Do you find yourself trapped in a repetitive pattern of similar situations that all end in failure and heartache? Maybe you are letting the 4 trauma responses govern your life and relationships.
Thanks to increasing global awareness of mental health, most of us are familiar with the long-term effects of trauma or PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). We also know that traumatic experiences are not confined to people who have been to wars.
Experiencing trauma is a highly individualized and subjective matter. Any event that made us feel unsafe, vulnerable, shocked, or helpless, can be a traumatic incident for us and the experience can have far-reaching effects on our lives.
Here are a few examples of Trauma:
- Repeated trauma, such as childhood abuse
- Single Incident trauma, such as being assaulted or mugged
- Ongoing trauma, experienced by the soldiers and first responders
- Other traumatic life events include cheating, a bad breakup, witnessing a crime, etc.
What Is A Trauma Response?
The defense mechanism that we rely on, in the face of fear or danger becomes our trauma response. These are evolutionary responses that helped our primitive ancestors to combat predatory animals and other dangers.
These instinctive responses to danger are embedded within our system and become our go-to survival strategy when we are presented with a situation that seems to be threatening our safety. These coping mechanisms are called our 4 trauma responses.
What Are The Four Trauma Responses?
There are 4 common trauma responses, also popularly termed the Four Fs of trauma responses:
Before getting into these 4 types of trauma responses one by one, let’s understand the tricky part first.
For those of us who have never experienced any traumatic incident in our lives, these 4 trauma responses can prove to be healthy responses to stress and fear and help them safeguard themselves when they encounter a risky or life-threatening situation.
But what if the danger is not real? Yes, sadly, people who have experienced significant trauma in the past, get fixated on one or more of these 4 trauma responses.
These survival instincts had helped them in the past, maybe for a prolonged time. So, they unknowingly over-rely and ingrain these maladaptive versions of the 4 trauma responses in their psyche.
As a result, they are perpetually on a hair-trigger mode, easily getting activated at the drop of a hat. These unconsciously learned 4 trauma responses become unhealthy for them, stimulating an overwhelming sense of intense fear, even when the danger is a perceived one.
How Can The 4F Trauma Responses Keep Your Life On Hold?
Now, let’s know about each of these 4 trauma responses and how can they be potentially unhealthy for you.
If you have adapted the “Fight” response, you are more likely to be confrontational in your relationships. Whenever you face a stressful situation, you subconsciously infer that gaining control over the matter will get you out of the mess.
You are prone to display the following traits:
- Angry outbursts
- Demanding nature
- Easily getting enraged
It has been theorized that people who are driven by the “Fight” trauma response, tend to avoid intimate relationships by being difficult. Their trauma makes them believe that such relationships will make them vulnerable and ultimately lead them to get rejected by their partner.
People who have a traumatized childhood quite often resort to this kind of behavior in their adult relationships. If they had been rejected or abandoned by their parents, they would tend to alienate others as adults.
They would do this out of the fear of facing the same rejection or abuse they faced as a child and would adopt the “Fight” response as one of their long-term responses to childhood trauma.
Along the same line, if you have a habit of fleeing the scene the moment things get difficult, you too are unconsciously avoiding serious relationships, so that no one can hurt you. If you have adopted the “Flight” trauma response, you will display the following signs:
- Distracting yourself with obsessive thoughts or Overthinking
- Overdoing things out of compulsion
- Becoming a workaholic
- Being a perfectionist
- Thrill-seeking risky behavior
- Controlling nature
The bottom line is that you will find ways to make yourself so busy that you are not left with time to form any meaningful relationships with others. Your overachieving tendencies might stem from the belief that this is the only way to make yourself safe and secure. Burying yourself at work or engaging in reckless behavior give you a false sense of security.