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Fawning: The Trauma Response No One is Talking About.


People pleasing.

A trauma response of the body.

A nervous system aspect of the freeze response is characterized by niceness, politeness, cuteness, laughter, and appeasing to create enough spaciousness + protection to survive.

Often, when clients tell me about times that they were in distress, conflict, violated, coerced, or under very uncomfortable social pressure, they express a deep sense of shame in their reactions to the situation. “It was my fault; I probably gave mixed signals.”

“When I told them it bothered me, I rationalized their behavior, but I still didn’t feel good at the end of the clearing conversation.”

“I just went along with it, even though I didn’t to.” “I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I didn’t speak up.”

“I said no, but I was also just being playful, so I get that’s confusing.”

“I didn’t want to upset them or be too difficult.”

Have you ever been in a situation where later you wished you had said something else, playing the image out over + over again with yourself being strong + assertive?

We hold shame around our behaviors of fawning because the inside parts of ourselves feel unsafe: Why didn’t I stand up for myself?

Cultural pressures perpetuate this.

Especially for women: be playful, friendly, polite, a team player, put up with discomfort, be “spiritual + loving,” be easy, and don’t embarrass someone.

We convince ourselves that WE can preserve the relationship by being super agreeable + flexible, softening our conflict, approving, and taking ownership of the situation.

We convince ourselves that WE led someone on.

We convince ourselves that WE can go back + correct the experience by being more sociable.

We convince ourselves that WE are confused by the situation, that the bad thing didn’t happen to us—that happens to other people.

It’s time we re-narrate what’s going on for us so we don’t fall into shame.

Fawning is a very clever, automatic response of the nervous system designed to help us survive.


We must do the work to find compassion + understanding as to why we do this.

We are cultivating the skills to strengthen our nervous and sympathetic systems to access assertive + even aggressive responses when needed.

When we do this, it contributes to building an intrinsic sense of safety.

We develop the reference points that we can protect ourselves through fighting when we need to.

This is what we do in my work as a ketamine-assisted therapist specializing in trauma, relationships, + sexual trauma.

Ketamine increases the window of what we can tolerate, which helps clients to be able to reprocess painful memories that are at the root of the patterns of protection.

When we’ve struggled with understanding how to free ourselves from these patterns + pains that affect our ability to be authentic in our relationships, it’s time to do something different.

Contact me for more information about working one-on-one with ketamine-assisted therapy or one of my upcoming couples ketamine or women-only ketamine retreats.


Dr. Cat Meyer, PsyD, LMFT, is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in sex, trauma, and psychedelics in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. She is also a ceremonialist, author, teacher of yoga, and international speaker dedicated to evolving the relationship surrounding sexuality and our bodies. Through her company, SexLoveYoga, she leads online workshops, sensual retreats, + ketamine-assisted retreats for couples. She is also the host of Sex Love Psychedelics podcast.

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