Are you a people pleaser or a doormat? Do you have an inability to say no? Do you find yourself constantly trying to save people who don’t want to be saved? Do you struggle to set boundaries? Many people become people-pleasing codependents as children. Children of dysfunctional families often take on rescuer roles as a way to matter, to feel loved or cared for, sometimes they are enmeshed into becoming their drunken mother or fathers rescuer, etc.
People who have an inability to say no can find themselves in all kinds of abusive situations and relationships, such children will also have low self esteem and confidence issues making them easy to manipulate and emotionally blackmail. If you have a chronic issue with putting your own needs first or telling people no you may be codependent. Codependency is often caused by an overdeveloped fawn response.
Children who grow up in functional environments are able to develop their fight, flight, freeze and fawn responses in a healthy measure and will learn to use these responses appropriately. Children who grow up in dysfunctional families will overdevelop one or two response types in particular they do this to reduce the negative effects of further trauma.
The age of the child, type of trauma, neglect pattern and even genetics may influence the trauma type adopted. The fight types will likely become narcissistic, flight types may become obsessive compulsive or workaholics, freeze types may dissociate and fawn types may become codependent. All types will develop anxiety issues and around 15% of children from dysfunctional families develop personality disorders. I was able to reduce my own anxiety issues with meditation, mindfulness and EFT but it wasn’t until I started doing inner child work that I was able to really address my issues. Before that I was treating the symptoms, not the cause.
The fight types will overdevelop their anger response, a child with over an developed anger response will likely become a narcissistic adult. Many children are shamed out of anger, anger is thought of as a negative emotion but we all need a little bit of anger as it can help us protect our boundaries. For a child with dysfunctional parents or a violent family anger is not an appropriate response, the parents will be bigger and stronger than they are so they will quickly learn anger is not a good strategy.
Flight types may become workaholics in an attempt to avoid becoming triggered and feeling intimacy. People who adopt this defence mechanism are generally perfectionists. A very young child is not likely to over develop the flight type, they will be reliant on their parents for food and clothing. Many dysfunctional parents often reserve their most violent punishment for children that try to avoid it. Many children learn flight is not an option.
An overdeveloped freeze type is most likely to suffer with severe anxiety. It is thought we all activate the freeze response before any other, it enables us to judge the situation and decide what to do next. Pete Walker says, “Freeze types tend to project the perfectionistic demands of the inner critic onto others.” People who overdevelop the freeze response will be likely to dissociate and probably try to avoid human contact all together.
Fawn types become codependent, people pleasers they look to put other people’s needs before their own. They learnt to avoid danger by merging with the wishes and demands of others. Fawn types are most likely to find themselves in abusive relationships, they have trouble forming and maintaining boundaries. The fawn type most likely has at least one narcissistic parent and they probably suffered some kind of enmeshment trauma (emotional incest). For a fawn type just saying no can cause horrendous feelings of guilt and shame.