The Pitfalls of Empathy as a Please Response

The Pitfalls of Empathy as a Please Response

The ‘please’ or ‘fawn’ response is an often overlooked survival mechanism to a traumatic situation, experience or circumstance. Nonetheless, the ‘please’ response is a prevalent one especially with complex trauma or CPTSD and is acted out as a result of the high-stress situations that have often been drawn out.

As any survival response; like flight, fight or freeze, a please or fawn response is to manage a state of danger or potential danger. The please response is the most thoughtful and complex response to deal with as it encompasses monitoring and feeling into other people’s state of mind (often the aggressor) to anticipate a situation and respond by adapting and pleasing to evade confrontation or before a situation becomes aggravated.

It is also one of the most cumbersome and exhausting responses as it takes great resource to play through potential future scenarios.

The Difference between Empathy and the Fawn Response

A please response is not the same as empathy, and I think there is some confusion there. Healthy empathy is to be able to “feel” into other people’s situation without losing your sense of self and the importance of your own needs. With a please or fawn response you have given up a sense of self, a sense of healthy identity and have taken on responsibilities that aren’t yours to carry. It is a survival response made in a time of need, but in the long run, you pay a hefty price for it.

Once emotional residue, related to your past, is contained, access to healthy empathy might be more readily available if your previous habitual response was a please response. Each survival response once contained, have their strengths to be harvested.

Surviving a Complex Trauma Situation by adapting to a Please Response

As mentioned briefly before; when you resort to a please response, you take on responsibilities which aren’t yours to bear.

Let’s look at an example to clarify this behavior:

Clare grows up with a mother who has episodes of being suicidal and emotionally unstable. In her day to day goings, her mom is demanding, ambitious and meticulously organized. To avoid confrontation and to assist the impossible neurotic episodes of her mom, Clare adopts the please response towards her. She anticipates her moods, tries to excel at school and to meet her mother’s demands.

The “choice” to please and adapt to her mom’s needs and forget her own, is not done at a fully conscious level. It is a choice forged out of the best possible survival option to deal with what is at hand. It is made out of absolute necessity.

Be kind to the child in you!

How are you exhibiting your please response, and in which area of your life does it show? Leave your comments below.

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  1. Nancy  March 12, 2017

    I can relate to Clare, I also had a depressed and suicidal (never acted upon but spoken about) mother who had a traumatic childhood. My one brother and I both adopted the need to please. I think we both felt empathy about my mother’s past, maybe as a way to explain why she was hurting us without wanting to blame her. We both ended up in relationships with partners with mental disorders where we were the caregiver. Now divorced, I can see how all consuming and exhaustive that relationship (and others including friendships) were and I’ve become really isolated and quite frankly I’m enjoying it! I know it isn’t healthy according to all the studies how belonging to social groups equals health but I dread being social now and have zero desire to be in another relationship. Maybe this will pass, I’m not sure. I’ve been on my own for nearly 3 years now.

    • Roland  March 13, 2017

      Hello Nancy. Thanks for your comment. Perhaps when you have seen and worked through this ‘pleasing’ conditioning you might feel you want to be open to a new relationship again and will attract another dynamics which is not based on your past. Keep learning and growing.

    • Anne  March 13, 2017

      Nancy, thanks for your comment! I am at the exact same place as you as regards being quite “isolated” and feeling much better this way. I have worked on this with my Somatic Experiencing therapist who encourages me to respect my need to be on my own as a current boundary. She describes it as a “Collapse and Rebound” mechanism – body and mind intuitively seeking “rock bottom” first before then naturally “rebooting” once it has properly recovered. (Sorry for all the quotation marks…)

      • Nancy  March 15, 2017

        Anne, that’s interesting and has given me something to ponder. I have been allowing myself this isolation I desire but there’s an underlying feeling of dysfunction and judgement towards myself. Like I should not be doing it but I do it anyways, kind of like an unhealthy rebellious indulgence. When I was a young child I had a fantasy of being Grizzly Adams living in the mountains alone. Even though at the time I enjoyed being around people. But I was already preparing to run away I think, one of my main patterns of coping.

    • Lara  March 17, 2017

      Your comments ring true for me. I’ve had a background and experiences that have some similarities with yours. I also have avoided social groups lately, and the thought of being in another intimate relationship nauseates me at the moment. However I do some volunteering which helps me get out of the house and meet people that are strangers. It’s great not to have to socialize with people you already know, because you never feel forced to discuss any subject. You can just be your real self. I do that because I am better if I expose myself to other people, even if I would rather not leave the house. I’ve discovered that almost no one will ever be able to empathize with what I’ve gone through and taking to friends to gain support is an exercise in hope, followed by disappointment. But I do love people. And interacting with new people makes me feel good. I also don’t apologize for staying home if I don’t want to accept invitations, and I know it won’t be good for me. It sounds like you know what you need as well. Everyday is different. Some are forward, some are back. I hope you continue to follow your heart, and the inner knowledge you have gained so dearly and keep doing what is right for you.

    • Bioprof  March 27, 2017

      This is really interesting. Growing up I had a depressed mom, borderline/bipolar dad, and a stepmom who did the best she could but was overwhelmed by circumstances. We kids were not really allowed to express anger or sadness; the moods and demands of the adults ruled. This dynamic is echoed in my second (current) marriage. I think for a number of years more recently it also made me susceptible to some of the attractions of Buddhism: many Buddhists see anger as an evil to be purged, rather than a legitimate feeling that is a sign that we are in danger or something needs to be changed. The “breakdown and reboot” cycle was very familiar to me – at the end of the past year, after three untimely deaths and three murder hearings, I burned out and took a ‘secret sabbatical’ from work. After several months, I still have little tolerance for intense social time, and have very little in mind for career goals for the first time in years. It’s nice to know that I may rebound and get my energy back.

      • Nancy  April 16, 2017

        @Bioprof, interestingly enough I too was always attracted to Buddhism and new age philosophy which I have learned in the last 3 years was mostly a yearning to spiritually bypass my painful feelings and trauma. I was raised to never express anger and not too much joy either! Sadness and melancholy was okay though! If it all hadn’t come to a head at the end of my second marriage perhaps I would still be on that path, running. But a mental break/toxic relationship pushed me to get to the truth, thank goodness. And what a journey it has been! Many blessings to you in your continued healing.

    • Kim  April 3, 2017

      I totally feel the way you do about my isolation. I also dread being in another relationship. I want and need support and love from someone else but I’m too scared it will turn into something like all my past relationships. I was the one who did everything.

    • Judy  April 9, 2017

      Hi Nancy

      I this is your coping be detatched protect yourself…your inner child.
      I have recently learned the simplicity of nurturing the inner child..we all have inner childs.
      The inner child responds to NOW life according to patterns learned from our PAST life.
      The secret is to not allow the inner child to rule you. a real child that is lived and nurtured behaves calm…content.
      The child that is indulged/mistreated/unloved etc ..will behave adversely.

      In real life ..experiences can trigger the inner child..
      If you suffered rejection as a kid then in adult life say..a friend ‘rejects’ you, you feel the same feelings as when a child..a button gets pushed and unless you are AWARE (oh I am feeling rejected) you may react in a childlike/ego manner.

      I am now aware..when i feel my buttons pushed.
      I basically pull myself aside…I acknowledge my feelings ..I say..ok I am feeling rejected..I feel hurt I feel annoyed etc
      I then say to myself…well maybe that person who has rejected me is having a bad day and her buttons/ inner child being pushed.
      The other persons behaviour has nothing to do with me.
      I allow myself 2 minutes to vent how i feel.
      I then ACCEPT and let go.
      Pointless rehashing situations thereafter once i have mind sorted as they are then history…just blah blah blah actually.
      Doesnt serve my mind nor my body to hang on to stuff.
      I talk/ calm my inner child for 2 minutes.

      I dont dwell thereafter.

      My inner self becomes calm…it feels considered (like a child would feel)
      I move on in a peace.

      Othrrwise thoughts over analysed mix and swish in my brain/mind like a washing machine and this causes cirtisole to drip in the brain (MRI scans research prove this)
      and just caused illness ..anxiety..distress etc.

      Each situation the occurs ..that pushes reminder buttons get sorted there and then.
      Calming the child and therefore the adult you.

      Processing is vital.
      Practise makes perfect.
      Lovely quick sorting habits form.


      I have learned in my better state of mind that I dont need people..because i love myself first.
      I tell myself regularly that i live her.
      I tberefore CHOOSE the people i would like to keep in my life..those that are kind..good..honest..etc.

      I wish you a fabulous life xx

    • Vicky  August 10, 2018

      My mum was constantly critical, would put me down and would take offense to anything. She was very aggressive and would behave like a totally different person when others were around. She had an abusive parent also, but I find it hard to have sympathy for her as I decided not to give my children the same upbringing so why couldn’t she. I also experience the same aspect of isolation and no interest in relationships. It seems too stressful to keep others happy. Although the people I am friends with are all lovely, I feel I can only relax in my own company without any people. The best holiday I could have is if I did not have to leave the house or interact with anyone!

  2. Nancy  March 12, 2017

    This perfectly describes how my childhood worked with my mother, brother and I doing everything within our power to keep my father’s temper placated. It led me to the same behavior in my marriage to another narcissistic man. My “please response” is so automatic that I sometimes find my attempts to stand up for myself being interrupted by placating words from my own mouth that are not what I was planning to say and that don’t even seem to come from conscious thoughts.

    • Roland  March 13, 2017

      Happy to hear the article resonated with you. Becoming aware of unconscious patterns is a good step forward.

  3. Suzy  March 13, 2017

    I grew up with an older sister whose behaviour was extremely erratic – sometimes bullying and abusive, sometimes loving and connected… I have had to “assess” each and every day (growing up) and each and every meeting (as an adult), as to which mood/character she is in, do as to be able to protect myself… as a result, I have developed a highly attuned ability to assess moods and “vibes”. Sadly though, As you state in this piece, Roland, I experienced a type of Stockholm syndrome – where I would fawn and pander in order to keep myself from being bullied. Of course, it backfired – as I just became the “patsy”, at her beck and call and it never ended up protecting me from the bullying in the long run! I wonder though – was I already very empathetic, making me vulnerable to the bullying? Or did I develop empathy as a survival response?

    • Roland  March 13, 2017

      Hi Suzy. The fawn or please response is a survival response indeed. Once worked through the suppressed anger it might turn into a healthy empathy response.

    • Kelly  March 14, 2017

      I also wondered that while reading…I feel that I was an empathic child regardless. Perhaps for me, having to go into the ‘please’ response didn’t necessarily cause this empathic response, rather my empathic nature twisted it that way and developed into unhealthy or unbalanced empathy. I can certainly see the patterns this has created since that time, but I don’t believe that my empathy or true nature arose from that trauma response. It does, however, shed alot of light on why us empathic/highly sensitive folks seem to take on more lasting internal damage from trauma than those who are not in that demographic. A ‘please’ response is less damaging in the obvious respects, but so very disempowering and dangerous.

      Thanks for this article, Roland. Between this and the writeup on narcissism & victims of those with NPD, I feel like I have a much more comprehensive understanding of my own behavior. A good next step in my own journey to healing.

    • Gwen  April 16, 2017

      Wow, Suzy’s comment and the others above really hit home with me and the fawn response. Like you, Suzy, I, too, had an abusive older sister and she would fly at me and physically pound on me from the time we were small children. My parents never, ever took my side. I was blamed for “instigating” with such accusations as, “You know your sister hates it when you….” Either that or Mom would say, “You two just need to get along..” I read somewhere recently about how happiness itself can be a trigger for trauma. This is what would happen. My sister would get angry or jealous whenever I accomplished something or showed joy. So happiness itself became the “cause” of my sister’s bullying and hostility towards me. My learned behavior became, “Don’t show any joy if you don’t want to get beat up–then blamed.”

      Later in life when I was sexually assaulted, it was at a time that I was DOING WELL and happy! What a cycle….

      I wish you well and thank you for your comments.

  4. Annie  March 13, 2017

    My parents were the full spectrum. Demanding father, angry mother, highly stressed children always wanting to please to keep the calm. Early on I fought back but was labelled for it. I ended up trying to please everyone – and since then have been in a string of relationships with people who take everything and I have trouble creating appropriate boundaries to remain protective of my own self. I crave affection and end up with people who show none or little, and so I work harder to please. My CPST is getting better but now when I get a fight response, I know I have to wait a few days to see if it’s me, establishing healthy boundaries, or me, having a fight/flight response. It’s really hard, because I have totally isolated myself from everyone and live mostly totally alone except for telephone calls. So the isolation helps me deal with the reactions because I don’t have to challenge myself with potential danger/stressful situations and I don’t have to please anyone or worry about negative and frightening environments.

    • Roland  March 13, 2017

      Survival patterns build on top of other survival patterns do tend to get complex. Once the please response abides you might hit fight or flight indeed. If you are able to stay with that and feel into the underlying emotion (likely anger here) that might help you to start processing that part as well.

  5. Kirstie  March 13, 2017

    After spending almost a decade in a very abusive relationship I found the patterns of the relationship being repeated in my relationship with my kids.

    Increasingly I found myself bending over backwards to please them, anticipating their every need, whim or mood. And my daughter was daily becoming more and more like her father… I was stuck in the ‘please’ or ‘fawn’ response, losing my boundaries and my sense of identity whilst being ever more abused every day… even enumerating harder and harder to please.

    I’ve been using mindfulness to shore up the boundaries between us, and NVC to gently communicate my needs without causing aggravation.

    I’m trying to learn about true empathy and compassion so I can help her rather than make things worse, as I have been doing.

    • Roland  March 13, 2017

      Happy to hear you are working on this in your own ways.

  6. v  March 13, 2017

    Your article describes me, and the more I read your stuff the more messed up I feel. I have always tried to negate potential problems by evaluating every possible outcome before making a decision. I said something as a child that almost caused homicide/suicide. I have found it safest to no longer talk. It takes a lot for me to be comfortable to talk and then I am always evaluating words to make sure they are safe. To answer your question, I feel others pain and will do everything I can to help or protect and could not care less about my own life. I respond to every aspect of life …work, friends, family, etc with this character trait or should I say flaw?

    • v  March 14, 2017

      Ps. Sir, the reason is that I feel messed up the more I read is in my quest to understand what is wrong with me I came across your site. The more I read the more everything you write about cptsd fit me and I get frustrated because it causes me to feel broken in search to understand how to heal. I am researching because funds for treatment are not available.
      I wrote yesterday too fast and woke up in middle of my night now realizing what i wrote may have been viewed as an insult to you. I appreciate all you make available for people to understand what is going on in their minds. Please forgive me for the offensive way first post was written.

      • Roland  March 15, 2017

        No worries. I got your meaning in the first post and did not take it personal. Happy to have you here!

  7. Neall  March 13, 2017

    I have many of the same symptoms, as well as chronic pain over decades. I was guided through the words of a dream figure: “The only thing that will help is deep silence.” That encouraged me to meditate for longer periods, and I have now been meditating an hour a day for the past 33 months. Formerly an ‘outsider’, I am slowly beginning to consider myself a Buddhist. (I was a survivor of a violent fundamentalist Christian family.) When I feel ready, I may start a ‘deep silence’ meditation group in my community.

    • Roland  March 14, 2017

      Meditation is so essential!

  8. Katie  March 13, 2017

    Hi Roland I just wanted to say I am healing from trauma and c-ptsd and I honestly find everything you write spot on – I love this it summaries one of my coping mechanisms perfectly- I noticed I was using the please response in a new relationship this morning and felt my body go into pain and discomfort- I also get very drained when in a please response rather than empathy, like the life is being sucked out of me. Thanks so much for your teachings and support I would love to connect further but not sure how…. I realised for me I had a great deal of not just suppressed anger and grief to process but also shame- which has been coming up the past few days. I feel I constantly doubt others and have a very hard time trusting so would love to know how I can trust myself fully again- and my body (and feel safe with myself ultimately as well as others). With thanks and love, katie x

    • Roland  March 14, 2017

      Hi Katie. The good thing is once we are more aware of our patterns and the somatic effects they give of we stay stuck in them less time. Trust and hurt vulnerability often runs deep when the trauma happened to us as a child. Feel free to send me a message in contact for more personal contact or possible sessions with me.

    • Chas  April 16, 2017

      I understand u Katie. I was recently diagnosed with a very complex “mood disorder ” that has always been percstant in my life but due to issues daily ad environmental i was never aloud to voice say speak cry or feel what I needed 2. In the past 16 months I’ve had a major psychotic break down and y response is still im sorry ill stop ill do better. Please forgive me. Then I disappear within myself and now litterly into isolation.

  9. Elizabeth  March 13, 2017

    This is so spot-on! I have been trying to explain to others, since I was a pretty young kid, that I feel other people’s feelings. In fact, I was feeling them more than they were!
    For instance, when my two older brothers would fight/ wrestle, I would totally freak out, start crying, and beg and plead with them to stop. My reasoning was something like this- what if one of my brothers’ hurt the other accidentally, and then, BOOM! How would they live with themselves after? I would be more concerned with that idea than the idea that one of them would be hurt.
    Everything in this article resonates with me, as many of your articles have.
    I’m 56 years old, and I have been unable to learn how to stop chronically dissociating. It has made me, and those around me, miserable. Whenever I speak or think of acceptance as my only option, it makes me feel even further defeated.
    I have had treatment modalities of all manner in my 30’s and 40’s, but, kind of gave up, due to a combination of lack of resources and being called “treatment resistant.”
    It is so frustrating not to be able to work, having my family of origin still supporting me, and being forced to move to a place where I cannot visit my children or grand children.
    I’m a very bright individual, and when people meet me, no one suspects there’s anything wrong with me whatsoever.
    Anyway, thank you for your article, and just in general, thank you for giving me some good and solid info all-around re CPTSD/DID. In case you aren’t already aware, getting any professional to even acknowledge these types of problems is a task!

    • Roland  March 14, 2017

      Thanks for your comment and happy to hear the info resonates with you!

  10. Stephanie  March 16, 2017

    Hmm. I think my mother is more like this than I am. I think maybe I am more inclined to just comply even tho inside I might actually be rebelling and looking for an escape route. Comply to avoid punishment or retaliation or drama. Not really aiming to please so much as aiming to diffuse a potential bomb. Mom married the alcoholic first who abused her and then divorced and later married my narc step father and they are still together (about 40 years). She knows how to keep him pretty happy I suppose tho she seems tired often. What it really looks like to me is her basically letting him be right or have his way most of the time. Tho he is prob a mid range narc and I don’t think he really kicked her around in a scapegoat kind of way so much as he did me. I have prob done fight, flight, freeze and please at one time or another. I have met the narc tyrant’s demands. I have fought them. I have run away from him. And I have aimed to please him. Now tho, I am pretty isolated as well and I rather enjoy a lot of alone time and time at home just doing my own thing. Or going out alone and also just doing my own thing. I have a friend or two, but I spend a lot of time alone and I can get really tired or cranky or feel smothered if I’m around others too much. I think I’m improving tho but I used to really bend over backwards for just about anyone if I liked them. And even if I didn’t so much, there was a lot of obligatory feelings about being “nice,” and I did a number of things to my own detriment due to those feelings. Maybe just fearing retaliation whether there would be any or not from anyone because of my bully step father.

  11. Linda  March 20, 2017

    I just read your article (the first of yours that I have read) and am blown away that there’s a name for how I deal with things. Am definitely a pleaser, feel like I was brought up to be a pleaser on top of my natural bent and needed to be a pleaser in my marriage. Once I said no in one aspect of the marriage the whole house of cards came crashing down. It’s years later, much counseling and I still have this deep feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with me… some disconnect in my way if communicating and dealing. I have a hard time sometimes putting my own stuff to words but seem to be able to understand what others are trying to say/express/feel. When I get close to the issue that I am struggling with all that feeling new out is crying. I am continuing to face this …. maybe it will be a lifelong lesson for me?

    • Roland  March 20, 2017

      Hi Linda. Good to have you here and you resonate with the content of the article. You can work through this. Some patterns might remain but when the emotional residue is cleared and you are aware when an old pattern kicks in it does not take you anymore to those dark places. Keep working on yourself and you if you need help reach out!

      • Linda  March 20, 2017

        Thank you for the feedback! And to clarify my rotten finger typing on my phone … when I get close to expressing what I am really and feeling and thinking all that comes out is tears and a few words when I’m thinking millions of them and intensely feeling them.

  12. Tim  March 20, 2017

    This makes so much sense. I remember being sexually abused as a child and I would go back to my abuser whenever I went to their house as a means of controlling what was out of my control. I didn’t know it back them but in hindsight I’m piecing my survival techniques together. This may also explain why I’ve always felt the weight of the world on my shoulders and why I felt I needed to save my abuser. I pray we as a society continue to have more discussions about abuse and it’s after effects. There’s and underlying belief that abuse is a normal part of a dysfunctional world, this is untrue, abuse should not be a normal childhood experience.

    • Roland  March 20, 2017

      It shouldn’t indeed. Thanks for your comment here!

  13. Janice  March 20, 2017

    Can relate to this response / behaviour 200%!! I ALWAYS think of others needs before my own and try to please ALL THE TIME. This response is not 2nd nature, for me it is my only nature! Please at all costs. Bend over not only backwards but do cartwheels and acrobatics as well to try to please. I seem to be a puppet and people (unknown to them) know that all they have to do is click their fingers and I’ll come running. HATE IT! Wish sometimes I could stand in my own two feet and say NO, sorry, I can’t. Can a leopard EVER change their spots????

  14. Eli  March 20, 2017

    Thank you so much

  15. Rose  April 3, 2017

    This is my life in every sphere! Its been a tough struggle to find health in my identity and on top of it I married an abusive partner which I managed to get out of. I would love to have more insight on healing from this response.

    • Roland  April 3, 2017

      Thanks for your comment. Have a go through the free resources of this site. For more in depth pointers I’d recommend reading the ebooks: or for personal sessions you can get in touch with me by private message.

  16. Mim  April 4, 2017

    Those words have just described my childhood story exactly and I have had a history of attracting partners with mental health issues of one kind or another. After a number of failed relationships I spent 13 years without daring to venture into another partnership and in that time turned myself inside out analysing the situation to try to uncover the whys. Just over 1 year ago I took the plunge thinking surely things would be different but no, just another `same but different’ experience, once again attracting similar individuals as before. How do I stop this pattern??

    • Roland  April 4, 2017

      One thing is to become aware of it as you have. The other is to what need you might try to fulfill that you have been lacking of when young and meet that pain. I would suggest to work with someone one-on-one as survival coping mechanisms protect but also prevent healing. You can get on touch with me through private message for more info and online counseling. Regards.

  17. Alexa  April 5, 2017

    Hi Roland, I think I use this response often to avoid confrontation. I was diagnosed with PTSD 7 years ago, and shortly after it was changed to Complex PTSD. I have a long history of abandonment, neglect, physical & verbal abuse and significant traumas. I was 2 when my mother left. I was raised by a very loving, caring, devoted father who was always around & very family oriented. I did not really know my mother as a child and saw her 2x while being a young child. At age 12, I was raped by a neighborhood teenager. It was devastating for my father & it was recommended by professionals that maybe it would be best if I spent time with my mother. I moved 2500 miles away from my home to live with a person I did not know. I was excited at first and scared. My mother ended up not being the best person for me. She was never around, and I was left alone often. She was verbally abusive, manipulative, and at times physically aggressive. I was a troubled child. I ran away a lot, never attended school, was promiscuous, & began to drink heavily at 13 years old. Prior to this, I was in a gifted and talented program and never in trouble. At 15, I started to realize that I am not this person. I got a job and worked & began to go back to school. I got pregnant at 15 and that is when I turned my life completely around. I worked 2 jobs pushed myself through school and had only myself to depend on. I strived to excel and work hard as my father had taught me. I succeed, but with several more traumas along the road. My first son’s father committed suicide when I was 17 years old, then jumped into an abusive relationship with my second son’s father at 18, but still managed to fight for a better life. I ran my own licensed daycare and eventually left my relationship and went to school for education. I struggled raising my 2 boys on my own & was under constant threat from my ex. Shortly before I graduated with honors, I met my daughter’s father. He was an alcoholic and eventually became an addict. I left him 3 years after the start of our relationship, our daughter was 8mths old. I was teaching students who have significant behavioral disorders primarily Autism with significant physical aggressions. I was very happy on my own, was able to purchase my own home, and go to graduate schooling completely on my own. During this time, I was severely attacked on a daily basis from my students. It began taking a toll on me physically & mentally. During the 7 1/2 years of teaching, I received 8 concussions, several fractures, bites, bruises but I was really good at my job & very close to my students & families. The last significant assault resulted in not knowing if I would survive and felt as though I was testing my luck, but I continued to go back to my job out of a sense of obligation to my families & students. Shortly after, I began having panic attacks going to work & after work when I would start to relax. Several months later, I was diagnosed with PTSD, but I believed I have been through so much in my life & gotten through it that I would be fine. I continued to work until the following fall, at that time, I witnessed a severe assault on a coworker and my mind could no longer handle all the carnage. I dissociated. I never returned to work. Its been 7 years and I struggle daily. After reading your article, I realize I do please people. I do it out of a sense of avoiding confrontation, fear of abandonment, and lastly bc I don’t have faith in myself to take care of myself or properly care for my daughter. I settle way too much. I don’t fight for what is right anymore. I don’t know how to stop pleasing people. I have lost so many friends & family throughout this illness, I now just hold on tight to people who take advantage of me, manipulate me, and constantly use money to make them stay. I was never this person. How do I change without having the fear of being rejected, abandoned, and alone? Thank you, Alexa

  18. Gi  April 6, 2017

    I wish these insights could be re – VISIONED to more directly related to the experiences, past and present, of masses of peoples who eg underwent the horrors and mixed torments of APARTHEID and the bewildering transitioning of its dismantling. I believe ALL the people in South Africa are suffering from CPTSD — the several groups from differing genuses – all suffering nonetheless. The particular suffering of the most obviously oppressed groups brought to near Cultural and personalised genocide demand the greatest empathy and succour. Not least because they in the rawest form epitomize similar people’s and nations globally. Ecce Homo of the deepest degree. The so- called oppressors themselves suffer a different kind of CPTSD not yet articulated – but in desperate need of healing too. I would so keenly wish to know of insights into these areas of human suffering and the arising and thriving -as apposed to mere surviving – there from. There is truly no more important pursuit now for our world.

  19. Lyndsay  April 18, 2017

    I not only developed the please response at a very early age with both my parents, but felt responsible for my mother’s unhappiness. I carry that with me now, trying to please and believing things are my fault when they go wrong. I am a target for certain abusive individuals who like to use putdowns and sarcasm as a means to intimidate and demean me. I’m learning to ignore it, but I must say there are some very mean people in this world who enjoy bullying. And then there are lovely people who choose to not relate in this way. Thank God.

  20. Katie G  April 30, 2017

    The please response sounds so very similar to the adaptive behaviors learned when growing up with an abusive alcoholic in the family. Could you elaborate on whether it is the SAME or if not, what the difference might be?

    • Roland  May 1, 2017

      Indeed the please response is an adaptive response to a traumatic situation that often is continuous.

  21. JBO  January 15, 2018

    Wow, this is the first time I’ve seen a distinction between healthy empathy and fawning, which I discovered a couple years ago is my primary reaction to many situations. Just got out of a several year relationship based, I now realize, almost entirely on her silent but prevalent condescension and judgment and my getting repeatedly triggered, dissociating, and fawning in response. It seems wise now to just assume that if I feel “connected” to anyone or “attracted” to anyone, it’s more than likely just another fawning reaction to unconsciously recalled abuse dynamics. I became rather skilled at sensing other’s even unconscious pain and conflict and responding to it, to console, accommodate, support, etc. I thought I was being kind and caring. All I ever wanted was to love and be loved. But if all that is yet another coping mechanism, I have to wonder what chance I actually have for any sort of real and meaningful relationship.

  22. Jeremy  August 7, 2018

    So insightful…I was forced to ”monitor” and feel my mother’s state of mind as a 7 yr old boy onwards…and spent many years taking on responsibilities that aren’t mine. It was so unconscious though that it’s only recently through coming out of a relationship that mirrored this primal one that I’ve seen how damaged by this ‘please/fawn’ response I was. The early trauma was all I knew and was the ‘normal’ for me and hence it became enmeshed in my nervous system and sense of self.


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