Are you struggling with strong emotions, memories, or anxiety even after a traumatic event has ended?
If so, you may be dealing with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), a condition that can arise after prolonged or repeated trauma, such as severe abuse or neglect. One approach to understanding and managing C-PTSD is based on the “4F” concept, developed by trauma therapist Pete Walker. These survival mechanisms, which he calls “4F,” are often used in response to perceived threats and can be triggered by memories or situations that remind a person of the traumatic event. Here is a more detailed description of each of the 4F:
Fight: This coping mechanism includes aggressive defense against perceived threat. This can manifest as physical aggression or verbal confrontation. People who use this coping mechanism may become easily angered and may engage in arguments or physical altercations as a way to cope with their feelings of vulnerability. They may also have a hard time seeing their own vulnerability and may blame others for their own pain.
Flight: This coping mechanism includes avoidance of perceived threat by withdrawing or running away. This can manifest as withdrawing emotionally or physically. People who use this coping mechanism may avoid certain people or places that remind them of their trauma, and may have a hard time forming close relationships. They may also experience feelings of anxiety and panic when they’re in situations that they perceive as threatening.
Freeze: This coping mechanism includes immobility or “shutting off” in response to perceived threat. This can manifest as dissociation or a feeling of detachment from one’s emotions. People who use this coping mechanism may feel numb or detached from their emotions and may have difficulty expressing their feelings or needs. This coping mechanism can damage relationships as it can lead to misunderstanding and communication difficulties.
Fawn: This coping mechanism includes attempts to please others or pacify a perceived threat in order to avoid further harm. This can manifest as behavior that is pleasing to others or as an attempt to gain approval from others. People who use this coping mechanism may put a great effort to please others even if it means sacrificing their own needs and desires. This coping mechanism can lead to a loss of self-identity, self-esteem, and self-worth. It can also lead to becoming a victim of abuse or manipulation.”
This coping mechanism can lead to a loss of self-identity, self-esteem, and self-worth. It can also lead to becoming a victim of abuse or manipulation.