Some adoptive parents mistake their adopted child’s compliance with the situation as a good outcome adjustment. What I have learned from adoptees that there is an even more intense reaction that is called fawning. Think of the kidnap victim that eventually identifies with their captors – like Patty Hearst did.
Every adoptee is an individual and each responds differently to the circumstances of their relinquishment and their placement in a new home.
Fawning is best understood as “people-pleasing.” Both of my parents were adoptees and I saw this kind of behavior in my mom and learned it from her. This kind of behavior can endear one to other people but it is not always healthy to be this way.
People with the fawn response are so accommodating of other people’s needs that they often find themselves in codependent relationships. Fortunately, when that has happened to me, I’ve found a way out – even if it took some time to get there.
Fawn types seek safety by merging with the wishes, needs and demands of others. They act as if they unconsciously believe that the price of admission to any relationship is the forfeiture of all their needs, rights, preferences and boundaries. It takes some maturity to take one’s power back.
Sadly, fawn types are more vulnerable to emotional abuse and exploitation. Abusers may suppress a survivor’s fight or flight responses by threatening punishment. The appease response, also known as ‘please’ or ‘fawn’, is a survival response which occurs [when] survivors read danger signals and aim to comply and minimize the confrontation in an attempt to protect themselves. I’ve been there, done that and I’ve seen my mom do likewise.
If you are an adoption survivor (adoption is definitely a form of trauma to a child), you are not alone in using this for safety. There is no shame in struggling with fawning. Fawning, like the other stress responses, is a self-protective armor. It has helped many adoption survivors live through being placed in a family that does not fit their nature naturally.