4 Reasons We Struggle in Relationship & 4 Things We Can Do About It
Let’s face it. Relational trauma leads to less-than-stellar relational patterns. And while some healing must happen in relationship, re-traumatization is almost guaranteed. So as I mentioned in another post, there are some aspects of trauma recovery that must happen in isolation or with professional helpers only. But when we are ready to venture in to the world of relationship again, we have to be aware of how we perpetuate our relationship patterns. And believe me, that is painful. It might be the most painful part of recovery.
So I want to take this opportunity to help you with it. I want to show you some examples of how you might be perpetuating your trauma patterns based on your own expectations. What do I mean? When we expect the world to work a certain way, it does. Now there a million reasons that statement might trigger you. It sounds awfully victim-blamey. It sounds very new-agey. It sounds like you have tried that and it has failed. But stay with me here. Consider what I have to say about it. It is not your conscious beliefs that are driving this fiasco. It is your inner parts. And while I love them dearly, they need to be taught some new things. Their expectations are ruining lives.
So how do those expectations ruin your life? Here are some examples.
- They think in terms of “all or nothing”. This is actually meant to be a phase of childhood development, but many of us never grow out of it. We have parts who fully believe that a person is all bad or all good, perfect or faulty, victim or perpetrator. And if we slip up, even a little, we fall to the other side. To make matters worse, this is a mirrored experience. What do I mean? We hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations. And because we do that, we hold others to the same unrealistic expectations. If someone slips up, we move them to the other side and that’s it. (This is one part. There is another part who gives way too much leeway. That will be discussed below.) When we begin to balance this, we begin to shift out of this painful perspective.
- They attract symbiotic triggers. I admit that I have no idea how this works. But somehow, some way, we know the exact people to attract for our particular set of triggers. It seems to be an energetic situation, but all I can say is it works perfectly every time. If we tend toward aloofness, we will attract the needy. If we are always on time, we will attract the consistently late. If we can’t stand surprises, we will attract the inconsistent. It is a guarantee. And believe it or not, this isn’t to torture us. This is to wake us up. That is what pain does.
- They are all about the other. This is actually not true. Our inner parts are not about the other. They are about their needs. But when the unconscious messages get to the brain, they get translated in to “the other must meet those needs”. Instead of finding our own inner peace, our own self-love, we seek others who will meet needs that are not possible to be met outside of the self. I know this can be triggering because it feels isolating, but seeking someone to meet your needs will lead to a lifetime of misery. I assure you that.
- They believe they have no power … still. After years of victimization, they do not believe they have power in relationship. These beliefs can manifest in many ways. They can accept abuse they should not accept. They can chase others who are not interested in relationship. They can give and give and give with no reciprocation. They can isolate to avoid the powerless feeling that comes from triggering relationships. But until they learn that boundaries are an acceptable practice, and that they have the power to set them, the perceived lack of power will manifest in some way.
So how do we deal with these? How do we change the patterns?
- Focus on self. If a relational trigger happens, do not go straight to the other (unless they are a helper). What inner part is triggered? What belief do they hold that is coming true? Write from them. Explore where the belief came from.
- Question the situation from a grounded perspective. Is that what is really happening? If we have an expectation that we will be abandoned, and they seem to be stepping back, are they abandoning us? Or are they having a bad week or locked out of their email account?
- Be conscious in your response. Don’t react from an inner part. If you believe someone is abandoning you, your mean kid might take over to push them away, making the expectation inevitable. Instead, make an attempt to respond from your adult self and use non-threatening and vulnerable language. I just used the word “vulnerable”. But seriously, try it. “I am feeling a bit rejected because I didn’t hear from you this week. It is triggering my old pattern of being abandoned.” “I am feeling unimportant because you are always late. I was always a low priority to my family, so I wanted to talk about it.”
- Check back in with your inner parts. If you manage a response from your adult self and it goes better than the past, check in with your parts. Don’t say “I told you so.” But maybe you can ask them to consider this relationship and how it is different from others. They might say things like, “This was a lucky shot.” That’s okay. Patterns take a while to shift. But have the discussion anyway.
There is no better place to practice awareness and heal from trauma than in safe relationships. Even unsafe relationships can be a catalyst for healing. But the next time you are struggling in relationship, take time to process through the situation and break the old pattern your inner parts know so well. I promise you will see your relationships shift. And let’s be honest, that’s what we all want. That’s why we’re on this journey.