Relationships With Trauma Survivors

For the longest time, we have looked for things in others, we were locking from our childhood.  This was not a conscious search, but like many of us, we were “looking for love in all the wrong places! ” I know, but Johnny Lee could not have said it better, if he himself were a trauma survivor.  For our system at least, we were trying to fill holes we did not even know were there.

Moving through life, most people, neurotypical or not, will tend to gravitate to a specific pattern in their relationship styles.  This is somethings hat is quite normal, we all have a  type.  For many, they will seek out a certain kind of person, for whatever reason.  Fo many years science, and astronomy have tried to decipher exactly what it is the can make two people compatible.  There is such a thing.  However for us, we have now realized, we were not seeking compatibility; we have been seeking safety from abandonment.  Who using this pattern to generate relationships, catastrophe is always imminent.

The survivor, who begins their lief in fear, and continues with the same fear responses, even when the danger has subsided, seeks to always have the safety for which they never felt.  That paternal bind that comes form protection, caring, and safe haven.  For us, this is an even more significant form of abuse that most physical abuse.  The child who is always threatened or worse, discarded but hitter own family, feels an all new low.  This is something we cannot express in words here.  Something we can only describe as the basis for many suicide attempts.  The bond between parent and child is supposed to be strong.  The strongest of all, even greater than that of a spouse.  When this bond os repeatedly broken, the damage is traumatic and lifelong.

As the child grows, they are always looking for that bond.  This results in a countless array of failed relationships.  The survivor begins at an early age to learn how only worth is not in who they are, but what they can do for another.  The inherent value of the childs’ humanity is reduced to an almost monetary factor.  The child learns to believe that their value now comes from service, not self.  They have no value to another, and cannot be loved, if they do not place their needs last above anyone they choose to care for.  They will throw themselves mercilessly into the fire, for the hope of closeness and intimacy.

This manifests most in late adolescence and adulthood, when interpersonal relationships become central to life.  Almost all things we do as adults, center around our relationships.  From school, career, love and family, our relationships can either enhance or define who we are.  For the person who has no sense of self, they will seek to define self through the service of others.  This is done believing, as with their caregivers, if the serve enough, sacrifice enough, they will be loved.  They will not be abandoned.  They have worth and purpose.  This could not be further from the truth.

The survivor will get lost in the identity of others, due to a lock of their own.  They will repress their own needs and desires, as expressing them poses a great fear of abandonment.  Abandonment being one of the grates fears any individual has, compounded exponentially for the survivor.  Many times the survivor will seek to save, or rescue, those the come into contact with; believing their service will be rewarded with happiness.  This is no fault with either party in this respect.  Each person involved is doing what is instinctively driven; survival.  Survival will change the very core of your being, even your moral fiber, changing you without ever noticing what happened.

When a survivor latches onto another, the other is usually carrying some baggage of their own.  This is like sugar to the bee.  The diminished self worth of the survivor, makes them believe the target is attainable.  After all, a well adjusted person, with no visible wounds could never be attracted to, or even more, committed to someone like us.  Even though everyone has issues in there life, the trauma survivor, out of a desire to avoid abandonments and rejection, will never reject etc injured bird.  They see a need they can fulfill in hopes of being needed.  If we are needed, we can be of service.  To be wanted without another gain, is foreign to us.  Hence we continually fill our lives with second hand disappointments, and self imposed, reactionary isolation.

Loving a trauma survivor can be intoxicating.  We have been taught form very young to serve, make others happy, and to welcome guilt like an eskimo for a cup of hot tea.  We are vulnerable, sensitive, and sweet.  We never complain, unless passive aggressively, and we always take the blame.  There are many psychiatric term to describe traumatized children, that grow older.  Borderline, Narcissist, antisocial, are just some of the personality disorders that are out there.  Let us not forget the dissociative disorders, depressive disorders, anxiety, and the list goes on.  If you read through the returns on a google search, you will fins that the worse the trauma, the more attractive we seem to be.  You do not think our abusers wanted a slave that would that could think of themselves do you?  We specialize in becoming whatever people want us to be, for a time.  However, the trauma survivor can rarely keep up the charade forever.  The ever growing fear and dread of becoming insignificant and unwanted will eventually overcome, and manifest in the ugliest of ways.

I will refuse here, to delve into the various diagnosis that we are labeled with, and their specific traits.  Most are overlapping and just as debilitating to the other.  Most all in a relationship with survivors, especially those that are untreated end the same, down in flames.  Very large, biblical, horror movie flames.  We become exactly what we were always taught to be.  We throw ourselves under the bus.  We know we are the cause for all the issues in our relationships.  We beg, plead, humiliate ourselves, even surrender all of our dignity to avoid abandonment.  We willingly accept the role of scapegoat.  We happily take on any punishment that is served up.  We even will punish ourselves, in the need to feel the pain that we have somehow been the cause of.  We sacrifice ll to have almost nothing to most.  To be wanted, unconditionally.  To feel loved, if only for a short time.  When these tactics serve to fail, our self-loathing increases exponentially, till finally at least we reach the point of suicide.

In this moment, where others see us as feeble, pathetic, and attention seeking, we are unable to fight any longer.  We are unable to fight for the right to carry your guilt and shame.  We can no loner carry your baggage, and tote your own self-loathing.  We must truly be worthless.  We cannot even self sacrifice, for all our our efforts, correctly.  We have given up on being loved, and now find ourselves hopeless to even being needed.  Ever wonder why adults bused as children are needy?; It is the only thing they know.  To never have your basic needs for safety, love, and need satisfied, is the recipe for what is now called personality disorders.  In fact, almost most if not all personality disorders are preventable, much like oilfield accidents.  Prevention.  What we do to our children, will radiate not only in their lives, but the lives of their children and grandchildren.

This is not to say relationships are impossible for those that have survived the complex trauma of which we speak here.  We have the same needs as any else; We are however looking at life through a different lens.  Our perceptions, as are others, based on the reality from which we spent our formative years.  In our case, this would be far different than that of a neurotypical.  This is not to say we are sick, or dangerous.  We are not evil or cruel.  In most cases we are the scared child, hiding in the closet, wondering if their hell will ever end, or of they will ever be granted the reprieve of death.  Death you see, i sth one thing we can all achieve, at any time.  This is in our control.  Death you see, is safe in many cases, compared to life.

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