I thank blog commenter, Gingercat, for the heads up about the important work of Pete Walker, M.A. on Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (cPTSD). I have found my way to one of his web pages of information that is concerned with an additional “F” he has added to a list of stress responses: Flight – Flight – Freeze AND – FAWN
Walker’s description of this FAWNING response bears some serious consideration. Please click on this link to access Walker’s writing on the topic: Codependency, Trauma and the Fawn Response.
I can tell within my first moments of reading about Walker’s work that he has a focus that FEELS both specific and accurate to me about the experiences that survivors of severe child abuse have as emotional reactions that reappear often ‘out of nowhere’ all through our lives. I don’t mean to in any way discuss the information that is contained on the web pages HERE – there is too much for me to read and consider this late in my day (and perhaps even this late in my life now that I am 60).
I do recommend that readers take a look at Walker’s work – but PLEASE BE CAREFUL.
Very very few people who suffered severe early abuse can access the kind of therapy – or therapist – that we need to work on the ‘issues’ that Walker is describing. When we pop in and out of web page universes such as the one you will find if you follow these links above, we are opening far more than the proverbial ‘can of worms’. We can easily fall into what seems like a bottomless pit full of deadly vipers.
It is essential that we trust our inner wisdom about how much we can tolerate of this kind of information at any given time – no matter how accurate and ‘helpful’ it might actually be to us. We are bound by the fundamental limitations of BEING HUMAN BEINGS – LIMITS being the key word here!
What I have read thus far about this ‘fawning’ response lets me know the concept is of value – very probably of great value – to many survivors. My first reaction personally is that ‘fawning’ was NOT one of the stress responses I was ALLOWED to use as a child – not even as far back as Walker is describing (toddlerhood). My unique abuse situation for the first 18 years of my life let me know from the time I was born that NOTHING I could do could possibly avert the terrifying and terrible abuse that was continually aimed at me.
But I also know that my abuse situation was, most fortunately, very unique in many significant ways. My mother, who was my abuser, was severely mentally ill with a psychosis toward me that defied any attempt by anyone to name in any kind of ‘reasonable’ way in our family. Nobody even tried. There was no way for me to avert what happened to me – and from what I am seeing of Walker’s description of ‘fawning’, an attempt to control what is happening to the child in the environment is the end-goal of this stress response.
I knew my situation was hopeless. I cannot even describe here in simple words how profoundly I knew this fact. I was never fooled.
So in this very brief post I am simply encouraging readers who experience intense emotional responses, or ‘emotional flashbacks’ to take a look at these pages at the links above. Every abuse survivor has to define for their own self what fits, what rings true, for them. I am sensing that ‘fawning’ was possibly a response more characteristic of my siblings who suffered ‘witness abuse’ by being in proximity to the abuse perpetrated against me.
Walker is presenting information, concepts, descriptions of dynamics, and (in my real world) some rather fantastical suggestions for healing that seem based on the assumption that a survivor can access the kind and quality of therapy/therapist that Walker seems to be. True, for most severe child abuse survivors, only in some fairy tale world.
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