top of page
TRAUMA RESPONSES
UNDERSTANDING RESPONSES + INCREASING SELF-AWARENESS FOR HEALING

Trauma affects some of us in profound and varied ways, often triggering instinctual survival mechanisms. Among the most recognized responses are: Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn. These reactions are our body's natural responses to perceived threats, rooted in our evolutionary history. Understanding the different trauma responses is crucial for recognizing how we and those around us cope with traumatic experiences. By exploring each of these responses, we can gain insight into our behavioral patterns and develop strategies to support healing + resilience.

Let's delve deeper into the 4 different types of trauma responses:

1. FIGHT: When faced with trauma or highly stressful situations, some individuals respond with a fight instinct. This can manifest as aggression, anger, or a strong desire to confront the source of the trauma. They may feel a surge of adrenaline and a need to defend themselves or others. This response can be adaptive in situations where immediate action is necessary for survival, but it can also lead to conflict or violence in less threatening circumstances. 

2. FLIGHT: The flight response involves a strong urge to escape or avoid the source of trauma. Individuals experiencing this response may feel overwhelmed or anxious and seek to physically or emotionally distance themselves from the situation. This can manifest as avoidance of triggers, withdrawal from social situations, or engaging in distracting behaviors such as excessive work or substance abuse.

3. FREEZE: Just like fight and flight, the freeze response is a form of hyperarousal. In the face of trauma, some people may experience a freeze response characterized by a sense of paralysis or numbness. This can manifest as feeling immobilized, unable to move or act, or experiencing dissociation, where they feel detached from their surroundings or their own emotions. The freeze response is thought to be a survival mechanism that allows individuals to "shut down" in overwhelming or dangerous situations, but it can also hinder their ability to respond effectively or seek help from an external source. 

4. FAWN: The fawn response is a less well-known but equally important trauma response. In this coping mechanism, individuals seek to accommodate or please others in order to avoid conflict or harm. They may prioritize the needs and feelings of others over their own, becoming excessively compliant or submissive in an effort to gain safety or approval. This response often develops in those who have experienced repeated or prolonged trauma (like C-PTSD), where they learn to adapt by appeasing those who hold power over them.

Understanding these trauma responses can help individuals recognize their own reactions to stress and trauma, as well as better support others who may be struggling to regulate their nervous system. It's important to remember that these responses are not a sign of weakness or inadequacy, but rather adaptive strategies that have evolved to help us survive in difficult circumstances. By acknowledging and validating these responses, we can begin to heal and build resilience in the face of trauma.

INCREASING SELF-AWARENESS THROUGH LEARNING ABOUT OUR TRIGGERS

Understanding and learning about triggers in mental health is an essential aspect of managing and mitigating the impact of trauma and other mental health conditions. Here are some strategies and resources that individuals can use to learn more about their triggers and ultimately themselves. 

MINDFULNESS + MEDITATION:   

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can increase self-awareness and help individuals become more attuned to their thoughts and feelings. This heightened awareness can make it easier to notice when they are being triggered and what might be causing it. Techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and grounding exercises can also help manage immediate responses to triggers.

SELF-REFLECTION + JOURNALING:
Keeping a journal can help individuals track their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. By noting down when they feel distressed or experience a strong emotional reaction, they can start to identify patterns and potential triggers.  Reflecting on past experiences and considering what situations, people, places, or activities have led to negative emotional responses can provide insights into their triggers.

 TRIGGER LOGS OR DIARIES:
A short form version of journaling, using specific tools like trigger logs or diaries can help systematically track incidents of emotional distress. These logs typically include information about the situation, the emotional response, thoughts at the time, and any physical sensations. Over time, analyzing these logs can help identify consistent triggers and patterns.

 

EDUCATION + RESOURCES:
Reading books, articles, and online resources about mental health and trauma can provide valuable information about common triggers and how to deal with them. Websites of reputable organizations, such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or the American Psychological Association (APA), offer resources and educational materials.

THERAPY/COUNSELLING:
Working with a mental health professional, such as a therapist or a counselor can provide a safe space to explore triggers. Therapists can use various techniques, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), to help individuals identify and understand their triggers. Therapists can also teach coping strategies and provide tools to manage reactions to triggers effectively. Note: As I've mentioned before, therapy is a privilege for those who have access to it and could afford it. Through this project I always encourage you to do the work within yourself first.

By using these strategies, we can gain a better understanding of our triggers, which is a crucial step toward managing our mental health more effectively. Recognizing and addressing triggers can lead to healthier coping mechanisms and improved emotional well-being for yourself and your loved ones who are affected. 

bottom of page