Is People-Pleasing a Trauma Response?

Living through a traumatic experience can cause many different reactions. Some people get outwardly angry and resentful, and others become more passive. The action of people-pleasing is generally caused by a traumatic experience and/or complex trauma. It is also known as the 4th response in the fight, fight, or freeze pattern, otherwise called the fawn response.

Luckily, there is hope. Rather than avoiding your fawning tendencies, we want to help you to face them to begin to heal. Before we do that, though, let’s take a closer look at what people-pleasing really is. 

Fawning as a trauma response 

A fawning trauma response, also known as people-pleasing, is a way some people react to their traumatic experiences. Generally, it is developed due to negative experiences throughout childhood. People-pleasing is a way many children learned to deal with their parent or guardian in order to not set off their traumatizing behavior. 

This is a trauma response that is built upon after many occurrences. It is not something you experience once, like a fight-or-fight instinct, but rather something that is developed after years of experiencing trauma. Fortunately, there are ways to unlearn this behavior, but first, you must recognize what it looks like. 

What does people-pleasing look like? 

Fawning looks different in every individual. There are many ways it can manifest, and some traits are much more easily identifiable than others. A few common traits of people-pleasing include: 

  • Looking to others to see how you should feel in a relationship 
  • Not setting or ignoring boundaries
  • Constant feelings of guilt 
  • Avoiding conflict or disagreements
  • Ignoring your own feelings, wants, and needs 

Impact of fawning 

Putting others’ needs above yours may make you think you are doing something good. However, by denying your own emotions, you are doing yourself a great disservice. It is impossible to help other people when you allow your life to be ruled by other people. 

On top of not being in touch with your own feelings, you will likely face further impacts on your health and identity, such as: 

  • Anxiety, depression, other illnesses 
  • Anger or resentment
  • Relationship troubles
  • Conformity or loss of identity

By appeasing everyone around you, you are also hurting other people in your life. You are likely enabling bad behavior or allowing people to perform actions that are detrimental to both you and them. Once you recognize and understand the impact that your people-pleasing tendencies have, you can begin to address them and move forward. 

Addressing your tendencies

Luckily, there are many ways you can begin to work through your fawning behavior. The first, and perhaps most important, step is to acknowledge the problem at hand and commit to doing better. From there, you can begin to take steps toward healthier relationships. 

  • Stand up for yourself: Rather than letting the same person or people walk all over you and make decisions on your behalf, begin to stand up for yourself. Respect your own boundaries and stick by them. This will help you to become in tune with your own wants and needs and will help you to get them. 
  • Stop apologizing: Instead of taking the blame for everything, stop apologizing for actions that are not your fault. You do not need to say sorry for setting a boundary. 
  • Take on what you can: This goes hand in hand with setting boundaries. Once you have defined boundaries and are comfortable saying no, you can begin to do things for other people only if you are able to. Do not overextend yourself and burn yourself out. 
  • Get help: Working through trauma on your own can be hard. There are various forms of therapy that can be hugely beneficial in terms of coping with trauma. try to find a counselor to speak to. 

Our office is always around to help. Please get in touch with us today to get started with healing your trauma. 

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