I decided to go no-contact with my family many years ago. It wasn’t a flippant decision. It wasn’t to punish my parents. It wasn’t any of those stereotypes about no-contact decisions. Those come from people who are either jealous of our freedom or have done the kinds of things that warrant no-contact decisions from their kids. I went no-contact because it was the safest thing I could do for my own children. I wanted them to have a chance at a normal life without abuse, trafficking and manipulation from the people who are supposed to love them. I look back on that decision now and see it as one of the best things I did.
But gong no-contact was not the end of the journey. In many cases, it is the beginning. It allows our system of inner parts the safety needed to start unraveling and unpacking the trauma we have carried around for years. And believe me, my system took the opportunity. My inner parts were tired of carrying around years of pain. They were tired of re-creating the patterns from childhood in every relationship. They were tired of not knowing what bad thing would happen next or whether or not I would remember it. They pushed through many defenses to be heard. I’m glad they did.
I have learned over these years that a traumatic childhood gives us a set of blinders. Many times, I don’t know what decisions I am making in the unconscious until I start to recover the memories that are driving those decisions. Each time I uncover a new pattern, it can feel like I have wasted a lifetime in the dysfunction it created. And after so many years of inner work, it feels frustrating to know that I am still getting these horrific people out of my unconscious. I hate that I am carrying them around still. I hate it so much that I go into denial about it sometimes. I don’t want to see it anymore. But to be fair, I have unraveled a ton of trauma so far. My life is much better. And when I am grounded, I know that.
This week, I thought I would share with you the ways my family stayed with me long after I sent them packing. I share these with you because you don’t deserve to carry them around either. And if this brings awareness to those parts of you, that makes it all worth it. So here’s a few bread crumbs to help you search your own unconscious. Here are some beliefs coming from my traumatic experiences with a dysfunctional family.
I’m not sure people are safe. I already get that there are plenty of people who aren’t actually safe. I am not talking about them here. We never want to think they are safe. But I struggle to see safe people as safe sometimes. And that is so frustrating. It is fueled by the years of meddling by my mother. There was no relationship that was untouched by her. So now, when someone says a word or phrase that sounds like my mother or indicates they may have been in a town where my mother has been, my isolator rises up with big questions. “How do I know my mother didn’t send them along?” “How can I be sure these people are safe?” She is still messing with my relationships long after I kicked her to the curb, at least for now.
I’m not convinced this is possible. That might sound a bit ridiculous coming from someone who is so invested in this process, I teach it to others. When I am grounded, I honestly and wholeheartedly believe it is possible to fully heal from our childhood trauma. I don’t just mean to “live with it”. I mean fully heal. But when I am not grounded, the futility seeps in and says there is no way to unravel the web they wove. It is too deep and too entangled in who I was supposed to be. It feels like surgically removing 150,000 pieces of shrapnel from my poor, tired body. And no matter how good my life gets, there is this nagging bit of doubt and futility that stick around, at least for now.
I regret the time spent in my trauma patterns. I don’t wallow in this place of regret. But there is a grieving process that comes with change. The grief is a requirement to ground into the change. That grief says, “I could have done this sooner.” And it doesn’t feel good. I hate that my early adult years were spent in a trance continuing to play out horrible patterns with my family and partners. I waited for them to do the right thing, but they weren’t capable of it. I want the years they stole from me and I am not going to get them. But I still need to give myself the compassion to express it. And I need to put the blame where it belongs. I won’t get anywhere with “get over it”. That has never been a healing phrase. But “what could’ve been” will show up in my mind on occasion, at least for now.
I do believe it is possible to unravel and untangle the web of complex trauma our families wove as they attempted to trap us in the same miserable life. I truly believe it is possible to feel all the feelings and remember all the memories which are driving our lives. In many cases, this journey starts with no-contact. But it doesn’t end there. When you hear the unconscious beckon you into “the old ways”, use your awareness to let it express. But make another choice. Your life doesn’t have to be dictated by the web. It can and does change with this work. Keep at it. The more you see what was left behind, the less it will impact your life.