Protecting my children has been one of my most important goals over the past 11 years. I have made it clear to my family and all other abusers that my children are not available to them. I have eliminated all contact with abusers in our lives. This required me to give up the only family I had ever known, a financial safety net, and all assistance with raising my children. But I gave it up to protect my children and it was the best decision I ever made.
There are a few reasons for my dedication to their protection. First, I am their mother. Of course I will protect them. I know what you’re thinking though. Not all parents protect their children. And I get that. My blog would not exist if parents did the right thing all the time. But there is an instinct underneath that trauma-based drive for personal safety. It is buried, but it is there. It whispers to protect them.
Second, my higher self has been talking to me. She can be hard to hear over the loud trumpeters that are my traumatized inner parts. But she is there. And she says I have a purpose. I have a purpose to break the cycle, to start a new generation within my family with new perspectives and beliefs. I sense it in my bones. I always have (even though I may not have always known what I was sensing).
Third, I have some really pissed off parts who are protecting some very traumatized inner children. They project that protection to my outer children. They wrap all their warped methods of protection around my children by default. But some of these methods have needed adjusting to truly break the cycle. The hovering has mellowed substantially. I don’t do everything for my kids anymore. It has certainly been a journey to find balance. Despite those struggles, my parts mean well. And they aren’t backing down no matter what. read more…
I haven’t always liked myself very much. That is a side effect of growing up with horrible people who blamed their behavior on me. But I have always been openly proud of my independence. I have always seen my ability to function without help as a powerful strength. It didn’t matter what I had to do to get everything done on my own. It didn’t matter if I forgot to eat or slept for 3 hours a night all week long. It didn’t matter if I was practically dead from exhaustion. As long as I did it all myself, everything was great. I was succeeding in life.
When I started down the road of recovery, it became clear that my concept of success might have been tainted by my past. I started to realize that I might not have everything quite right. I realized that my life situation was going to make my previous independence less possible (although my controller was still willing to try). My recovered memories and shift out of “doormat” status sent my family, husband and “friends” running for the hills. They didn’t want to know a woman with boundaries. So suddenly, I was a single mother with no family and very few friends. I was on my own.
Let’s be fair. I was on my own when they were there. Why? Asking for help was not okay. To take it a step further, asking for help was dangerous. But as I recovered, I realized that it might be possible to have some people in my life who could be helpful, less critical, more supportive. I know what you are thinking. “That doesn’t exist.” I haven’t seen much of it either. But that might have to do with my expectations. I attracted what I expected. And when it came to others, my expectations weren’t high.
As I have made progress, I have taken small steps toward vulnerability and asking for help. Sometimes this was a necessity. Sometimes I was giving it a try. I wanted to know if it might work out for me, if support really was available for someone like me. But more importantly, I wanted to see if support might come without strings attached. Recently I had a setback. It has taught me that I still need to hone my discernment skills in this area. But it has also taught me that my parts have a lot to say about it. Here are some of the reasons that my parts want to do everything on their own (in their own words). read more…
I have been asked countless questions from trauma survivors about recovery. For those of us on this journey, we are seekers and we want answers. We do our research and we won’t stop until we understand. I want to help people in their quest to understand. Actually, it might be my primary mission. So I try to answer these questions. But there is one I don’t have an answer to. And it is a big one.
Why do some of us recover while others stay in denial?
I don’t have clarity about this answer. I know a lot about what drives people to recovery. I know one primary driver is pain. But why do some feel more pain about traumas while others continue to defend? That is a much harder question. And some drivers come from a spiritual or soul level. I can’t possibly understand or explain that fully. So the answer is not straight-forward. That doesn’t appeal to our controller parts who love the facts. But in working with my clients, I have found some universal qualities in survivors who seek answers. I thought I would share those with you.
We Seek Truth
I was talking with a client today and she brought up a very important point. She said her soul is driving her to live in truth. She can’t live the lie. And she can’t stand being around others who live it. One of her biggest triggers is being lied to. I could relate. I have always felt a deep connection to the truth. Living authentically has been the only way to live in my own mind. I can’t and won’t live a lie. There is something that won’t let me settle down when I am not in integrity. And for me, this is a critical component of the drive to heal. I can’t live in the story my controller has created for my convenience any longer. read more…
Through my work with other trauma survivors, I have been surprised to learn how many similarities our stories share. The external circumstances are often different. But the beliefs we gain, the emotions we carry and the abusive strategies used against us are similar. It is eerie how similar they are. This week, there has been one particular theme with my clients which illustrates those similarities. Many of us are struggling to get out from under the affects of a phrase used repeated in childhood.
“You should be grateful for all I have done for you.”
There seems to be a ridiculous notion in the belief systems of most abusive parents that their child should be grateful for their raising. The idea that a child has any understanding of their parent’s obligations in raising them is ridiculous. The child didn’t choose to be born (least of all to abusive parents). The child didn’t sit down at the table with the parents and say, “Let’s discuss how much this is going to cost and how exhausted you are going to feel.” The child has no idea they are a burden because they are not supposed to be one. The child is a child. They are here and they want to live life. They didn’t know they would start life in emotional and financial debt at the hands of their parents.
So why do abusive parents do this? I have some ideas.
It was done to them. A generation of parents doesn’t wake up one day and decide to do and say ridiculous things. We have been spewing nonsense about gratitude from children since humans created the spoken language. But that doesn’t mean we should accept this antiquated and abusive perspective. We have brains so we can ask questions.
If they exaggerate what they do for the child, they can fool themselves about how great they are. More than likely, our abusive parents were never appreciated for much of anything. This is one of the patterns that led to their addiction to power in the first place. They had to look for little scraps of love wherever they could find them. In many cases, they to get those scraps by making a big deal out of the things they do, looking for positive feedback in any way they could get it. This became an addiction and was projected on to their children. It becomes the child’s responsibility to feed their ego. read more…
Last week, I wrote about the horrible invalidation that comes with claims that dissociation is not real. But there is another belief about dissociation (and particularly Dissociative Identity Disorder) which leads to an underestimation of its prevalence. That belief is supported by movies and programs like Split (horrible) and United States of Tara (not as bad). That belief suggests Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.) manifests in extreme ways. Of course, most of us know what is wrong with Split. It portrays those with D.I.D. as criminals. But even with United States of Tara, there are extreme behavior changes when switches happen. Does that happen in reality? Absolutely. But it is important to understand D.I.D. and its purpose so we can fully understand how it works.
D.I.D. (and any form of dissociation) is not about attention seeking. It is about coping. It is meant to go undetected. Most of the parts are trying to fit in, to gain acceptance. They are trying to behave in a way that will keep others from questioning them. There are exceptions. The freedom fighters are less interested in fitting in. And the defenders will do bold things to ensure safety. But most of the time, a switch is undetectable unless you are looking for it or know the person very well. What does this mean for us? It means that D.I.D. is far more common than we think. There are many people walking around with parts who have no idea they are switching. And nobody else around them knows either.
Now you may be asking yourself how you know if D.I.D. is a part of your life. So I will take this opportunity to explore what D.I.D. looks like. Outside of Hollywood, what are the real life scenarios for those of us who deal with severe dissociation? I will give you some examples from my own life. These aren’t the most embarrassing stories. I save those for my clients. They get to hear the worst of it. But these stories will help you understand what really happens. read more…
Recently I was alerted to an article on Psychology Today which denounced dissociation as a real response to trauma. Not surprisingly, this article made my blood boil. The most infuriating part of the article was how he kept repeating how dissociation was used as an excuse for behavior. So basically, he was saying that if someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for their behavior, they could claim dissociation caused it. It was written by someone with the letters behind his name. I am sure he had went to school and read the books. I am sure he has worked with some clients with some mildly irritating symptoms associated with some mild forms of trauma. And suddenly, he is an expert on what does and doesn’t exist.
These kinds of articles are irresponsible for so many reasons (most of which I don’t need to tell you). Dissociation is hard to acknowledge even for those of us who are graced with severe forms of it. We have learned denial from the best. That’s why we dissociate in the first place. Acknowledging dissociation requires us to admit there is another narrative, a narrative we have been denying a very long time. Of course, we need help with that. We need to hear from credible sources that we are on the right track, that what we are uncovering is real. We won’t hear that from our abusers. We won’t hear it from the general public. So we have to hear it from trained professionals. When they throw denial in our direction, they cause more damage than they will ever fully understand.
So why do they do it? Why do they use their credentials to enable the denial of something very real in such an irresponsible way? Why can they not accept dissociation as a trauma response considering all the research in support of it, all the experts who say it is real? Why do they continue to claim it is false? Well, I have some ideas. read more…
Paranoia is one of the most stigmatized symptoms of complex trauma. It is often viewed as a sign of a serious mental illness. But the reality of paranoia is different. It is everywhere. I believe childhood trauma makes it a guarantee. Paranoia can be so many things. It can be as simple as “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. It can be as intense as expecting abusers to come around the corner at any second. It can be as unrealistic as waiting for a lightning strike. But no matter the manifestation, it is debilitating. It holds us back from our purpose because we don’t feel safe or free to pursue what we want.
Paranoia is so confusing because it rarely exists on a conscious level. Our adult self will often have a mature enough understanding to have left most paranoid thoughts behind (although not always). But the paranoid thoughts exist in the unconscious with the inner parts who needed to create explanations for unusual and traumatic experiences. And as they linger there, they can make life very uncomfortable with strong anxiety, panic and hypervigilance as the manifestations. But why does it happen? Why do we suffer from paranoia in the first place? read more…
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. read more…
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 as those who have read the books and taken the tests. They aren’t invited to the conferences to speak (unless it is to tell their story). They certainly aren’t invited to be an expert at anything. And they certainly don’t get to be an expert in trauma recovery. So the pattern continued. She worked harder than most to get her message out there, to get it taken seriously. She was treated as “just another survivor” by far too many. She was condescended to and treated like her opinion didn’t matter. What could she possibly share that hadn’t been shared a thousand times before? read more…
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 of your childhood trauma pattern.
They will act like the perfect family. Once again, I know they probably did this when you were a child too. But I am not talking about the mask to the outside world here. I am talking about how they act in front of you. Now that you are an adult, you aren’t triggering their trauma the way you used to. And since you aren’t with them every day, all day, they can put up a good front when you’re around. The nicer they act toward you, the more confused you get. You start questioning how bad it really was. “Maybe they weren’t so bad.” “Maybe I don’t have to work on recovery or alienate them because they are so nice now.” Deep down inside, your traumatized inner parts are screaming for you to validate their pain, but you are confused by their current outward behavior. Of course, this will dissolve if things get tough or you share a space for too long. But believe me, it is on purpose. It is meant to confuse you. read more…