24 May The Four F’s
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can develop in people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Symptoms can include; nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety and fear.
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) is a disorder where people experience some symptoms of PTSD along with additional symptoms like; difficulty controlling emotions, feeling very angry, and even mistrustful of the world.
Both of these arise due to the deeply distressing trauma or experience that occurred, and may be what’s causing an overreliance on survival instincts, sometimes referred to as trauma responses. Universally known as ‘Fight or Flight’ Syndrome, they are instantly recogniseable, but did you know there’s others?
The Four F’s as I like to call them are known as Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn.
As a #csa survivor, you will have experienced one or more of these on a regular basis. You may have a specific one that occurs for you, or a combination of all four.
This is how they work.
The Fight response tends to be where you react with anger and aggression. It is underlined by fear, where you face the threat and speak up anyway. The core belief being that if you are able to maintain power over the threat you will gain control. Signs of this include, actual fights, aggression, throwing things, yelling, being argumentative.
The Flight response is reflected in avoidant behaviour, usually through removing yourself from the threat, even isolating yourself. The core belief being that if you can escape the threat and avoid conflict then you won’t be harmed. Signs of this include running away, avoiding interactions with others, even escaping by staying busy.
The Freeze response is reflected in feeling frozen and unable to move, or finding yourself spacing out as if you’re in a haze or detached from reality. The core belief being that you have reached a point of overwhelm causing part of the brain to shut down. Signs include being at a loss for words, retreating into your mind, or feeling emotionally or physically numb.
The Fawn Response is the latest addition to trauma responses, and is reflected in adopting people-pleasing and pacifying behaviours. The core belief being that if you prioritise people above all else by doing whatever they want, you can diffuse conflict and receive their approval. Signs include, deferring to others, abandoning your own needs, not feeling seen or valued by others.
Wow! Look at how clever the mind is to protect and keep you from harm. The work it did when you were a child is astounding and the Four F’s may even have formed a part of who you are and impacted how you interact with the world today. My question to you now is: Do you still feel the same need of them now? What is your thinking about starting to release them a little at a time? Is it worthwhile to find a different way of coping, as you heal more and feel safer in your own skin?
If your first thought is it could be time, then this technique will certainly speak to you. The RAIN technique, (as its known) is both simple and effective
This four step process requires a quiet space and capacity to reflect. Make sure you have time, and be gentle with yourself as you progress through. In the following order ask yourself these questions, and just allow the answers to surface.
There is no right or wrong answer.
R = Recognise. … What is going on inside of you? Is it self-defeating thoughts or constant worry
A = Acknowledge, Accept, Allow. … Give yourself permission to allow it to be what it is, don’t overthink this. Just allow it, breathe deeply into it. Do not try to change it or make it better.
I = Inquire, Investigate. …Deepen into what you are feeling and gently ask what your belief is, eg worry you won’t have enough money to pay the bills etc Follow up with a second question; what do you most need right now
N = Nurture. This is the part where you get to love yourself through this with warmth and love. Use words like ‘Its ok, You’ve been here before’, and ‘You always come through ok’
Allow yourself time to complete this process deeply. Once done, you should feel lighter and less anxious or upset. Please know you can always come back to this anytime, especially if one of the Four F’s pops in for a visit. This stuff works!
Love and light to all you amazing #csa survivors