The Dissonance of Relationship

The Dissonance of Relationship

There is nothing more complicated after a childhood of complex trauma than navigating relationships.  Why?  Complex trauma is relational.  We don’t have complex trauma without the failure of the primary relationships in our lives.  And while the dissociation we use to stay alive is miraculous and amazing, it is also the nemesis of our adulthood.  We can’t get our relationships to work because we only know extremes.  Our inner parts which are created by dissociation are the source of our “all or nothing” thinking.  And they make sure our relationships won’t be balanced … until we heal. I have repeatedly heard from survivors of complex trauma that relationships are their most significant difficulty in life.  They feel like they are swinging on a pendulum where they either chase people around or they lock the entire world out of their house.  This way of relating is exhausting.  It is also completely unfulfilling.  We can’t live our lives chasing love that isn’t available and/or running from anyone who shows interest or might really love us.  And I am not just talking about intimate relationships here.  These patterns exist in almost all relationships. So what is it that is really happening here?  Our inner parts are battling.  Why?  They have different goals/needs and they will do anything to get them met.  To resolve this battle, we must take steps to resolve the trauma that is driving the behavior.  But that is as complex as the trauma itself.  So I wrote some steps you can take to begin unraveling the relationship dysfunction running your life. Understand who is coming to the table. Your...
See Me!

See Me!

I have been introduced to my second superior part over the past week.  Unlike my superior defender, this part is a rebel who wants to do her own thing.  At first, I found it a bit amusing to listen to her talk about how much better she is than everyone else.  But in this work, no feeling stays for long (especially the good ones).  This part is struggling.  She is struggling with so much futility.  She is struggling to find her way in a world that doesn’t acknowledge her.  She went through horrific neglect and abuse.  She was a child with great ideas who was never heard.  She wanted to be different, but knew the visibility was too dangerous.  And unfortunately, that is only part of her story. She grew up to be a woman in a “man’s career” and the pattern continued.  She was the one with soft skills who was given all the tasks nobody else wanted.  She was the one without the highly technical knowledge who had to prove herself by working harder and longer than the others.  She handled all the stuff they hated.  She struggled to be seen for the skills she really brought to the table.  She was just the token woman in technology who could make them look a bit better, a bit less misogynistic. And then, she became a survivor in an activist movement.  Let’s face it, almost everyone in activism is a survivor.  But she was an “outed” survivor.  And with that comes baggage.  It is not a decision to be made lightly.  Survivors are not given the same clout...
5 Strategies of Abusive Families with Adult Children

5 Strategies of Abusive Families with Adult Children

My recovery work has taught me that the original traumatic experiences are about 5% of the total problem.  Almost all children experience traumatic events, but if they have supportive parents, they can come to understand what they experienced and recover from it in healthy ways.  When the trauma is coming from our parents (or those who are closely tied to family), the trauma is horrible, but it is the manipulation and gaslighting which make recovery seem impossible.  The games played by enablers become impossible to reconcile.  And this doesn’t end when we become adults.  As a matter of a fact, the older we get, the more important it becomes for our family to keep us confused about our reality.  Lately, I have been thinking about how our families “up the ante” when we become independent adults.  And I came up with five examples to illustrate it for you. They deny the abuse.  That doesn’t sound surprising at all.  It may be so obvious that you are wondering why I wrote it.  But when we become adults, the denial shifts.  Don’t get me wrong, they still deny the trauma and call us crazy, but the denial develops nuances.  For example, they may add some more adult terms into the gaslighting.  They may start bringing up defamation of character or libel cases.  They may make sure you know about “false memory syndrome”.  They may point you to psychological and legal cases that support their denial tactics.  They will claim you have disorders you don’t have or blame it on traumas that occurred in your adulthood (which were usually a direct reflection...
The War Within

The War Within

One of the most frustrating aspects of trauma recovery is the constant feeling we are torn in multiple directions.  It renders decision-making almost impossible.  And it feels like we are crazy.  As a matter of a fact, many people believe that holding two opposing opinions simultaneously is not possible or is the basis for a psychological disorder.  Cognitive dissonance is often touted as a problem that needs to be solved.  But let me tell you a secret.  Everyone struggles with it. When I first discovered my own inner parts, it was amazing to me how many things suddenly made sense.  I could explain the unexplainable things in my life through the existence of inner parts.  As time went on, I discovered that my own inner parts had taken over at times (often referred to as switching).  This is also known as dissociative identity disorder (D.I.D.).  In my case, I had stopped switching by the time I discovered it.  But the presence of such a strong inner parts system has led me to deep understanding of my inner landscape.  So for that, I am grateful. But the presence of inner parts is not restricted to those with D.I.D. and severe complex trauma.  Everyone has parts.  The separation of parts of self is a natural response for children growing up in a traumatic world.  Everyone has had a traumatic response in childhood.  It is a given.  And these inner parts are responsible for the dissonance that lives within us.  It is there whether we see it or not. You may be wondering what it looks like, so I will give some...