Have you ever had a reaction that felt very impulsive without realizing? Like it was almost automatic and you had no control over it? Maybe it was a trauma response. Depending on what we go through, we could end up developing different ways to cope when being in a similar situation, which then becomes our trauma response. Are there any common types? Yes. Let’s explore the four main types of trauma responses together:
This one is in the name. It’s being stuck, frozen or even having an out-of-body experience during a traumatic moment. It could show up later in life as zoning out, choosing solitude over socializing and mentally ‘check-out’ whenever you’re scared or triggered. Because you’d be freezing in moments you wanted to act and are often absent-minded, you could struggle with trusting yourself and making decisions.
This ego says ‘I’ll be safe if I just shut up and let it happen.’
This could be feeling angry, getting defensive or acting in any sort of aggressive way. Maybe as a child, the way you were able to get by and avoid problems was by throwing a tantrum or ‘fighting back’. Maybe it was the only way you could get what you wanted. It could also be because you didn’t feel seen or heard as a child, so you started to think that being loud and aggressive is how you become powerful.
This ego says ‘I’ll be safe if I scare them off as much as I can.’
This trauma response is similar to freeze in the sense that you’d be distracting yourself, but flight is more linked to being in-denial. Denial is what helped you dodge negative experiences as a child and so you learned that this is how you keep yourself safe. It could show up as occupying yourself with work or studies or and ‘medicating’ the trauma with distractions like music, different hobbies or even substances. Flight also usually ties in with perfectionism, because you’d believe it prevents people from questioning your behaviour and you can remain unchallenged.
This ego says ‘I’ll be safe if I just avoid it at all costs.’
Fawning is essentially people pleasing. It’s trying to convince people you are likeable, and going to extreme extents for it. You may find yourself pretending to be someone you aren’t to fit in or have people view you as ‘worthy’. Maybe as a child, you’ve had negative experiences when you expressed your true self, like humiliation, lack of support, mockery or even aggression. And so overtime, you learn that becoming what people want you to be, or at least pretend to, is better than being yourself.
This ego says ‘I’ll be safe if I can make them like me.’
It’s also possible to have a combination, rather than a single response, depending on what we’ve previously experienced in our lives. At the end of the day, getting to understand our mind and our behaviour is how we come home to ourselves. It’s how we take our power back and learn to manage our behaviour.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of or hate about ourselves; there is a big chance that what happened back then wasn’t your fault, especially if you were only a child. Explore your trauma responses and find your way back to yourself and do it with as much love and compassion as you can because that’s what your inner child truly needs.