Trauma after Abuse

Trauma after Abuse

Codependency robs us of a self and self-love. We’ve learned to conceal who we really are, because we grew up pleasing, rebelling against, or withdrawing from dysfunctional parents. This sets us up for trauma. As adults, even if we’re successful in some areas, our emotional life isn’t easy.

Looking for security and love, most of us struggle to get into or out of relationships. We may remain in unhappy or abusive relationships or try to make painful ones work. Many of us would be content just to find a reprieve from ongoing anxiety or depression.


After the Breakup

However, leaving a relationship isn’t the end of our problems. After initially rejoicing and reveling in newfound freedom, there’s often grief, regret, and sometimes guilt.

We might still love the very person whom we’re grateful we left. We may no longer speak to estranged friends or relatives, even children we love or worry about. These are unexpected losses to be embraced.

Going “no contact’ doesn’t necessarily end the pain either. The trauma of abuse isn’t over. Our self-esteem has surely suffered. We may lack confidence or feel unattractive. Abuse may continue in a new relationship, or by family members, by an ex whom we co-parent with, or through children who’ve been damaged or weaponized.

As hard as it was to break up an abusive relationship, it may still haunt us (sometimes even after the abuser is dead). One day, often decades later, we learn we have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)―scars from the abuse we thought we’d left behind. We might have nightmares and become risk-averse or hesitant to love again. It’s not easy to “leave” for good.

Fearful of re-experiencing abuse, abandonment, or loss of our autonomy, many codependents become counter-dependent. Yet, our inability to be alone and/or low self-esteem can cause us to again make poor choices. Out of fear we may settle for someone “safe,” who isn’t right for us and whom we’d never commit to. But despite our intentions, we nevertheless reattach and find it difficult to leave. We don’t trust ourselves and ponder whether the problem lies with us or our partner. And although we’ve vowed to never again let anyone abuse us, some of us may once more be betrayed, abandoned, or mistreated in ways we hadn’t anticipated. We have to let go all over again.

This cycle of abandonment can make us fearful of intimacy. If we opt for being alone, our needs for love and closeness go unmet. Loneliness can trigger toxic shame from childhood when we felt alone and unloved or unlovable. It may seem like there’s no hope or escape from our misfortune.


The Core of Codependency

We didn’t expect that after coming out of denial, courageously setting boundaries, and leaving unhealthy or abusive relationships, we would then have to face the core of codependency. Our codependent symptoms have been coping mechanisms that masked our basic challenge:

How to fill our emptiness and loneliness with self-love.

In part, this reflects the human condition, but for codependents, these feelings are connected to trauma. Our insecurity, self-alienation, and self-love and self-nurturing skills fuel addictive relationships and habits that cause us recurring emotional pain.


Real Recovery

Just as addicts turn to an addiction to avoid unpleasant feelings, so do codependents distract and lose themselves by focusing on others or a relationship as sources of well-being. If we stop doing that―often not by choice, but due to isolation or rejection―we may uncover depression and feelings of loneliness and emptiness that we’ve been avoiding all along. We keep recycling our codependency until we address our deepest pain.

Healing requires we turn our attention inward and learn to become our own best friend because our relationship with ourselves is the template for all our relationships.

With some insight, we discover that we’re actually quite self-critical and haven’t been treating ourselves kindly with self-compassion. In fact, we’ve been abusing ourselves all along. This is actually a positive revelation. Our mission is clear: Learn to relate to ourselves in a healthier way. Our tasks are to:

  • Revitalize our connection to our internal cues―our guidance system―to trust ourselves.
  • Identify and honor our needs and feelings.
  • Nurture and comfort ourselves. Practice these tips. Listen to this Self-Love Meditation.
  • Meet our needs.
  • Heal our shame and affirm our authentic self.
  • Take responsibility for our pain, safety, and pleasure.

Follow the recovery plans laid out in Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame. Attend Codependents Anonymous (CoDA meetings), and work the Twelve Steps. PTSD and trauma don’t resolve on their own. Seek trauma counseling.

How To Heal From Childhood Trauma When Its Hampering Your Mental Health

How To Heal From Childhood Trauma When Its Hampering Your Mental Health

Keeping childhood trauma a secret is lonely and can lead to psychological symptoms.

You’ve kept your childhood trauma a secret out of shame and fear. There was no one safe to tell. Now, you don’t know who you can trust. If you open up, you’re afraid of being judged or punished. It’s a lonely way to live and bad for your mental health.

Childhood trauma is devastating, no matter what form it takes. It affects your self-esteem, trust, future relationships, and sense of safety in the world. And, no matter what you do to forget, the secrets haunt you every day.

childhood trauma

You know some of the reasons you’ve kept secrets, but is there more? Plus, you wonder, are some of the things you’re struggling with caused by your secrets?

Yes, keeping secrets can cause psychological symptoms and problems.

So, let’s talk about 6 reasons why you might be keeping your childhood trauma a secret, how secrets lead to psychological problems, and what you can do about it now.

You have your own reasons for keeping your trauma a secret. Everyone is different and trauma affects each child in a unique way. Yet, there are some common things.

They have to do with what you felt, what you believed about people and yourself, and the only way you knew to manage your trauma.

Maybe you can relate to some of these 6 reasons for keeping trauma a secret.

1. You wondered if it was your fault

If your trauma was a form of abuse or even a loss, you might feel it’s your fault.

Children often blame themselves when they have no other way to interpret what happened. Or, when you got yelled at and felt bad. Even if you lost a parent, you might think you made it happen because you needed too much or got angry.

It’s not true. None of it was your fault. But, you’re vulnerable as a child to what you’re told. And to your fantasies and misinterpretations of your trauma and early life.

Now you have a taunting self-critical voice in your head that tells you all kinds of negative things about yourself. That voice makes you feel bad.

If you were yelled at, called names, or criticized as a child, it’s the voice of the parent who picked on you. That voice lives inside you and makes you feel to blame for everything.

This is a terrible thing to live with.  It makes you close off to people. You can’t openly be yourself because you truly feel you have things to hide. Or that no one will like who you are.

When you live with such bad feelings, it’s hard not to feel shame. If you can’t be openly who you are, you can’t open up about your trauma.

All you want to do is forget what happened. You don’t see any other choice.


2. You don’t want to remember

“Forgetting” or, at least detaching from the feelings you had in (and about) your trauma, is a typical reaction. It’s called dissociation. And it’s a way of protecting yourself during the traumatic experiences – to feel as if you weren’t really there.

This kind of self-protection continues on if you don’t get psychological help. You might live a fairly detached emotional life. Maybe you even have OCD to control your feelings. Of course, you don’t want to remember.

Childhood trauma is too scary and the feelings are overwhelming. Especially when there is no one there to help you or understand the feelings you have. You were alone with it.

You try your best to push aside memories if they start to come back. What else can you do? When you convince yourself not to talk about it, then you are alone now too.


3. Remembering makes you relive it

One of the reasons you don’t want to think about it and try so hard not to, is that remembering makes you relive the trauma. Sometimes it comes back in flashbacks. You feel like you are there. Little and scared and helpless. It’s all real.

So, not only does the idea of telling your secret make you feel ashamed and afraid of humiliation. But, opening up your childhood trauma in any way makes you feel that it’s happening all over again. All the feelings flood back it. It’s just too much.

You tell yourself, you can do it. Just push it away, don’t think about it, keep yourself busy. You’re convinced it should work. There isn’t any other way to deal with it. You keep telling yourself over and over, “it’s in the past. Isn’t it? Just move on.”