Freeze & Fawn

Fyi everyone.
For anyone who makes the argument that survivors need to learn how to speak up better in the moment…
…whether that argument is the typical “Well why didn’t she try to leave if she didn’t like it?”
Or whether it’s the more well-intentioned “Women need to learn to better use their voices” that floats around the spiritual community.
Let me tell you a little something about PTSD.
You may be familiar with the two famous stress responses, Fight and Flight.
But have you met my lesser known, more feminine friends Freeze and Fawn?
The freeze response to trauma means we dissociate from our experience and go elsewhere in our minds in order to avoid confronting what is happening to our bodies in the physical.
The fawn response to trauma means we soften and become compliant in order to placate the person who appears threatening to us so that they see us as pleasant and useful and are therefore deincentivized from harming us.
And oh boy can I tell you about both of them.
Unsurprisingly, women are far more statistically likely to react with the Freeze/Fawn end of the spectrum than the Fight/Flight one. Why is this? Apparently there’s a genetic reason. Check out Gender Differences In Response To Stress:
“In 2000, UCLA social psychologist Shelley Taylor and her colleagues wrote an influential article in Psychological Review, which Taylor later expanded into a book called The Tending Instinct, to propose that when it comes to stress, women are different from men. Instead of getting ready to fight or to flee, women become more likely to express affiliative social behavior, either to befriend the enemy – if there is an enemy and is causing the stress – or to seek social support from their family members or friends. Physiologically, instead of releasing large amounts of norepinephrine and cortisol into the bloodstream the way men do, Taylor argued that women respond to stress by secreting more endorphins – neurochemical substances that help alleviate pain and make us feel good about social interactions – and oxytocin, a neurohormone that is linked to the motivation to behave in a friendly manner to children or close social partners.”
We are not speaking about willpower or chakra blockage or spiritual empowerment here. We are speaking about the biology of trauma.
And your spiritual bypass is not helping.
We developed affirmative consent in part so that we could have ways of making it safe for traumatized people to say no. Asking for a verbal yes is not difficult.
Every time you say “Women need to learn to use their voices better” – WITHOUT acknowledging both the sociological and biological obstacles to this – you are acting out of ableism that denies the accumulation of thousands of years of collective PTSD in the feminine collective and you are showing that you don’t know how brains and bodies work, specifically female bodies and brains in particular (though that doesn’t exactly surprise me).
Yes, women do need to learn to use their voices better. AND that is going to take years and years of healing on the levels of the collective, the community, and the individual.
And men would do well not to look at the work women still have to do on themselves – which we are tackling quite fucking heroically at the moment thank you very fucking much – but rather to look at themselves and ask, “How have I as a man been complicit in making it difficult for a woman to feel natural and comfortable using her voice?”
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