Fight Trauma Reaction

Jul 07, 2024

Fight Response

“Easy access to the fight response insures good boundaries, healthy assertiveness and aggressive self-protectiveness if necessary.” Pete Walker

When in danger, sometimes fighting is a healthy response. It draws upon qualities such as assertiveness, courage and leadership.

However, like flight-freeze-please, getting stuck in the fight reaction due to early and/or ongoing trauma, causes many problems. While for some people accessing the strengths of their ‘fight’ can be liberating, for others it is destructive; they can be living their whole lives from that defensive stance.

Like a cornered animal, in fight we are the most aggressive, but beneath it all, the most weak and scared of all the types. "Empty vessels make the most noise"; those people stuck in the most vulnerable sense of self will fight the most defensively.

When stuck in ‘fight’ defence, we tend to be:

  • Controlling, demanding
  • Explosive, aggressive
  • Bullying, A-type
  • Entitled, autocratic
  • Struggle with impulse control, conduct disorder
  • Narcissistic, egocentric
  • Lacking empathy, sociopathic

Ways Forward

People chronically stuck in ‘fight’ tend to find therapy the most challenging (while pleasers are the most likely candidates for inner work). If someone automatically goes for the sledgehammer when threatened, they will find it very difficult to handle the triggering that occurs in the healing space. The blunt instruments of aggressive control, projective blame, lack of self-awareness obscure the self-reflection necessary for change.

Everyone has the qualities of ‘fight’ within them, however buried they might be. For most of the people who find their way to deep psychotherapy, we welcome the anger and selfishness as corrective antidotes to crippling shame, fear and appeasing others.

But some people seem to emerge from childhood stuck in this survival mode, unable to attune properly to their own emotions and needs, or those of anyone else. Their safety in the world depends on making others bow to their will; reflection and self-awareness become very difficult to achieve, and hard-sought (by the therapist!) insights do not seem to last.

Their learning and growth requires more therapy, more conscientious effort, more application than for other types. The paradox is that people who most need the strength and courage for their reflective inner work, are using it all in outward defence behaviours.

Unfortunately, those who most need therapy don’t tend to seek it out.

However, “with God, all things are possible”, so change can happen for the ‘fight’ type. I encourage deep, repeated hypnotherapy to calm the very young, stressed child inside and bring protective support to that level of the subconscious.

I also urge genuine spiritual practice, as a Higher Power is needed here more than ever.

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