6 thoughts on “The ‘Please’ Response to Threat: A Social Engagement System Survival Strategy

  1. Suzanne

    Interesting discussion. I’ve heard of the “tend and befriend” response which I think is synonymous with what you are describing in the social engagement system stress response. I wonder about the extent to which oxytocin (the “cuddle” hormone) affects our reactions and whether concepts like “trauma bonding” can be explained through this lens. The quote you shared highlighted something that I hadn’t considered, which is whether the placating is a more advanced, frontal lobe process of empathy, or a less nuanced conditioned series of responses most likely to defuse the situation.

    Reply
    1. Penny Heiple, Three Principles Healing Post author

      Yes, interesting thoughts! “Tend and befriend” is a social engagement system response, and I think the trauma bonding is also, and not necessarily healthy in the long term. Oxytocin is the hormone of the healthy mode of social engagement system but interesting thoughts about how it could be involved in nuanced ways. Thanks for your comments!

      Reply
  2. Shin Shin

    Thanks so much for writing about this topic – there is precious little information available! I’ve also been mulling this over for years. I think because the trauma theories are proposed mostly by men, brilliant though some of them are, they overlook the importance of the tend and befriend/please response.

    Reply
  3. Cheryl

    Just my thoughts. Wonder why no one explores which part of the brain is involved with social engagement and which part in the fawn response. Surely there must different processes involved. The fawn response is repressive while the social engagement is expressive. One is harmful to the other is beneficial to our minds and bodies. According to studies the cancer type of personality is a fawner.

    Reply
    1. Penny Heiple, Three Principles Healing Post author

      Interesting thoughts, Cheryl. I would stay that while the fawn response doesn’t generally work as well for us as adults, it did work well as children in to help us manage and get through the situation we were in at the time. And actually it can still work in some ways for us. I find it’s helpful to bring appreciation rather than animosity to our survival (threat) responses, as they are actually quite intelligent, even if they are no longer appropriate in the current context. If met with appreciation and curiosity, they can begin to let go.

      It’s a very interesting question about what parts of the brain are engaged when we are socially engaged vs. when we are in the “fawn” threat response. I’m curious too!

      Reply

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