mutually reflexive needs triggering trauma #family #familysystems #recovery #selfcare

June 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face in our intimate family relationships is this situation: our needs trigger our loved ones and vice versa.

In my family relationships I have a need to be [i]known[/i], to be understood. But the very thing I need my family to know about me is the very thing that triggers them and shuts them down. It is excruciatingly painful to continue to sort through this dilemma. I want to be close to my family, or at least be able to attend family gatherings, but the prospect of having to put on a mask to cover up my real mental/emotional condition triggers me into weeks and months of obsessing about family relationships.

Until recently I was baffled by this situation because I could not understand why invitations to family events caused me so much mental obsession and emotional anguish. I am only really putting my finger on it as I write this post. I have a deep yearning to feel connected to my family, to each one of my family members. The pain of disconnection feels like a physical reality, like it is taking a toll on my physical body to cope with it. However, being at family events does not sate this yearning for connection, if anything, it amplifies it because I feel the disconnection even as I am attending the very event that my family places such a high value on attending to keep the sense of family alive.

My truth is that I have been profoundly impacted by the condition of my various family members’ mental health and behaviours toward me. I have been traumatized multiple times by various family members since I was a child. The impacts of this trauma are not difficult to see: I did not complete high school, I went back to get my undergraduate degree at the age of 45, I have lived in poverty most of my life, I was married to a psychological and emotional abuser for 18 years, staying with him even after it was revealed that he had molested my daughter on more than one occasion, each of my children struggle with varying mental health issues and their own truncated education and poverty. These are all objective realities of the consequences of growing up in a dysfunctional family.

Perhaps the greatest damage, however, has occurred in the last 18 years since I came into recovery and started to make concerted efforts to rebuild my family relationships. It is almost 20 years now that I have been attempting to establish some degree of honesty and integrity in my connections to various family members. These efforts have been painfully unsuccessful. Although I might be talking more to a few of my siblings, and I may be learning to stand up for myself in the face of their abuses, I do not feel any closer to any of them, I do not feel any safer to be a member of this family.

I have found avoiding them altogether too difficult to endure. I just can’t seem to maintain the entire emotional cut off. Bonds of love are like piano wire. They do not dissolve with disuse, nor do they disappear by wishing.

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