When used as a healthy response to danger, the 4 F’s can insulate a person from harm, but in a maladapted form, these responses serve to perpetuate dysfunction in both internal self and external relationships. With women, the patterns are exacerbated by additional factors.
There are four basic defensive structures that develop out of our instinctive responses to perceived danger — Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn (often referred to as the 4 F’s). Individuals who received healthy parenting in childhood usually arrive at adulthood with access to all of the appropriate responses to danger and exploitation, but for those of us who did not get the benefit of that programming, we falter and struggle with maladaptive versions of healthy responses. When people have gone through trauma, they adopt survival strategies based on the 4 Fs and these form hardwired circuitry in the brain. Neural pathways are formed so that it becomes a full mind and body experience and very difficult to release and resolve.
The fight response can keep you safe when used in the right circumstances for the right reasons, but in its unhealthy iteration, the fight response to threats can be driven by the false belief that power and control can maintain safety, attract love, and somehow compensate for feelings of being powerless. Clearly, none of these will come to fruition because of the choice to choose confrontation and make a power grab. It is less likely to attain and maintain power or love as a result of this tactic.
Flight is the best response in many situations. Removing yourself from dangerous people or circumstances is almost always a good plan and demonstrates strong boundaries and a healthy sense of self and self-respect. But for the person who is maladapted, it is often avoidance and a form of escapism through staying super busy, working too much, stacking countless distractions, and a frenetic amount of energy expenditure on things that divert attention away from their own issues that need attention. Substance…