Flight Trauma Response
There are four different types of safety mechanisms that emerge from our responses to trauma. Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn. Today's blog post will focus on the flight response.
The flight response is when a person wants to avoid uncomfortable feelings, emotions, and past abuse. When they may subconsciously feel the need to flee the situation. In some cases, the individual isolates themselves completely or they are preoccupied with avoiding an interaction with others (including mental health professionals) for them to feel safe. They may justify quitting their counseling, therapy, or coaching sessions. They may make up excuses for terminating who they work with for emotional support. Sometimes they ghost them and they're missing in action. Other times, the client/patient may fabricate stories about why they're quitting. Also, some may politely state that their simply not up for unpacking their trauma now. I respect that.
Signs of Flight Trauma Response:
Need to stay busy all the time/always going
Feel uncomfortable when still
High blood pressure
Insomnia & restlessness
Abruptly ending relationships, including with therapist/coach
Creating multiple plans to escape
Justifying quitting therapy, coaching, counseling, etc.
Becoming defensive or combative with mental health worker
Feeling overwhelmed, terrified, angry, hostile, or stressed
Being hypervigilant, which keeps the body & mind in hyper-alert state
Stuck in survivor mode, which prevents healing
Dissociating - Your body shuts down
Repressed/Suppressed/Buried trauma memories
Your perceptions are distorted in time, space, & reality
Avoidance and escapism with potential triggers
Self-sabotage (it could be subconscious)
Using alcohol, drugs, overspending, & work/hobbies to repel fear, anxiety, & conflict
Trauma is very deep and personal. It doesn't disappear if it's not faced, processed, or validated. When it's ignored, buried, suppressed, repressed, or invalidated, the silent screams continue internally, heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams, healing can begin.
As an abuse survivor and Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, I admit that in my younger adult years and childhood, I wasn't ready to face, nor address my trauma wounds. For at least four solid decades, I wasn't even aware of how deeply my traumatic experiences had been holding me hostage. How it kept me in the dark and silenced. I lived in turmoil and anguish. We don't know what we don't know. Buried trauma haunted me. It showed up in my trauma responses. It revealed itself in my sleep when I had awful nightmares. My trauma was repressed for a very long time. It led to being manifested into a full-blown autoimmune disorder (fibromyalgia), chronic pain, intense backpain, CPTSD, and painful symptoms.
Despite it taking me 40-50 years to courageously confront my trauma, I am grateful that I had finally faced it. I am very thankful that I gained insight about how this could be my most powerful and life-changing breakthrough. I am grateful that it would shift my entire life from barely surviving to fully thriving. It wasn't easy, but it was so worth it.
I transparently and authentically share in my books, Soul Cry and Soul Rescue that I had been brainwashed by my narcissistic mother and toxic siblings. I had a trauma bond with my mom and I didn't become consciously aware of it, until after I went no contact with her in 2018. Once I came to educate myself about narcissistic abuse, sibling abuse, intergenerational trauma, and a trauma bond, I was able to face my demons. I bravely started my own healing journey. Today, I am in a MUCH better place. Now that I have done the hard work of healing my own trauma wounds, I see things more clearly, including with my past clients. I have learned that it's a common trauma response for survivors to quit therapy, coaching, and various types of emotional support. Subconsciously, they get slammed with the flight or fight trauma response.
They may be fearful of facing their trauma wounds. They may be in denial about what they have suffered and endured for decades.
"Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering." ~ Peter Levine, Trauma-Informed Expert
Over the past two years, I've worked with hundreds of abuse survivors. If not more. I see a common thread between who is ready to honestly address their trauma and who isn't ready, yet. Even when I do validate what they have been through. Even when I offer them voice and choice. Even when I am holding loving space for them. If a client isn't ready to unpack their emotional challenges, past abuse, and trauma, I won't force it. I energetically release them and surrender to a Higher Power. I offer them grace, safe space, and respect.
One important fact is that I cannot help someone if they resist my help as a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach. My coaching school had cautioned each of us students about this sticky situation. They said to not take it personal because in most cases, it really isn't about us. It is about the client who may be in the midst of overwhelm, fear, being stuck, or subconsciously not being able to unpack their trauma now.
In these unfortunate situations, the kindest act of compassion is for me to let them go. It's up to them to figure it out along their own trauma recovery. I cannot be everything to everyone. Not everyone is ready to face their pain, grief, and trauma. Not everyone is open or willing to commit to the trauma recovery. No judgement here. It is what it is.
Sometimes, people run away because they're used to hurt and mistreatment. They can't accept a healthy love and recognize a good connection. That's why they let you go. It doesn't mean you're not enough. So heal, rebuild your heart, and trust that you'll love again.
If you’re stuck in survival mode, you may try to keep away from circumstances that might cause stress, including people, places and situations that can prompt certain emotions and memories. This includes therapy, counseling, and Certified Trauma Recovery Coaching.
Simon Saunders, a trauma therapist and founder of the Cognitive Corner stated,
“It’s actually a survival response to avoid people, places, and experiences that are reminiscent of a previous traumatic experience. The nervous system attempts to keep us safer by utilizing avoidance.” Everyone is on a very unique path and timing is everything. I have been blessed to be the seed to plant some hope in them for the future.
For those who are ready to face, process, and commit to the trauma recovery, I've personally noticed in them significant personal growth, strength, courage, and fierce determination to heal their trauma wounds. My clients who go into coaching for the long-haul (beyond a one hour or 4 one hour sessions) are reaping the awesome benefits.
Never underestimate the power of a person who is healing their trauma. This person has been through the fire. This person has been through the darkest of places that the world has to offer, and is still standing before you, committed to seeing the light. They are the beautiful souls who truly accelerate their recovery. They are the ones who I am so excited to see transform themselves and to start healing from the inside out. It's very exciting!
I am honored and humbled to be a part of trauma survivors healing journey. To see them expand themselves, stand up for themselves, to set healthy boundaries, to reconnect to their inner child, and to ultimately experience peace of mind, improved health, and a brighter future.