I grew up learning about the Fight-Flight responses to stress. My mother taught us to either run or fight. I watched my brothers polarize their responses…one ran and the other fought every one and every thing. I didn’t feel like I fit either one. Then I learned about Freeze….closer. This is that “deer-in-the-headlights” where you watch the wreck coming but do nothing. I worked hard not to do any of these but I didn’t understand why I would behave like such a worm with no backbone. I never stood up for myself, ever. I told my counselor about the time my friend cheated by copying my paper. I was accused of cheating because I was the one that was out sick for over a week. I said nothing. I took the zero on my paper and said nothing. My friend let me. I still was her friend I just didn’t share my work with her any more. At the end of the semester, the teacher called me back to her desk. She acknowledged that after seeing my other writing she knew I was the author. She changed my grade…I shrugged my shoulders. The teacher seemed astonished that I did nothing to fight back. I didn’t even get angry. Reading an article from Pete Walker, I learned about the fourth F, Fawn. I don’t mean the baby deer either. My World stood still then seemed to start spinning backwards as event after event after event followed this same pattern. I call Fawn, people pleasing on steroids. For a clearer definition I found an article on line that summarizes the symptoms of this response. https://letsqueerthingsup.com/2019/07/06/7-subtle-signs-your-trauma-response-is-to-fawn/
My obsession with trying to do what the other person wanted me to do without counting the cost to me. Apologizing to everyone and everything. Sad when you apologize to a chair for bumping into it. My never saying ‘no’, even when I know I should. Everything about my pattern of behavior fit this response. Now what? I was blessed with a healthy trauma aware therapist that taught me the antidote to Fawning. No is a complete sentence. I going to say it again, “NO is a complete sentence.” First time I tried my voice almost squeaked like a scared mouse. I am still working at not giving long drawn out explanations. I actually said no when I did not need to do something else. No really can be a complete sentence.
My counselor recognized that I need to learn about boundaries because the reason saying NO is to protect their boundaries. I didn’t have any. Eventually, I read numerous articles and two books on boundaries. Cool stuff. Part of teaching me about boundaries was helping me write my personal bill of rights. This took me weeks. I have the right to say no. I have the right to decide if someone is yelling at me. I made a list of about 20 different things. It was amazing. When I started, I struggled with the concept that I had the right to decide what was best for me. If you are interested you are welcome to look up the list I created and the book that helped me work out my list. I was so amazed at the things I have the right to do or don’t do. http://weareone-ruth.blogspot.com/2014/06/i-have-rights.html
Charts showing the differences between the responses. Thanks Poppy for sharing.