The Fawn Trauma Response

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By Valeria Mancuso
What is the Fawn Trauma Response?

The fawn trauma response is the process of putting your emotions aside to benefit or please someone else’s needs. It can be used as a defensive structure because you may be acting out of fear, sadness, anger, guilt etc. If you feel as if you are in a dangerous environment, you may respond by trying to please the person who is making you feel unsafe to avoid a worse situation. The fawn response can lead to co-dependence, depression, self-harm, illness, etc. This is especially common in children because it involves trying to please a person who is both a care provider and a source of threat.
Childhood Trauma

Children who grow up in an abusive environment tend to go through the process of the Fawn Response. They are conflicted between the need to flee a threatening environment and their need to attach to their parents/guardians. Children rely on the fawn response because they are making a difficult environment, that they are unable to escape, somewhat bearable. They respond to neglect or abuse out of fear of it becoming worse. They put the caregivers needs before their own. They are ‘taking care’ of their parents emotions. Dissociative symptoms follow through to adulthood in order for the person to avoid remembering or relieving the abuse they suffered as a child. As a result of the fawn response, children will turn their negative feelings towards themselves causing self-criticism, self-loathing or self-harming behaviors which can later lead to mental illness.

Physiological Aspects

Physiological speaking, responding to abuse by putting someone else’s needs before your own involves reading the social and emotional cues of the other person. You read their emotions and respond in a way that benefits them and hides your genuine feelings. This can lead to symptoms where you feel as if you are disconnected from body sensations like you are going ‘numb’ from your own needs. You feel as if the world around you is not real, as if your body and actions are not apart of you.
Recovering from a Fawn Response

Healing and recovering from a fawn responses involves recognizing your behavior and actions. It will take time to heal and take better care of yourself. You can do two things to help in the recovery process, access your inner wisdom and speak your truth. Accessing your inner wisdom involves connecting with your embodied knowing. You must connect with the constant flow of sense and actions that occur within your life. Recognize the way your intuitions connects with your senses. Act and behave from your intuition and what you would want to do. Do not try to please someone else’s emotions. When responding to trauma by people-pleasing you tend to stray away from your genuine thoughts and emotions. Speaking your truth can help you heal from the fawn response because it allows to genuinely express yourself without fear, abuse or neglect.


The Fawn Response in Complex PTSD | Dr. Arielle Schwartz