When in a perceived stressful situation our autonomic nervous system ramps up to allow the body to meet the demands of the stress. In certain cases, it activates to the point of the fight or flight response. Automatic reactions to the perceived stress that take out conscious control of the brain and just give it simple options. This is an invaluable evolutionary mechanism as it allows an animal to act under pressure and make a snap decision of two valid survival responses.
Another part of this system is the freeze response where due to the perceived danger we can dissociate from ourselves as a last resort survival tool. Common in lizards who are playing dead as a predator is within the area or victims of sexual abuse.
Recently I have come across the fourth ‘F’ in the survival system repertoire which is Fawn. Fawn is described as co-dependant behaviour in which any kind of autonomy or relationship boundaries are forfeited. A fawn relationship could look like a dominant bully and a peer that gives constant praise or an abusive relationship. Fawn I find to be a helpful concept in the understanding of people’s behaviour which often gets typical responses of “Why don’t you think for yourself?”, “Why don’t you just leave?” Fear is what drives Fawn responses and through that fear it becomes easier to understand the behaviour as a response and not a flaw of the person.
For more information on the 4-F’s please see http://pete-walker.com/fourFs_TraumaTypologyComplexPTSD.htm.