One of the most difficult things for children of trauma to manage, in their adult lives, is relationships. As we struggle within our relationships, it reaffirms our beliefs about ourselves. You don’t like being controlled because when you were a child you had an overly strict parent. As an adult, you put yourself in a position where someone is assertive, combined with you giving up your choices by being the “nice person” and you create a recurring situation where you have a perceived/real lack of control. There are so many ways in which we manifest the struggles we had as children in our adult relationships.
That’s not the only way our relationships are harmed. We routinely find ourselves in relationships that mirror our parents or the primary relationship we watched growing up. This left many of us with unhealthy reactions, such as, yelling, crying, shutting down, avoiding, etc. Some of us found so much solace in television, that our real lives and fantasy intermingled. We connect and disconnect from reality. We make perceptions that are distorted by our pasts, our memories, our current emotional state and we challenge the belief of this against someone else, who more often than not, has trauma. Why? We often partner with other victims/perpetrators. Sometimes, there is a clear cut definition of who, in the relationship, is the perpetrator and who is the victim; but, most relationships exist on a scale. At a different time, either partner can be more aggressive than the other, display toxic coping patterns that can be abusive in nature or take control in some way. This change typically occurs as one grows and evolves and heals. So, if one partner heals a portion of their trauma, while the other one has not, there can be a change in roles. The victim can become more assertive and take some control alway from the ”stronger” partner. Or, you could have a person who is in control of every aspect of their life, but their spouse maintains financial control.
We gather many issues from our traumatic experiences that manifest in our relationships, from not respecting boundaries to lying and manipulating to other forms of abuse. Often, recognition of your behaviours is enough to lead to change. We get tired of people entering and exiting our lives. We get tired of hurting and being hurt. So, we change, we heal, we recover. But, the one relationship that I’ve seen, that takes the most time and effort because we neglect it the most, is the relationship with ourselves.
How bitter and hurtful are you towards other people? Some will read that question and have an answer. They recognize their flaws and are honest in owning up to them. For others, they don’t recognize it because they treat themselves even worse, constantly going against their personal desires, hopes and dreams. They are the individuals who see themselves as martyrs and often, the people-pleasers, nice guys and good girls, fall in this category. Others don’t recognize it because they operate from a stance that the person deserves it in some way, so the flaw is not with them, it’s with the other person.
It starts so slowly. You are a child, full of joy and curiosity and creativity. You sing and dance and love life. Someone, often someone not meaning any harm, says something in jest and your feelings are hurt. Sometimes, people are hurt and they hurt people unintentionally / intentionally, saying you shouldn’t or couldn’t. You listen and think they are right. You stop playing full out. You stop singing and dancing and enjoying your life. You start to walk like you think you’re supposed to, talk how you’re supposed to, like certain things and don’t like other things. Eventually, you’ve become this person who you don’t even know. If you look around, a lot of adults are living that way. Living the life they think they should or the life they think they can because they were told they can’t do anything or they can only do a specific thing.
The teenager who gets told they are never going to amount to anything, who listens and never even tries to achieve anything. The person who listens to the guidance counsellor tell them they were destined to dig ditches. So many times we listen. We listen to people who are too afraid to live big, tell us to live small. We hide our voices, we lower our tone, we stop standing up for ourselves, we accept our lot in life and stay in a state of deception. That constant lie that you tell your spirit, turns to depression and anxiety. And we suffer, until we can tolerate it no more. The hope is that the inability to tolerate it any more, results in change for the better and healing/recovery from trauma.
When pain is overwhelming or hope is lost, the end can be a much darker choice. I hope you know, no matter who you are or where you are, if you are ever that lost, I am here. We are so hurt because we have spent so much time trying to become the person we think people will love or admire. We chase a goal that society says is necessary. In the end, we are miserable and living a lie. The way to break the chain, is to start honouring and validating yourself. Hold space to nurture your spirit and enforce boundaries. Understanding how you behave in a relationship and how you react when you are threatened or triggered is a huge step in evolving in the health of your relationships. Taking time to listen to your heart and your dreams. Exploring who you are through meditation, journalling, reflection and expressions of creativity are ways to unearth who you really are. Peel back the layers of garbage and lies that other people have piled on you and stand proud as who you are.
When we actually honour our true selves, we find our true family and friends. People who see us, value us and don’t ask us to change or be smaller than we are. They support us and uplift us. They want to see us reach our goals and dreams. They don’t put parachutes on us while we’re on the ground and try to ride around on it. When we accept ourselves and respect our values we don’t tolerate people who are fake or cruel. We shine brightly and attract others who genuinely care. Authenticity is a magnet for authenticity. Love yourself, you live your entire life together. Follow your bliss and lead with love.