Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn

"Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn" are four common responses that individuals can have when faced with stressful or threatening situations. These responses are rooted in our body's natural survival instincts and can be explained as follows:

Fight: When you're in a challenging or threatening situation, your body may prepare to "fight" by activating your fight-or-flight response. This response involves an increase in adrenaline and energy, which can make you feel more aggressive, angry, or confrontational. The "fight" response helps you defend yourself or confront the source of the stress.

Flight: The "flight" response is another aspect of the fight-or-flight reaction. In this case, your body is preparing to flee from the perceived threat. You may feel the urge to escape or avoid the situation entirely. This response can manifest as anxiety, restlessness, or a strong desire to run away from the source of stress.

Freeze: Sometimes, when confronted with a threat, an individual may experience the "freeze" response. This means that your body essentially "freezes" in place, and you may become immobilized or unable to react. This response can manifest as feeling numb, disoriented, or unable to make decisions.

Fawn: The "fawn" response is a more recent addition to the fight-flight-freeze model and is often associated with people-pleasing or appeasing behaviors. When faced with a threat or stress, some individuals may attempt to soothe or cooperate with the source of the stress, even if it's not in their best interest. This response can involve seeking approval, being overly accommodating, or trying to make the other person feel better, often at the expense of one's own needs and boundaries.

In therapy, it's essential to help clients recognize their primary responses in stressful situations and understand that these responses are adaptive mechanisms that served them well in the past. However, these responses can become maladaptive when they lead to negative consequences or interfere with a person's well-being. By identifying these responses and understanding their triggers, therapy clients can work on developing healthier coping strategies and emotional regulation skills to manage their reactions effectively.

Therapists can guide clients in exploring their own patterns of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn responses, helping them gain insight into their behavior and emotions. With this awareness, clients can learn to make more conscious choices in how they respond to stressors and work towards greater emotional resilience and personal growth.

Windsor Counselling Services

Lindsay Laing, MA, RSW, RP, ICCAC, TITC-CT