My wife has latched on to this word, fawning. The book she has found most useful, regarding complex PTSE, talks about fight, flight, freeze, and fawn as the potential threat responses. Fawn was new to me. But I must say, the book is convincing and it makes sense for her. When I’ve described her as naive in the past, this is probably a better description for what I meant. Subservient, and for no good reason. Deciding to undermine life’s most important loyalties for just the threat of an unimportant person being unhappy. I have a really really hard time relating, I can kind of understand it in her, and it’s super shitty and weak. This is where she is most embarrassed about herself.
I learned so much about tis concept so let me try and explain it.
People with complex PTSE or similar (my WS also has this from childhood abuse) will have a familiarity with trauma. It can feel like love to them (not like "OMG I am so infatuated") but more like a comforting kind of feeling. The dynamic of abuse generally follows one simple concept:
The thing you need for survival / meeting your needs is also the thing hurting you.
Which ironically isn't all that different from being cheated on, but the difference is that if your neural pathways are already formed then you can withstand trauma in a different way generally.
So people with complex PTSE or anything similar to that will show these patterns in their behavior. So for example my WS will respond with "fight" (defensiveness) if he feels "attacked". These are not healthy mechanisms, but it's how their younger self learned to survive a hostile world.
Fawning is the worst one probably. Because generally the mechanism to get there is basically "this person is so dangerous to me that if I don't keep them sweet / please them, then something bad is going to happen to me". They are the creator of trauma for you, but they are also the caregiver. So you crave on some level to please them (if you are pleasing them then they are not going to hurt you).
My WS's case is extreme. I don't make excuses for him, but we were not physically together and he got into this relationship with this AP who was genuinely abusive. And he's a grown man, but believe me a woman can scare you. The shit she did (and I have read the evidence and seen for myself) was really terrifying. Stuff that was relentless - public humiliation, threats she would kill herself, threats she would call me (his worst possible nightmare), threats she would tell people he hit her (he hadn't) as well as generally making him physically unsafe - breaking his possessions and not letting him physically "escape" as well as the psychological abuse (like telling him he was a terrible person and no one liked him except her). Based on what he's said, I also believe she sexually abused him (the sex at times certainly did not sound consensual to me). Like if the person has repeatedly said they don't want to have sex with you and you come to them drunk and start touching them, is that truly consensual?
Now in the mess of this, he is consumed with a lot of shame and feel he has brought it all on himself because he is a bad person, so he deflects to the fawn response. He doesn't actually WANT to be having an affair on a meaningful level, but he's basically conditioned now to see this person as the caregiver - the abuser but ALSO the person who comes back after every terrible thing and apologised and says she loves him and he is wonderful and she is only so crazy because she just loves him so much.
So really after DDay, when he still could not physically get away from this person and the threats continued and escalated - the fawn response in him was to pander to her. Even if it meant betraying me. Because if you can see your abuser and be their friend then they are going to be nice to you, right? If there is an active volcano under you, then you want to see it. I think this is the way it works and why breaking NC was what he kept doing. Fawning. Craving on some level the approval of this terrible person.
That is obviously the extreme, and my WS now struggles with PTSD very seriously from that which if course made R very, very hard. How can you deal with your BS shouting at you if you have just dealt with an insane person and have PTSD? So it got very complex in terms of where the line was on that.
But if your WW has complex PTSD then this sort of response will sometimes seem illogical to you. Approval is very important. More so from a shitty person (who is a potential threat) than from a safe person (like you, because you are not a threat). This can be how people operate when they are seeking safety in the world.
WS's often share so many of the characteristics like selfishness, entitlement, self loathing, compartmentalisation, rationalising, lack of empathy. But I think I am sympathetic because often it's their own trauma which made them that way. No that is not an excuse to pass the trauma to you - but it's an explanation for why they are like that. This is why I don't believe in terrible people. Just people who have learned to feel okay in ways that are unhelpful.
[This message edited by MintChocChip at 12:00 AM, Friday, September 22nd]