Ever since I read Bessel van der Kolk’s article about recreating trauma, I have been wondering if that’s what I am doing in my current relationship with a man. Because I had been focusing on the trauma I experienced in other coupled relationships, I was vigilant to see if he was “out to hurt me.” I accused him many times of that, driven by the unhealed trauma, only to realize later that he isn’t trying to hurt me. I was left puzzling. I didn’t think that I had healed enough to not recreate.
The other day, as I was walking, it dawned on me that deep inside of me is a scared and hurt part who just wants to be held & loved. That is my core wound. And it isn’t the trauma from my marriage. It is cultural trauma: Growing up in an intellectual family that was essentially an emotional desert.
Yesterday, I saw a therapist for the first time in years. Although I learned a few things about myself, I was struck by what was absent: She didn’t even shake my hand. For someone craving touch, love, and empathy like me that’s not helpful!
I feel safe when I am seen and understood. The fastest route there is via empathy. Empathy helps me feel gotten, understood, loved, safe. When I don’t get that, I get scared and hide via anger and disconnection.
This morning, my partner and I had yet another call that ended with me feeling hurt and angry and lonely and unsafe (which happens easily since my sense of safety is very shaken). As I was walking off the pain, I got almost hit by a car whose driver was paying as little attention as I was. I was stewing in my own juices again, missing the obvious: I am alive! Depression is pressing the life out of me.
Slowly, the pieces are coming together in my mind. My partner and I are going in circles because I am unwilling to face the reality that he is unable to give me the empathic holding I need to fully heal. Yes, of course, I can give it to myself. I’ve been doing that for decades – and that is part of the problem. I have not experienced being held, only holding myself, over long periods of time. That is my deep core wound. This relationship is recreating what I have experienced all (most?) of my life.
I don’t know where this will all lead. Right now, I am learning to just be with what is happening right now, as hard as that is when right now seems to be filled with pain and loneliness. The big difference between now and the past, when I had similar insights: I now know that there is nothing wrong with me that makes me undeserving of the kind of love and support I want. Anybody saying something to the contrary is unhelpful at minimum. I might still be missing something – and certainly the self-doubt and self-hatred I pour over myself routinely isn’t helping – however, I cannot give myself the kind of love that I am craving for. It has to come from others. Maybe it’s time to work on that mirror mosaic again!