On the other hand, if we had grown up in a chaotic household, or that our parents are overprotective or overbearing, we fear being smothered, losing control, or losing a sense of individuality. We fear being asked for too much, and thus distance ourselves and withhold.
Retreating from closeness does not necessarily mean isolating entirely, but we may feel the need to conceal parts of our authentic self. on the surface, we are social but we don’t get close to anyone. Or maybe we settle for false- closeness in sex but never commit to knowing anyone in depth. We hide our passionate, loving self, and become cold, cynical, and sarcastic. Withdrawing into our shell whenever we feel vulnerable also means not able to take in support and love from others.
Eventually, we lose hope in finding anyone who can understand us.
Looking to know more about toxic family dynamics? Read The Lifelong Effects of Childhood Neglect By Parents
6. We damage the love that we do have
Neuroscientists have found that parents’ responses to our attachment-seeking behaviors, especially during the first two years of our lives, encode our view of the world. If as infants, we have consistent attachment interactions with an attuned, available, and nurturing caregiver, we will be able to develop a sense of safety and trust. In contrast, when our parents are emotionally unavailable to us, we would internalize the message that the world is a frightening place; when we are in need, no one will be there.
This results in deep fear of abandonment. As adults, any kind of distance, even brief and benign ones, may trigger us to re-experience the original pain of being left alone, dismissed, or disdain. Our fear could trigger coping survival modes such as denial, clinging, avoidance, and dismissing others, lashing out in relationships, or the pattern of sabotaging relationships to avoid potential rejection.
Fear of rejection or abandonment may also bring us to put up with a damaging relationship or stay in an abusive one. The message that we received from our unhealed wounds tells us that being mistreated, degraded is still better than being on our own.
7. We sabotage our success
Our experience might have led to believe our success and happiness would threaten our siblings, attract envy, and that we were somehow ‘arrogant’ if we were achieving high. Perhaps our parents were too limited in their worldview to comprehend our gifts, and deep down we carry a ‘survivor guilt’ that says if we achieve more than others or outgrow our family, we are betraying them. Even only subconsciously, we become frightened of our power.
Expecting little of ourselves and others may make sense when we were little people who live under the mercy of unpredictable and explosive caregivers, but no longer serve us if we wish to step into a more prominent place and to live fully.
Want to know more about how toxic family dynamics work? Read Six Kinds of Emotional Abuse by Narcissistic Parents
Specific Healing Goals
The bouncing back process for developmental trauma is different to the therapy for simple PTSD, general depression or anxiety.
Because of the complicated issues around a personal sense of safety and stability, being exposed to traumatic materials before you are ready can lead to re-traumatization, and reinforce the cycle of hopelessness. Themes such as safety, mourning, and reconnection are some of the key themes specific to this process.