I’m like a broken record a lot of times with my clients. I have certain things I tell them again and again and again. Not because they are stupid, but because we often need to hear a sentiment again and again and yet again before the truth of it really sinks into our bones.
A phrase I repeat several times a day is “We don’t heal in a vacuum”
What I mean is that trauma gets created in relationships and can only be healed in (safe) relationships. We can’t recover ourselves without other people holding up a loving mirror to us and helping us have a different experience of who we are. It’s simply not possible.
The sad fact is that when we have wounding in our space, we will attract and be attracted to people who will only reflect our brokenness to us. So, instead of healing, we get confirmation of how inadequate we are. Here’s why:
Childhood trauma creates numbness of feelings.
It teaches us that violent, abusive, degrading, shaming, dismissive, manipulative, enmeshing behavior is what love looks, feels and tastes like.
It impairs our ability to trust that our perceptions of situations and our feelings about them are accurate or valid.
It causes us to spilt off from our internal world and rely more on what other people believe about us than what we believe about ourselves.
This can be a set up for such painful relationships as an adult.
We may not even know that we are being abused or mistreated because the notion of being used, discarded and devalued is so familiar and comfortable.
Or we may sense that something is not right, but don’t know we deserve better or different.
Trauma survivors have an incredibly high tolerance for emotional pain, often staying in unfulfilling to downright dangerous relationships because they feel like home.
As daunting as this sounds, there is hope. The work around for this is to start engaging with people who will treat you with kindness, decency and respect. Who will allow you the freedom to make your own choices because they trust you know what is right for you. Who will help identify your strength and resilience, not point out your deficits and shortcomings.
For many. they don’t have anyone in their life who fits that bill. If you are one of them, a therapist’s office is a good place to start. It provides an opportunity to develop trust and healthy connection with another human is a safe space. Quite possibly for the first time ever.
And even the tiniest thread of this is enough for the healing to begin. It’s enough for you to begin to repair and restore the relationship with and to yourself.
Truly. The smallest sliver of of loving and compassionate reflection is enough.
And so are you.