The fawn response can induce feelings of affection within a survivor towards an abuser or threat. These feelings motivate the survivor to appeal and please the abuser.
Further, these feelings are triggered intensely when an abuser love-bombs their target after a period of abuse or discard. These feelings show up in the survivor as a sense of relief, gratitude, and affection for the gracious act the abuser has down for the survivor. It relieves the intense tension, shame, and hyper-vigilance the survivor has been drowning in due to the abuse. This is the freeze-fawn loop being acted out in the survivor.
This burst of euphoria bonds the survivor to the abuser because of the chemicals involved: oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. This is where the survivor’s attachment system is hijacked and hooked to the abuser. The survivor begins to feel dependent on the abuser for their sense of identity, value, and meaning. They are enmeshing with them abuser due to this repeating cycle of abuse and love-bombing. The survivor fears the abuser and loves them all at the same time.
Love shows up differently in action, but may have similar sensations and feelings.
Real love doesn’t fawn. There’s no discarding or abandonment of self, boundaries, or priorities. There’s no enmeshment.
The relationship is founded on respect and trustworthiness. Safety is built through repeating patterns of boundary respect, accountability, integrity, and demonstrations of empathy and care.
All individuals involved keep themselves and work to understand the others involved. There is a desire to discover each other, to share, and to experience each other.
Abuse doesn’t exist in this relationship dynamic. When there is conflict, problems, misunderstandings, empathy, compassion, and understanding are employed. Where there is need for growth and improvement, that is pursued honestly and with integrity. Accountability is welcomed and valued.
Everyone feels seen, valued, and loved as they are.
All because real love doesn’t shed the self, doesn’t appease the other, doesn’t perpetrate harm on another, and doesn’t avoid accountability.
This is how you know if you’re fawning or if it is real love: Do you keep yourself? Do you feel safe to be yourself? Do you feel seen, loved, and valued? Are you maintaining your boundaries, your purposes in life, and your own priorities?
If you answer no to any of those questions, it is time to step back and look to see if you’re fawning. It is possible to fawn with a healthy person because of trauma conditioning from past relationships.
Real love keeps you anchored in your body and self.
Fawning pushes you to vacate your body and self and absorb the other in order to feel safe.