So you're in the kitchen with a significant other and they're talking about something and they're being really irritating. They're saying stuff that's really triggering you and there's this heat in your belly and you’re holding on to it, you're holding on to it and then it starts to build up inside, building up, you’re keeping quiet but these thoughts are racing through your head and it’s building towards the point of no return… what happens next?!?!?
Either… verbally blast them with how you feel, and maybe you say something cutting, disembowel them with a blade. Or you shut down inside and run away, and you go into the next room and you try and process what’s happening. If you are the first person who just lets it out, this video is about you, the ones with a strong fight response.
Enjoy this week's video episode, or continue reading the blog below!
Now to contextualise, we’re talking about the Fight response as part of the ‘four Fs’ of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn. A shout out to Peter Walker whose work on PTSD is extraordinary. I’ve linked him below.
So are you one of the people who blurts out their feelings, fights & gets it all out? Or do you know people like that? Let me know in the comments below! And if you want to, hit that subscribe button down below too.
In this video we will investigate the defense pattern that is dominated by a fight response – how their voice operates, how it gets shut down and what to do about developing a healthier response.
So why me, who am I to talk about this? I'm inspired to do the work at the messy meeting point of voices and trauma, and focus on liberating shut down voices, to help them become clear and empowered. It’s part of my mission here on planet earth after I was teleported down from the mothership a few weeks ago. And within the heart of this, I feel that clear, powerful, heart-centered voices are going to help turn around the way that we live on this planet. Shut down voices create passivity and disconnection. And as the eminently quotable Albert Einstein once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”.
So firstly, I just want to say that expressing healthy anger is an essential part of being a healthy human being. So, the healthy fight response has good boundaries, assertiveness in relationships, life and work. It can have aggressive self-protection where necessary, and this is essential. And, some of the highest points are courage, leadership and a force of character, or Verve or a fire that can be an extraordinary contributor to living a great life. So healthy anger and solid boundaries are essential to our wellbeing.
But trauma leads us to overuse one of the four F's of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn. And the opposite of a fight type can be found in the other 3, for example a flight / freeze type might be a “too little” voice that struggles to express how it feels, and can leave a person feeling stuck inside themselves. These voices may have little or no boundaries, which can lead to unexpressed resentment, and at worst lead to a struggle to feel safe in relationships at all, auto-immune diseases and so on… More about that later.
When out of balance, when vocalised too much, a fight-oriented voice type can be highly destructive or even abusive. They will often explode when they get triggered, and the anger will come out as a very forceful blasting or cutting or whatever form of blade or weapon that they use.
One of the things that’s sometimes useful is to answer the question… if you have a type of favourite weapon to use, what will it be? Are you cudgeling others over their head, or metaphorically slapping them through the face? Is it kind of like a kind of a disembowelment, cutting through the belly or is it a stab in the back? What is your kind of poison?
Used like this, a voice can be an intimacy-destroying defense, where you might blast the ones you love and potentially hurt them. So, some of the worst negatives of the fight response can be linked to the psychological personality disorder of narcissism, which will be covered in more detail in the next episode. Narcissism can be related to selfishness and a lack of empathy, but it can also be related to very controlling characteristics, including bullying, explosiveness, and a sense of entitlement to other people. Sometimes they can be described as ‘type A’ personalities that demand perfection from the people around them. At its worst a narcissistic fight type can also be abusive, sociopathic and exhibit a human conduct disorder… basically highly destructive, anti-social behavior.
All the four Fs express as attachment disorders. So what that means is that it results in a dysregulation in our ability to be attached to and connected with other human beings. It's often seated within an ambivalence about being in relationships. “I want intimacy and love but I’m terrified of it”. And just to be clear, many of us exhibit signs of having more than one of the four Fs as our defense pattern.
So one of the ways that fight types avoid real intimacy and avoid the fear of abandonment, is by pushing people away. Losing friends and loved ones with angry outbursts, or through controlling demands for perfect behavior.
The fight type may demand unachievable standards of unconditional love and approval, and set unachievably high standards of their partner's behaviour toward them.
So the only way that you can pacify or please them, is by maintaining a standard of behavior and presence in the relationship that is impossible to meet and sustain… and essentially, at the bottom of it all is a demand for their unmet childhood needs to be fulfilled.
So, the fight type may also be accompanied by an unconscious delusion of their own perfection. They may genuinely feel that they're somewhat perfect, and this may allow them to blame relationship problems (or even their own problems) on their partners, children or friends.
So with regards to this attachment style, the distortion is to then CONTROL to CONNECT. So, in other words, for me to feel safe in connection with you, I need to control you. And if you go out of line, I will rage at you in order to get you back in control and in alignment. So there's an unconscious thought or a belief at the bottom of it all that in order to get your needs met and to not be abandoned, in order to be safe and to be loved, you have an unconscious belief that you need to use control and power to ensure your needs are met. So when you feel abandoned or unsafe, you will often respond with anger and maybe even contempt. It might be boldly angry or a sniping, disgusted response to the other, belittling and shaming them.
An additional nuance in this form of fight response, which adds in an element of what is called ‘entitlement’. Here, you may have a superpower of pinning others down in conversation. So this type of trauma response will engage in long monologues, leaving few or no gaps for the other to grab a moment to speak. And you might unconsciously seek out freeze and fawn types to speak at, to satisfy this need. More about this aspect of the pattern next week.
As with all of the four F patterns of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn, there’s personal work to be done to heal and work through these patterns. All four 4s at worst can create really destructive behaviour. And we're working this all out together, ideally we’re all walking each other home. One of the great challenges of our human lives is learning to communicate in a healthy way. Learning to speak together about our grievances and upsets is hard. Learning to be clear, honest and kind may be the work of a lifetime.
Next week we’ll continue investigating the Fight type, looking at how narcissism interfaces with it, and finish with both the positive aspects of Fight, and with treatment and recovery for this defence style.