Are You Just a Nice Person, or Do you Default to Appease?
You are likely familiar with fight, flight, or freeze, but did you know there is an offshoot of freeze called appease?
That moment when your heart begins pounding, your breath becomes more shallow, and your body is prepared to respond to some sort of threat or trigger. We all know about fight, flight or freeze, but did you know there are several stages to freeze?
Freeze has differing manifestations not quite the same, but very similar.
There is fawn. You see dogs do this when a dog higher up the pecking order approaches. They roll onto their backs and show their tender, vulnerable underbellies. Though you may not actually cringe when the aggressor comes around, you can feel that you’re doing it, inside.
There is appease. This is similar to fawn, but the victim runs themselves ragged trying to figure out what kind of behavior will appease the aggressor. They try to people please, attempting to anticipate the aggressor’s every whim beforehand in an attempt to make them happy so perhaps the victim can be safe.
There is capitulate – you never say “no”, you always give in to the aggressor, and you never exert any boundaries at all – you have none.
There is dissociate. People tend to think this is like you’re in a state of trance, and that can happen, but your body can function quite well when you’re in a dissociated state. It’s as though your spirit has checked out, and your mind is not there. You can smile, respond to your environment, and even carry on a conversation. The danger in this is you can live your whole life from this state if you never feel safe, and never really experience the richness of life.
There is stuck. Many people are not aware that this is a freeze state. Lots of us feel “stuck” at times, but this kind of stuck is an inability to move forward in life. It is born from the paralysis of fear, being acted upon instead of acting, and is an indicator that there is some sort of trauma that has not been healed, yet. I spoke at length to one of my colleagues about this – she’s a psychologist – and she explained that when you feel absolutely unable to move forward in life, this is an indication that there is an unhealed trauma that is driving the bus.
Fascinating ways our brain has devised to try to keep us safe, yes?
None of these versions of freeze is fun. It is the way we learned as children to stay as safe as possible, but it feels terrible, and does not allow us to live the kind of life we want to live. It feels powerless and hopeless to go through life feeling compelled to act out that negative programming.
Giving yourself permission to have boundaries, and then setting some is a great first step to taking back your power!
When you use these variations of freeze, you appear to be a “good little girl or guy.” In reality, you’re giving away your power.
Practice asking yourself what you really want
Then do it