The six stages of trauma response is credited to Schauer and Elbert, 2010. Most of you may have heard of fight, flight, or freeze when feeling anxious or scared. I’m curious if you have experienced any of the other stages I am sharing with you. If so, please write me at: HealThriveDream@gmail.com and share your experience with me. I would like to invite you to speak on my podcast if you are ready to share your story! (Please note, I don’t want you to tell your story for the first time on my podcast as this is exploitive (my opinion) and doesn’t feel safe to me. Please share with your therapist or a close, trusted friend first).
I decided to write just short introductions into each of these areas. What I’m considering doing is writing additional posts about each of these areas in great detail. Why? Because I believe that survivors tend to spend a great deal of their lives in these stages until they are healed. Has this been your experience? Either way, I would like to hear from you.
If you have experienced the sympathetic nervous system’s freeze response, you know it feels like your feet are glued to the ground and you’re trapped in your body.
You are likely familiar with the experience of wanting to get out of dodge, stat! Flight happens when you sympathetic nervous system is alerted that you are not safe and must seek protection.
Both your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are both engaged or activated which creates confusion, panic, dizziness, and nausea. Symptoms feel abrupt and discombobulating.
Despite studying and working with survivors for 25 plus years, I’m just now learning about flagging. Flagging is a parasympathetic nervous system response involving numbness, difficulties with speech and eyesight, feeling helpless, and a drop in your blood pressure.
Typical or possible symptoms include nausea, light headedness, vomiting, diarrhea. The medical term for fainting is syncope. Fainting is a parasympathetic nervous system response after experiencing or witnessing a major traumatic event.
6. Bonus Stage… Fawn
With fawn, there is usually some sort of attachment to the perpetrator. Survivor attempts to cajole perpetrator by pleasing them or going along with them in order to stay safe. Fawning is driven by fear or not feeling secure, but also wanting to be attached. Confusion often sets in. Fawning from the outside, looks like the victim is being “obedient” to their abuser. This can often be seen in domestic violence situations.
First stage of treatment tends to be establishing trust, safety, positive regard, and for you to be both seen and heard. When all of this is established, then trauma processing is recommended at a slow pace or at a pace you can tolerate. Moving to quickly risks emotional flooding and overwhelm. During this stage, exploring emotion regulation is beneficial. The next stage of therapy is learning to be in your window of tolerance by looking at how you interact with others and setting goals involving your relationships. Being able to work in these stages empowers you to look at your future and have hope. You will believe that you deserve to heal, thrive, and dream.
Want to work with me or learn more? I offer 15 minute consults or you can join my group coaching community where we work on all aspects of trauma (not all at once!) and have a thriving peer support community. Learn more here: This is Us: Healing from Together.