Palesa Mashinini

Palesa Mashinini

About the Author: I am an advocate for personal safety, and I am passionate about all things personal development.

Flight, Freeze, Fight, Fawn: Understanding Your Natural Response to Danger in Self-Defense Situations

As womxn and young girls in South Africa, we often find ourselves feeling vulnerable or threatened in self-defence situations. It’s natural to experience these emotions when faced with potential danger. However, with the right knowledge and tools, we can empower ourselves and increase our chances of staying safe. In this blog post, we will delve into the flight, freeze, fight, and fawn responses, and explore how understanding them and trusting our intuition are crucial in self-defense. Additionally, we’ll provide practical tips that are relatable and compassionate, helping you navigate and respond effectively in self-defense situations.

Understanding the Flight, Freeze, Fight, Fawn Response

The flight, freeze, fight, fawn response is a natural reaction to danger or threat. Here’s a breakdown of each response:

Flight Response

The flight response is when our instinct tells us to run away from danger. This response can be useful in situations where escape is possible. Imagine finding yourself walking alone at night and suddenly noticing a group of strangers following closely behind you. Your instinctive response might be to quickly change your route, increase your pace, or seek a well-lit and populated area where you feel safer. If you find yourself in a situation where the flight response is appropriate, it’s essential to listen to your instincts in self-defense and get away from the danger as quickly as possible.

Freeze Response

The freeze response is when our body instinctively “freezes” in the face of danger. For instance, picture yourself walking in a quiet park when you suddenly come across a suspicious-looking person blocking your path. In that moment, you might feel your body tense up, and you find yourself rooted to the spot, hoping to go unnoticed or buying time to assess the situation and determine the best course of action. Such moments can be overwhelming – it is extremely important to recognize when it is time to move and take action to get to safety.

Fight Response

The fight response is when our instinct tells us to fight back against the danger. Consider a scenario where you encounter someone attempting to physically harm you. In this situation, your instinctive response might be to fight back fiercely, using any means necessary to protect yourself, such as striking vulnerable areas or creating a distraction to escape.

Fawn Response

The fawn response is a relatively new addition to the flight, freeze, fight, or flight response and is not as commonly known. It is a response to trauma, where we try to appease or please the person or situation that is causing us harm. However, the fawn response can leave us vulnerable to further harm and abuse. It is crucial to recognize this response if it occurs and seek professional help or guidance from a licensed therapist to ensure our well-being and safety.

Knowing the different responses can help you understand how you may react in a self-defense situation. However, it’s important to note that not all responses are appropriate for every situation. It’s crucial to assess the level of danger and respond accordingly.

Trusting Your Intuition in Self-Defense

Trusting your intuition is another important aspect of self-defense. Your intuition can provide warning signs that may indicate danger. Here are some signs that your intuition may be warning you:

  1. Feeling uneasy or uncomfortable in a situation.
  2. Noticing subtle changes in a person’s behaviour, such as increased aggression or tension.
  3. Sensing that someone is watching or following you.
  4. Feeling a sudden sense of danger or fear.
  5. Having a “bad feeling” about a person or situation.

Trusting your intuition requires practice and awareness. Staying present at the moment, listening to your body, and practising mindfulness can all help you trust your instincts in a self-defense situation.

Combining Flight, Freeze, Fight, Fawn with Trusting Your Intuition

Combining the knowledge of the flight, freeze, fight, fawn response with trusting your intuition can help you respond effectively in a self-defense situation. Here are some tips for using your intuition and response strategies in self-defense:

  1. Assess the situation: Determine the level of danger and potential threats. Click here to read more about situational alertness and how to scan your environment. 
  2. Trust your intuition: Pay attention to warning signs and take action to protect yourself.
  3. Choose the response strategy that suits the situation best: Flight may be suitable in certain scenarios, while fight might be necessary in others. This aligns with the previous point – if you sense something is off, prioritize your safety by seeking a place of safety as quickly as possible. You can enhance your safety measures by using our self-defense alarm keychain, which acts as an additional deterrent to potential attackers and immediately alerts those around you. For more information on our self-defense alarm keychain, click here.
  4. Maintaining a sense of calm and focus is crucial. It’s understandable that panic can hinder our ability to respond effectively in a self-defense situation. Remember, it’s important not to be too hard on yourself. Simply do your best in the given circumstances, and know that you are taking steps to protect yourself.
  5. It’s important to prioritize your well-being and seek the support you need. If you have experienced trauma or find yourself in need of additional support, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. Seeking help is a courageous step towards healing and empowerment. Remember, it’s okay to ask for advice and guidance when navigating difficult situations.

5 Practical Ways to Train and Trust Your Intuition

Your intuition is a powerful tool that can help you make better decisions and navigate life’s challenges. Here are some ways you can train your intuition:

  1. Personal Safety Workbook: Using our workbook and answering the questions can help you strengthen your awareness and overall view of safety and who you are. Click here for more information
  2. Tune into your body: Pay close attention to physical signs, such as tightness in your chest, butterflies in your stomach, or a racing heart. All these feelings can be a sign that your intuition is trying to warn you.  
  3. Keep a journal: Write your feelings and your thoughts down throughout the day, especially when you have a strong gut feeling about something. Over time, you might be able to recognize patterns, especially when your intuition is trying to tell you something.
  4. Practice mindfulness: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and other mindful techniques can help you tune out distractions and focus on your inner voice. This can help you become more in tune with yourself and your intuition, helping you better understand signals.
  5. Take small risks: Start by trusting your intuition in small ways, such as taking a different route home, trying a new activity, or setting new boundaries. Through this, you may be more willing to trust your intuition in bigger decisions, as you build confidence.

In Conclusion

Understanding the flight, freeze, fight, fawn response, and trusting your intuition are vital aspects of self-defense. Remember to stay calm, assess each situation, and trust your instincts. If you’re looking for a practical exercise to deepen your understanding of safety and empower yourself, we highly recommend utilizing our Personal Safety Workbook. It can help you gain valuable insights into what safety means to you and enhance your overall awareness.


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