If you’ve done any Trauma-Informed Practice training, or any reading about things like anxiety and behaviour management in children, you’re probably familiar with the “Fight, Freeze, Flee” model.
From AnxietyCanada.com: “F3 or the Fight-Flight-Freeze response is the body’s automatic, built-in system designed to protect us from threat or danger. For example, when you hear the words, “look out!” you may be surprised to find how fast you move, and thankfully so, as you narrowly miss a flying puck sailing through your kitchen window! Or when you see a bear on the trail up ahead, you stop and remain quiet and still until it moves on. In both scenarios your system demonstrates its effectiveness at protecting you from danger.”
While this model for behavioural response is accurate and useful for the “big” moments (bears and hockey pucks), we thought we’d expand on it to help you understand some of the subtler responses that you’re probably seeing a lot of in your day to day practice.
RAW Reactions are characterized the following way;
Resistance – pushing back against the circumstances, physically or verbally
Acquiescence – resigning to the circumstances (though not engaged or finding it meaningful)
Withdrawal – “disconnecting” from the circumstances, finding meaning in something else
Suddenly, we start to see RAW Reactions everywhere.
The employee on their phone or laptop during the staff meeting.
The teenager with their hoody over their head in the back of the classroom.
The child who digs their heels in when asked to clean up their room.
The kid who sighs, says “whatever”, and complies with the direction of the teacher.
The thing about RAW Reactions is that they’re regularly misinterpreted. We’ll use words like “disengaged” or “apathetic” or “ambivalent”. But what do we actually know about the teenager with the hoody in the back of the classroom, or the employee on their phone instead of engaging in the conversation? When we ask ourselves that question, more often than not we realize that we don’t know anything about the experience that the other person is having.
And if we truly believe that ALL behaviour makes sense and is purposeful, the question we should be asking ourselves is “why the RAW reaction?” and “how am I contributing to it?”