Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?

  • 11 Replies
  • 791 Views
*

saylor

  • Member
  • 188
    • View Profile
As I’ve mentioned in other threads, I have felt anger towards my parents because neither one could ever bring themselves to fully acknowledge the abuse they inflicted upon me and my sibling growing up. In my M’s case, she made light of it, but at least did acknowledge that things happened. My F never even acknowledged (and he was the primary perp, whereas my M was more of an enabler).

I was just reflecting yesterday about how I interacted with my F growing up... How did I get through it? How did I tolerate beatings and rage explosions on the reg on the one hand, and then function within the family on a day-to-day basis on the other? I recall that I basically kissed up to him a lot. Obviously, this is the “fawn” response. I realize that I did it to survive. He would get even angrier, and the beatings would be fiercer, if I resisted, showed negative emotions, or (heaven forbid) tried to defend myself, so I learned from an early age to “act happy” in order to contain his rage as best I could. I acted like a “normal” daughter to him when I was little, as though everything were ok. Looking back, I don’t know how I ever pulled it off, since it was so at odds with how I felt inside. But that’s survival instinct kicking in.

Fast forward to my adulthood, where, when I tried to bring up the topic, my parents wouldn’t acknowledge the reality of our family history... to the point where I decided to go NC with my F.

I’m starting to wonder whether the fact that I fawned when I was little managed to convince my parents that what they (esp. F) were doing to me wasn’t actually “that bad”. Maybe because I was, the morning after a brutal beating, able to “smile” at the breakfast table, my F was convinced (at least subconsciously) that what he had been doing to me didn’t have any seriously damaging effect, and therefore he was able to write off the abuse entirely in his mind. I guess this presupposes that he otherwise would have cared, but I gave him a free pass with my fawning behavior. Not sure he would have cared no matter what, but I still wonder. I’m not trying to blame myself for fawning—I mean, what other choices did I have? And I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone else for fawning. I’m just wondering, because I’ve always been shocked at how terrible I remember things being, and my parents essentially acted like it was no big deal.

Can anyone else relate to this? Do you think historical fawning could help explain later gaslighting? I’m not saying it gives abusive parents an excuse, to be clear

*

Kizzie

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • 8217
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2020, 06:35:58 PM »
FWIW I think no matter what trauma response we use to protect ourselves - fawn, freeze, flight or fight - abusive/neglectful parents rarely take responsibility and turn it around on their children. If we fought we were too sensitive and angry, if we fled we were ungrateful and selfish; if we fawned we must have had things good ... 

Realistically though, how could any human being do something like that, see his D smile at breakfast and not know the damage he had done, that what he did was not right?  On some level he knew then and he knows now imo.

 :grouphug:




 

*

saylor

  • Member
  • 188
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2020, 06:49:19 PM »
Thanks, Kizzie. Deep down, I sense that you’re right

I think I’ve just been haunted lately by the thought that my fawning might have given him a reason to believe that what he was doing was ok, even though I can recognize that it's probably not true. And he had to have realized that we were terrified of him because that’s exactly what he wanted. Terror is a crude tool to keep inconvenient burdens, such as one’s unwanted children, in line, undemanding, and therefore easy to manage

*

Kizzie

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • 8217
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2020, 07:02:23 PM »
Quote
he had to have realized that we were terrified of him because that’s exactly what he wanted. Terror is a crude tool to keep inconvenient burdens, such as one’s unwanted children, in line, undemanding, and therefore easy to manage

Really sorry you went through being terrorized as a child and then invalidated as an adult Saylor. That's all on him, it was exactly what he wanted you're so right.  :hug:

*

saylor

  • Member
  • 188
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2020, 07:37:50 PM »
Thank you for the hug and the acknowledgement. It does help  :hug:

*

woodsgnome

  • Member
  • 1856
  • I did not wish to live what was not life
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2020, 07:48:41 PM »
I consider categories to be loose, so though I pass as a 'freeze' type, I know I fell into the fawn category as well. Walker suggests that freeze/fawn can form a deadly combo. That was the case with me.

For me, the fawn seemed to work like a disguised defense mechanism -- that if I caved to abuse, it might not get to the really bad next level of abuse. Nine times out of ten it did anyway.

Sadly, that pattern continued as an adult, and I didn't always realize it 'til it was way too late or too hard to change the pattern. Then of course one can slip into self-blame all over and then ... it's the old story, and the hurt repeats until and if one can figure it out --  :doh: -- that I'm in a new story now. The old patterns are still hard to dislodge, but I can, somehow, find ways to accept this new life as my new reality, and move forward from there.

Here's hoping you will feel safer as you realize you're not alone, and that you have started to turn things around.  :hug:
« Last Edit: January 20, 2020, 07:53:01 PM by woodsgnome »

*

saylor

  • Member
  • 188
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2020, 04:21:41 AM »
Hmm, I will have to look back at Pete’s book since I don’t remember him talking about the combo
Thanks, woodsgnome (and thanks for your kind words)

*

Blueberry

  • Member
  • 6879
  • 'Should' is never good for me.
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2020, 11:46:25 AM »
FWIW I think no matter what trauma response we use to protect ourselves - fawn, freeze, flight or fight - abusive/neglectful parents rarely take responsibility and turn it around on their children. If we fought we were too sensitive and angry, if we fled we were ungrateful and selfish; if we fawned we must have had things good ... 

Realistically though, how could any human being do something like that, see his D smile at breakfast and not know the damage he had done, that what he did was not right?  On some level he knew then and he knows now imo.

 :yeahthat: Based on my own experience, I agree totally.

 :hug: :hug: to you saylor, that was terrible what Little Saylor had to endure and you as an adult too - the gaslighting.   

*

Heart

  • Member
  • 30
  • No heart of stone.
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2020, 11:52:11 AM »
 :hug: Thank you all for your insights into how we try to defend ourselves and survive.
Saylor to your question and agree with Kizzi. The perp/s  narc FOO they were going to do what ever they wanted to.  No matter what the costs for those in their way. My siblings having been victims of M who was a HPD and a narc a F who was an alcoholic with his own undiagnosed cptsd (?). being a covert narc. My 4 B grew up to mimic our P. And they have kept the abusive attitude towards me - being the only girl and youngest. So being close to 60 hasn't changed them. Just the tactics.
I have finally cut of all ties. My friends are my family. Hope you will keep on your own road to better life.  :cheer:

*

saylor

  • Member
  • 188
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2020, 09:09:18 PM »
Thank you so much to all of you for your kind words and thoughtful replies
 :grouphug:

*

Phoebes

  • Member
  • 394
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2020, 04:11:18 PM »
Saylor,

You described it so perfectly. I've wondered the exact same thing. But now that I know more about these personality dynamics and how they function, I agree with Kizzie that it even more implicates the abuser. How COULD they? I don't think an accurate response of outrage or anger or demanding fair treatment by a small child would make these monsters stop and think, "oh. maybe I need to change my controlling, abusive behavior." No, they were going to be the same severely wounded adults who never took responsibility for doing anything differently no matter how we responded to unfair treatment.

Fawning has been a survival skill I have used throughout life. It's not so functional as an adult, but there was NO other choice as a child. I always felt my Nm could and possibly would kill me one day, and my dad would not stop her. I think I did well to fawn and make it out of the house. The reason I am NC and shunned from the family now if for the one time I didn't fawn. Enough is enough.

*

Three Roses

  • Member
  • 3461
  • CPTSD is an injury, not an illness.
    • View Profile
Re: Could the “fawn” response possibly partly explain gaslighting?
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2020, 10:16:52 PM »
I just had a rather lengthy reply all written out and accidentally erased it when hit the wrong key. Argh.

I'll shorten it to just say I agree that fawning isn't the reason our abusers gaslight us. It's just another form of abuse (minimization). Dismissing us means they can continue as they want.

Pete Walker's comments on the freeze/fawn combo can be found on p 134 of his book "CPTSD: From Surviving To Thriving".