A lot of people have heard of ‘Fight or Flight’: our bodily stress response to threat, danger, or stress.
This is when all your body systems undergo rapid changes to fire differently (an overview is here), so that you can effectively fight off a danger or run away from it.
What people may not be aware of is that we also have other stress responses to danger and trauma. These include:
- The Freeze response. Yes, we are talking about the deer in headlights phenomenon where you see the danger but feel frozen or powerless to do anything about it. This occurs most commonly in women.
- The ‘Freeze-to-orient’ response: This is when your body temporarily freezes for several seconds before you leap into action. This response gives your body and brain some time to work out whether fighting or fleeing will be best for survival. Unfortunately, during trauma a lot can happen in several seconds—so this temporary freeze can feel like a lifetime.
- The Fawn response. This is when your safety has depended on you keeping other people happy, appeased, or pleased- such as in domestic violence or childhood trauma. This can result in ongoing patterns of people-pleasing so that you can feel comfortable and safe- because your survival has depended on this at some point.