For many years we have talked about the 4 F’s when it comes to responses that may happen when a situation involving real or perceived danger occurs. The four current F’s are: Flight, Fight, Freeze, and Fawn. Physiologist Walter Cannon laid the foundation for this conversation in the 1920s. Later researchers such as Peter Levine and Bessel van der Kolk continued to discuss and expand upon the 4 F’s.

I would like to introduce the concept of the 5th F in humans. Fix. Throughout my years as trauma-informed therapist and professor, there have been multiple examples in which a person exhibits the 5th F response and does not completely fit into the category of the first 4.

For example:

  • Fight – Argue or pick fights. Bully others or disrespect property.
  • Flight – Runs aways or wants to run away from the situation at hand – Kids may ask for hall pass to go to the bathroom, the counselor, or the nurse or adults may leave work early or not show up the next day.
  • Freeze – These people go inward. They may stay silent and hope the danger passes soon.
  • Fawn – These people may take the blame and state that things are their fault. They may mirror the behavior of others to avoid punishment.           

But then there is Fix. It can look like Fawn. But, I truly feel it is different. It is a rescuer mode. It is an active organizer mode. When we Fawn, we try to agree to create harmony. We may be seeking the approval of others to reduce or avoid the conflict. It can come from a place of submission. When we Fix, we are in problem-solving mode. There is a calm take control attitude that helps transcend the situation at hand. It is a proactive stance.

  • Fix* – So let’s try this and offers up a solution. The person is the helper, the rescuer. (*© Robin Raniero Norris)

Some examples of a person going into Fix mode could be:

  1. After the death of a loved one,  the person may to go out of their way to gather all the plans and prep the food for others.
  2. If the power goes out in an office building, they may be the person telling others to remain calm and usher them towards the the stairway by sound and touch.
  3. If a class day after day becomes loud a child may tell the others around them to be quiet the teacher is trying to talk.

Are you someone who finds yourself being a person whose “Fix” mode gets activated when something traumatic occurs?

Please feel free to reach out to me to share your examples –