When we have been abused or traumatized in childhood and have not had our basic needs met, we subconsciously develop a fixation on trying to get the love we didn’t have then in our adult relationships.
For example, if our father abandoned us or did not give us the love and acceptance we needed, we subconsciously spend our lives looking for someone to provide this for us. We look for someone to be the parent we did not have, hoping it will be different this time. In other words, we enter our adult relationships as a traumatized, wounded child rather than as a healthy adult, and we end up recreating our relationships and marriages through our childhood lens.
When we are viewing the world out of this lens, we are naturally attracted to people who replicate the abuse we have suffered, and they are attracted to us. We don’t even realize why we are so drawn to them, and it occurs as though we keep meeting the same abusive people time and time again, without understanding how this is happening through us. The urge is so strong to find a parent that finally loves and accepts us.
If all we have known is abuse, then we will have an inner coding that draws us to this and not only that, we feels “comfortable” and “safe” within this because it is familiar. We can even find ourselves going towards rather than running the other way. The pull towards them is very powerful.
We can even become addicted to them. We know they are bad for us, but they are like a drug where we feel we can’t live without them. We accept the odd “crumb” of love they throw us and tell ourselves that something is better than nothing.
This is called trauma-bonding, and it is one of the most horrific aspects of narcissistic and other forms of abuse.
We find ourselves becoming smaller and smaller in these types of attachments. We become severely dependent on our abusers, just like we were as children. We lose all sense of self.
Within this we feel a deep sense of shame. Shame that we allow ourselves to be treated this way. Shame that we feel so deeply unworthy and useless.
If we look back, we can likely see that we got into the relationship in the first place because we were desperately looking for something outside of ourselves to fix us, to feel okay, to feel safe and happy… and we stay in it hoping that somehow this dream will come true, while inside we feel as though we are dying and at the mercy of the person’s every whim.
We may see that we have struggled to believe that we were good enough to such a degree that we entered the relationship with a sense of ecstasy and gratitude that at last someone was interested in us.
How do we escape this hell and change the pattern?
The only way out of this excruciating pattern of abuse is to start to become a source of love, approval, survival and security to ourselves. We have to give up trying to find it through anyone or anything on the outside; and instead go inside of ourselves to meet, embrace and release our traumatized parts.
We are not taught how to do this. In fact, we are taught to avoid it at all costs, and rather look for something on the outside to help us feel better. So, we try to get the love and approval we crave from our work, our friendships, our looks, our achievements and social media – we become addicted to these things in our longing. Of course, it may be something even more dangerous that we are addicted to like alcohol or drugs – all in a bid to numb out the pain.
So how do we begin to look within and heal?
- Awareness: It starts with self-awareness. Do you resonate with this article or at least parts of it? Do you see the destructive patterns?
- Commitment: Pain is a huge motivator, and sometimes we have to be in so much pain that we come to that crucial moment where we say “enough is enough;” and we truly mean it. Then we make a radical commitment to ourselves to change our lives no matter what.
- Support: Most of us need support to come out of these patterns. Whether it’s through coaching, therapy or a group program of some sort. We need someone who has been where we are, who can shine the light on things we cannot currently see for ourselves…and help guide us back to health and wellness.
- Follow through: More commitment is then needed to follow through and show up for ourselves.
We need to stop and deeply recognize that there is a little girl within us who is desperately needing our attention. She is crying out and screaming for us to look at her and be with her. That is what all of this pain is about. There are simply no answers outside of ourselves. Nobody is coming to rescue us. We have to save ourselves.
- Sit quietly and take a deep breath.
- Bring to your attention the pain of your pattern.
- Where do you feel it in your body?
- How old is this part of yourself?
- Recognize that this is your “little one” inside who feels traumatized.
- Turn towards her. Stay with her. Start to talk to her. Tell her you are there. Tell her you are committed to her, available to her. Tell her you won’t leave her.
When you do this regularly you will start to notice the relief that happens in your body when you go within rather than try to get something on the outside to make you feel better.
True healing happens when we develop a connection and relationship with our “little one” inside us, release the trauma out of our bodies, and replace it with God/Love/Source/Universal energy (or whatever your version of it is).
When this happens, we bring ourselves home. We become the person we always were underneath all of the trauma. We become our true selves.
When we are our true selves, we feel content and fulfilled just as we are. We are our own source of love and approval. We still have desires and things we would like, but we don’t need them for our happiness. We feel happy within ourselves.
We are a healthy adult, and we attract other healthy adults, including a healthy love partner.