In Project 3Ts, I am looking for women who have transformed their relationship trauma into a thriving life. What exactly I mean with transform, I am actually not quite sure of. I have a sense, though, that it would mean a more fundamental change, deeper integration, than what has led me to survival. Somehow, I seem to still have the sense in me that the trauma says something about me – a very subtle form of blaming the victim.
There are two things that I read and heard that might help me counteract this – and maybe that is one of the steps toward thriving. First, in reading a review article on post-traumatic growth, I learned that we can influence our personality traits by choosing a personality state that is different than what the trait would suggest. For example, as an introvert, I might decide to talk to a person in a class – something that is more extroverted than I would normally do. Since one of the things that is keeping me from thriving is more isolation than I enjoy, this might be a strategy for me to get more connected.
Then, I am listening to an excellent lecture series on critical thinking. As humans, we are pretty bad at probability. Unless we’re trained in it, we get the odds wrong a lot. And we often start by asking the wrong question for calculating odds. “What are the odds of me ending up in three unhealthy relationships?” is probably the wrong question to ask – and yet it suggests that there must be something unique about me that I, given the minuscule odds, ended up in three unhealthy relationships. A better one would be “what are the odds for anyone to end up in an unhealthy relationship” – the odds of that are probably much higher! Even asking for any one person (not just me specifically) to end up in three relationships that were not very healthy is going to give us a more realistic assessment of my odds. Also, we tend to look for patterns when there really aren’t any. So, the idea that my relationship history points to a problem I have is likely making a pattern out of something that is due to bad luck rather than something I can control. (I can learn, however, to trust my experience more and thus end these kinds of relationships sooner!)
Both of these examples point to more general principles: We can change and we need to watch what we are telling ourselves!