artwork by Delenn Yake (my daughter)
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I looked at things in a certain way
Because somebody told me I should
I averted my gaze when I should have looked
Because somebody told me to turn
I walked away when I should have stayed
Because somebody told me to go
I denied myself and I suffered pain
Because somebody told me to suffer
I worked too hard …or not at all
Because somebody said it was right
I listened to the programs in my brain
Because somebody said they were mine…
I lost myself, and people I loved
Because someone said,
“Don’t waste your time”
I ignored the gnawing in my gut
Because somebody said not to listen
I went down paths that didn’t feel right
Because somebody said it was safe…
But Somebodies do not save you
When the actions you did betray you
And Somebody doesn’t know you
like you need to know yourself
And somebody else’s agenda will just
End you up in mental hell
PTSD is a term most people have heard, but often they do not really know what it means.
If you tell someone you have PTSD, it may be hard for them to know what you mean by that, unless they have it themselves or maybe they have a close friend or family member with it.
People with PTSD have trouble with relationships, but not for the reasons people think.
Once you have been traumatized, and then re-traumatized by triggering situations, you feel generally unsafe and there is a natural tendency to want to retreat…back up your steps and run for cover.
People with PTSD can be re-traumatized by people who do not understand, and by people who are more concerned with their own agenda than really understanding.
When someone with PTSD has certain triggers, and explains those triggers to someone, it is important that they are validated and respected. If someone wants to care about a loved one with PTSD, they need to really listen to that person, when they talk about what triggers them.
*A person that intentionally uses your triggers against you is dangerous to your mental well being.
But then there are people who just don’t want to listen to or respect your boundaries. Your perceptions are not of an significance to them.
Everyone has personal boundaries, but people with post traumatic stress disorder can suffer severe re-traumatization when a loved one does not honor their trigger boundaries.
Some triggers cannot be avoided, such as loud noises that may occur independently from either person. However, talking someone into going to a loud dance club, or guilting them into going to fireworks, when it has been made clear that loud noises are triggers, is abusive.
People who have PTSD from the military, and people who have PTSD from domestic abuse have different causes for their symptoms, but some things are the same.
The fight-or-flight mode is activated by the amygdala. If the brain perceives a threat, even if that threat is not real, the amygdala will send chemicals into the body like adrenaline and cortisol.
The feeling in the body of a “perceived threat” and a real threat is exactly the same. The same physiological responses occur, including blood pressure elevation, and feeling of extreme fear and the feeling that you have to act right away.
Someone who had their jaw fractured by an abusive boyfriend, who suddenly stormed towards them in a fit of anger, may be triggered by someone coming quickly into their personal space, especially if that person is angry.
Once you have asked someone not to do certain things which trigger you, it is a terrible feeling when they still continue to do them. It feels very violating, and only serves to break the trust bond.
Relationships need to be based in trust. Intimate relationships, as well as friendships and family relationships have to feel safe. If one person does not feel safe, then there is a lack of understanding and a lack of trust.
Without both parties feeling safe, the relationship will break down. People with PTSD can find it difficult to trust again, after others have invalidated them about their symptoms.
Sometimes someone will disbelieve you, minimize your trauma, or accuse you of trying to manipulate them with your explanations about your trauma and your triggers. This is very painful and re-traumatizing.
People who have PTSD or C-PTSD from abuse were invalidated as part of the abuse process. Their emotions were minimized, disregarded and made fun of.
To have someone close to you minimize your PTSD, or disbelieve you is re-traumatizing. It gives the victim into an emotional flashbacks or actual sensory flashbacks.
You can only tolerate being traumatized and re-traumatized so many times.
Soldiers that come back from war only to be disrespected by civilians, or invalidated and ignored by the Veterans Administration, are being re-traumatized.
It is a way of invalidating a person’s reality. This has negative effects on the person’s mental and emotional state.
People with PTSD can be perfectly good and caring partners and friends. They just need validation, respect and understanding.
But after repeated re-traumatization, a person feels isolated and too vulnerable to take a chance on trusting another person again. This leads to self isolation, depression, and often suicidal thoughts.
Evolutionary psychology tells us that our subconscious brain feels threatened by the potential that we would be completely isolated, shunned or thrown out of the social circle.
In the past, humans lived in social survival groups called tribes. Being accepted and included by the tribe was critical for survival. Being shunned would have meant death !
Our primal brain (called the reptilian brain) perceives rejection by the tribe to be potentially life threatening. When we are feeling a similar kind of threat, it triggers the fight or flight response in our limbic system of the brain. The amygdala becomes active and send all kinds of alerts and chemicals into the body.
Technically, we could survive living alone and isolated these days, but we were not meant to live in isolation… especially isolation due to “mobbing” or “scapegoating” by the tribe.
This is one of the reasons that scapegoated family members, suffer such severe mental and emotional trauma.
People with PTSD need to feel that they will still be accepted by the Tribe (family, community…whatever applies to the situation…).
They need to know that their personal reality will be validated, even though it may be very different from that of other people. The experiences someone with PTSD has endured may seem strange to people that have not ever had that kind of trauma in their reality.
Isolation can cause death by suicide or “failure to thrive.”
Self isolation will almost always cause severe depression. But being re-traumatized is just as bad, and the brain will try to lead people away from that pain.
Our primal brains are designed to take us away from danger, or perceived danger….and towards pleasure. But the “away from danger” is the priority.
Re-exeriencing the feelings of danger, fight or flight chemicals and physiological responses, is not something that anyone could tolerate on a regular basis.
We were not built to feel in danger all the time. Being in a state of hyper-arousal all the time depleats the immune system and causes mental disorders.
People with PTSD need understanding and validation.
They need their loved ones to be sensitive to their triggers, and to pay attention to what the person asks and needs.
Otherwise. the relationships cannot continue in a way that is safe for the PTSD sufferer. The person with PTSD will shut down and crawl inside of themselves. No healthy relationship can be sustained without safety for both people.
It takes practice and patience to learn to hear your own intuition and inner voice, after you have been conditioned over time to ignore your own true perceptions.
The narcissist tried to silence your voice, minimize it, confuse it and discredit it. But you still have an inner voice inside of you…. that can lead you in ways that will support your mental and emotional health.
Every sensation is part of your guidance system. If something feels wrong, it probably is.
Learn to trust your intuition and to hear your own guiding voice. There are other voices in your head, but you can learn to tell which one is your own. Programming put into your brain during childhood emotional and mental abuse will cause the negative “tapes” that play inside your head.
Things you hear yourself thinking that are negative about yourself, are like computer viruses that were put into your brain, without your consent!
When you are very young, you depend on your parents and caretaker to interpret the world for you. You turn to them to explain the meaning of things that happen.
Children need to know they have innate value, that is detached from mistakes they make or things they do. You have innate value. The things you do or do not do, do not change your true worth as a person.
Self soothing is an important skill that people who grew up in emotionally abusive households, never were taught. You were not taught to sooth yourself, but rather you were taught to berate yourself and shame yourself.
Children and teenagers need guidance to learn how to sooth themselves, when something bad happens. If you have C-PTSD from mental abuse as a child, then your feelings about bad things that happened to you were minimized, criticized and called selfish.
You need to learn that it is not selfish to set boundaries, and to protect your emotional and mental health. You have every right to take care of your own brain and your own heart.
If you grew up in an abusive environment, then you were told it was selfish when you tried to express your feelings about the things that were happening around you. The controlling parent wanted everything to revolve around them. They never considered your feelings about decisions they made, or their behaviors.
You probably developed “emotophobia” from being shut down every time you expressed your feelings about ad things that happened. Even expressing good feelings like joy, and self esteem were crushed down, and called selfish.
Shaming is one of the worst of the “viruses” that was programmed into you. No one self shames naturally. Babies do not come into the world feeling shame.
Parents that are manipulative, narcissistic, and mentally abusive, shame you for things that you should not have had to feel bad about. Now as an adult, you still hear those voices in your head anytime you make a mistake, or even do anything that elicits a negative reaction from other people.
Thoughts that you are a bad person, that you are inadequate, and that you will fail when you try to do something….these were programmed into you over years of negative reactions to you by your caretakers and people you trusted to love you.
Other people may have added to your negative perceptions about yourself. Teachers, bullies that were your peers, abusive babysitters and other people that you were exposed to as a child, may have added their own toxic spice to your view of yourself.
When you feel passionate about doing something that you feel called to do…
When you feel confident about something you want to give to the world…
When you know just for a second that you have something special to offer to the world, because only you have the unique gifts that you were born with….
When you feel called to help someone else, or other people in some way, by using your own ideas, knowledge, love, and other gifts…
These things are your own voice and you can tell because these thoughts support you.
When that thought comes in that tells you that …
you are not good enough
you are inadequate
there is something wrong with you
you do not deserve to be happy
you have nothing special to offer
you will just screw it up so why bother trying…
These are the NOT your own thoughts and you can tell because they do not support you.
Living in an abusive, chaotic traumatic childhood left emotional wounds on your heart. These wounds are carried around by you.
They are fed by the negative thoughts that someone once told you were true. Thoughts that you are not good enough. Thoughts that the world around you cannot be trusted and that you should shut yourself down and never try to bloom into the beautiful flower that you really are.
Old emotional wounds were reinforced by any abusive partners you ended up with as an adult.
Abusive partners are highly skilled at identifying and re-opening old emotional wounds. Narcissist and psychopaths target people who are carrying emotional wounds from childhood. They can identify you from other people.
Abusers know how to gain your trust , so that you will reveal all of your weaknesses and wounds to them. Then they will turn the table and throw salt in your wounds, in order to control you.
Your reptilian (primal) brain always tries to keep you away from danger. The abuser know how to activate that fight or flight mode in your brain, and make you feel in danger.
The reopening of emotional wounds is so painful, that it is one of the favorite tools of the narcissist to use against you.
They will make it clear to you that they will injure you in the worst possible ways, if you do not comply with them. They will use your old wounds against you, by threatening to, and by throwing salt into them.
You will want to avoid this pain by any means possible, and then you will comply with them in order not to have to be re-traumatized by someone recreating your past trauma for you.
Once you realize that the negative programs in your brain, are not true, then you can begin to re-write these programs in ways that best support you. You never learned to self generate feelings of self worth, but you can learn now.