Many of the people who haven’t personally experienced abuse or trauma have a limited understanding of the scope of survival mechanisms, i.e. fucked up behavior, that people who have these experiences have developed over time. I generally think that it’s sad that these things are not widely talked about in our societies, at least in the sense that public don’t get exposed to understanding what Survivors have been through and how it’s affected them.
For those who are interested, FYI, there are great books that help you to understand Survivors a lot more. The best and my all-time favorite one is Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. It is an enlightening, healing and very supportive book about how abuse affects people and how to heal from it.
To not make this post an ad to boost Amazon sales, I will move on to what I was really going to write about- what are some of the issues Survivors have. I kind of don’t like the word “issue” but that’s how mainstream society would probably view the weird behavior we exhibit, so I shall keep holding on to that word. As said before, I’d call it them “survival mechanisms” but that might just take it too far….
First thing that springs to mind is Relationships. Not just romantic relationships, but any kind of intimate human connection, be it dating, friendship or family relations. Survivors often have limited capabilities of functioning in a “normal” way in these situations- I can’t say why because I’m not a professional, but these are just my observations.
I of course do not want to talk about any of the other survivors I know or their stuff, but for me, relationships have always been a major issue. I have been fanatically clingy, paranoid, and overbearing. I have hurt and been hurt. I have cheated, dumped and been dumped, treated wrong, been treated wrong, been physically hurt and have physically hurt people. I have started relationships and exhausted them within days, I have kicked people out of my life for silly small reasons, I have gossipped, lied, fucked people up and hated. I have basically covered the whole spectrum of How To Make Sure No One Ever Gets Close To You So You Will Prove To The World You Are Not Worthy Of Love.
When I was younger, I was desperate for boys’ attention. I did all sorts of things to get it, yet nothing ever really worked because I never had a boyfriend. This continued for a long time, and as soon as someone, anyone, paid me attention I felt worthy, felt loved, and felt like they were the One. I became clingy, overbearing, dysfunctional, and usually the relationship ended.
In my twenties I still had some of these traits but managed to have one long-term relationship with a semi-functional guy who himself had self-esteem issues and anger problems. It ended, and since then I have technically been single. Couple of months here and there, desperation, frantic search for the One, allowing guys to treat me however just because I wanted to be approved.
At 22 I discovered women and eventually lived as a lesbian for a while. Females enabled me to discover sexuality at a much deeper and safe level, I was able to connect in a different way and appreciated the feminine sisterhood. I had good experiences and bad experiences, one proper relationship which still was dysfunctional, and a whole lot of partying on the gay scene.
I also had a few other significant experiences that taught me a lot about what issues I actually have, and one of them has been hugely healing for me over time but hasn’t been without its problems. I have grown to know that as my boundaries were broken so early, I have had serious problems with negotiating boundaries, mine or others’.
I also often sexualize other needs as it is the only way I sometimes know how to deal with the world. I often feel I am only worthy of sex. I am hugely desperate for attention, for love, for acceptance, and I feel like I have this huge vacuum in my soul that never gets filled no matter what the other person says or does. I am exhausted and exhausting. I go back to bad people who hurt me because I feel like well, maybe they really are the One, they will change, they didn’t mean it…
It is hard to have a relationship with a survivor because their ways of behaving often make no sense to people without a history of abuse. The survival mechanisms, learned behavior because of the abuse, and self-image of the person abused is puzzling and often almost impossible to deal with. Many survivors don’t form intimate relationships because they can’t take it; I used to sabotage every romantic relationship, probably because I felt unworthy of love and that ultimately they would leave me anyway, so why not leave them first?
It kills me inside to come to this realization of my inabilities to function in friendships and relationships, and I hate my father even more. I deserve more but the demons in my head get too loud sometimes and I have to run away. My only hope is to find supportive people who hold on to their boundaries so they don’t let me treat them however, yet who love me for me and enable me to change patterns and cast the demons out to make way for healthy human connections…