation to avoid discomfort, or move toward a common ground that supports us both, even if I have to endure some discomfort along the way?
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