Many of us who’ve been affected by relational trauma have ugly scars on our hearts. We may see ourselves as victims, or feel helpless or stuck. But living in a state of victimhood is damaging; it keeps us focused on our limitations and leads us into giving up our personal power.
Here’s the thing: recovering from relational trauma is the opposite of victimhood; it involves reclaiming our power, setting healthy boundaries for ourselves, and making choices based on our needs, wants, and what is good for us.
Healing from relational trauma is a bittersweet journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and doing healing work in a judgment-free zone. Every person’s healing process is unique. It’s essential to do this work without applying restrictions, expectations, or a time frame. There will be unexpected insights and discoveries along the way requiring exploration and healing.
- THE BITTERSWEET JOURNEY OF HEALING FROM RELATIONAL TRAUMA: EMBRACING UNPREDICTABILITY AND SELF-COMPASSION
- DISCLOSING PERSONAL ASPECTS OF RELATIONSHIPS: TO SHARE OR NOT TO SHARE?
- WHAT HEALING IS, AND IS NOT
- THINKING VS. FEELING
- THE DEEP DIVE: REFRAMING PAINFUL EXPERIENCES IN THE RECOVERY PROCESS
- TOOLS FOR MOVING FORWARD
THE BITTERSWEET JOURNEY OF HEALING FROM RELATIONAL TRAUMA: EMBRACING UNPREDICTABILITY AND SELF-COMPASSION
It’s critical to acknowledge that the healing process is unique for each of us, and cannot be predetermined or compared with others’ journeys. And creating an accepting, judgment-free zone for ourselves is crucial because healing requires effort, courage, and vulnerability. Our recovery is not simply the “after” that follows the “before,” it is much more than that. Recovery involves deep-diving into and reframing painful experiences to add depth and new significance to our personal stories. We wouldn’t be who we are without these experiences. Doing this work requires reflection, insight, emotion, time, and effort, so it’s beneficial to be kind to ourselves as we learn and grow.
DISCLOSING PERSONAL ASPECTS OF RELATIONSHIPS: TO SHARE OR NOT TO SHARE?
As we’re healing, it’s important to be careful when disclosing personal aspects of our relationships. Sharing our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and ideas with people who are currently in unhealthy relationships themselves or haven’t recovered from their own traumatic or hurtful relationships can either trigger us or lead them to respond inappropriately or hurtfully. As we recover, we will naturally become better at discerning whom we can trust with our openness. After healing, we understand that emotionally healthy people are the ones who can respectfully hear and accept us without their sense of self becoming threatened.
WHAT HEALING IS, AND IS NOT
Healing is not a process of erasing pain and memories. It requires effort, courage, and the ability to reframe painful experiences to create a new outlook and meaning for us. When we’ve healed, scars from our past may be a permanent reminder, but they do not continue to define us. They are now just a small, faded part of our unique history.
Recuperating from emotional abuse, neglect or mistreatment requires us to be willing to become new and better versions of ourselves. Being willing to forgive ourselves is a vital part of this process because we might have unknowingly, or knowingly, hurt others as a result of our unhealed or unacknowledged wounds. Throughout the healing process, we regain the ability to trust ourselves, make sound decisions, and trust others.
THINKING VS. FEELING
Thinking and feeling are distinct and separate approaches for relating to our environment, experiences, and memories.
Thinking about and remembering what happened to us doesn’t promote healing. That’s where many of us get stuck. Real healing requires more than educating ourselves or revisiting old memories. It takes more than adding new practices to our lives, like affirmations, meditation, or prayer. Those are all great for personal growth and for gaining insight, and I think it’s beneficial for us to do any or all of those things. But in my experience, they’re not enough to truly promote recovery.
Here’s my point: all of those are done on a conscious level.
THE DEEP DIVE: REFRAMING PAINFUL EXPERIENCES IN THE RECOVERY PROCESS
The process of healing emotional wounds cannot be achieved through cognitive processes like thought, reasoning, and logic alone. Healing emotional wounds requires feeling. It’s crucial to feel what we’re doing instead of trying to think our way into recovery. While it’s important to use our cognitive abilities to learn and understand, we must also do the “feeling” work because attempting to heal on a conscious level, using rationalization, can lead to the same pain, confusion, and frustration we experienced when it was happening. It’s like running on a treadmill and going nowhere. Re-experiencing sorrow, confusion, and anger with a new perspective and understanding can promote healing because our emotional wounds reside in our subconscious. It makes sense to address the wounds where they live.
Dodging the healing process can heighten emotional triggers, perpetuating a cycle of self-avoidance; hiding from and denying our pain any time the pain is felt. We might turn to substances or activities to avoid feeling our pain; alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, or gambling. Almost anything can serve as a distraction. The result is that nothing gets healed, and our pain and emotional triggers continue to grow.
If the idea of re-experiencing any part of your past is frightening or concerning to you, then seeking professional help is recommended. Please seek help from a licensed abuse recovery expert. Finding a licensed abuse recovery expert who specializes in your specific trauma can provide validation, knowledge, and safety to aid you in your healing journey. It takes courage and wisdom to seek professional help, especially when you’ve experienced significant pain.
So now the question is, are you ready to take back your personal power and make a huge perspective shift to begin healing?
First, consider how healing may change your personality, goals, and relationships. Healing reframes painful experiences and provides an opportunity for personal growth. Healing restores our capacity to trust ourselves and others. How do these potential changes make you feel?
I think it’s important to also mention that healing means getting comfortable with others detaching from us. As we begin to understand that we can’t control how others perceive us, we organically let go of the idea that we need others’ validation in our healing journey. We accept that our healing process is a self-focused and insightful time that belongs only to us and becomes part of our life experience. The people you lose during the healing process were meant to be with unhealed you.
As you’re doing your healing work, it’s important to acknowledge every breakthrough and celebrate your progress toward living a healthier life with intact boundaries. The process of healing may be painful, but developing a healthy self-concept and outlook, along with new life skills, and enforceable boundaries are the ultimate goals. With time, healed individuals will easily recognize narcissists and toxic people and handle them accordingly.
It’s a journey of progress, not perfection.
You’ve got this.
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Lemon Moms: A Guide to Understand and Survive Maternal Narcissism, by Diane Metcalf
For as long as I can remember, there was something “different” about my mother. She wasn’t like other mothers.
My mom didn’t hug or kiss, smile at, spend time with, or play with me. She never seemed happy to see me. She didn’t ask about my school day and wasn’t interested in knowing my friends. She seemed to have no interest in me or anything that I did. My mom called me hurtful names and obscenities, and at times, she ignored me, not speaking to me for days, weeks, or even months. When she felt sad I was expected to emotionally care-take her. When she didn’t feel like parenting, I was responsible for my siblings. When she lost her temper she hit. When I was disobedient, there were bizarre punishments.
I was not allowed to express feelings, ask questions, or show initiative or curiosity. My feelings were discounted, minimized, or invalidated. She re-wrote my memories, and I was expected to believe her version. I was to obey, stay quiet, and not question.
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About the Author
Drawing from her personal experiences of growing up in a dysfunctional household, Diane Metcalf has developed effective coping and healing strategies. With the assistance of professional therapists and mindful personal growth, she has honed her skills and now happily shares them with others who are interested in learning and growing.
As an experienced advocate, speaker, and writer, Diane is well-versed in topics such as narcissism, family dysfunction, abuse, and recognizing warning signs. Her extensive knowledge is drawn not only from her personal experiences, but also from her work in human service fields, including domestic violence, partner abuse, and court advocacy. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology.
Diane’s transformational books on healing and personal growth, such as the highly acclaimed “Lemon Moms” series, offer emotional support and guidance in understanding narcissistic traits and healing past wounds. Her approach emphasizes self-awareness, intention, self-care, and establishing healthy boundaries as essential components in the healing process.
Learn more about the Lemon Moms series: Lemon Moms
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This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.