Bracing for the Second Wound

I imagine most of my posts this week will be about processing the almost-crash we experienced, here. I’ve been doing my best to manage things as they come up, and I am realizing just how much extra time and space I need to allow myself right now. The tension, exhaustion, and nightmares are back. I feel like much of the progress I’ve made in recent months dealing with the realities of complex trauma have vanished and I’m back to where I was when I started. It feels like a setback, but I’m trying to see it as an opportunity to better understand how to better care for myself.

In many ways, re-experiencing these symptoms is an indicator of growth, and I know by honoring the process, I will heal. But I also know that a big part of that healing is acknowledging where I’m at. It’s not helpful to pretend to be mentally tough and pull myself together. Healing lies in acknowledging that what happened was scary, and allowing myself to feel that. My ego would so much rather believe that acting mentally tough is the better way to go, but in this case (and most other cases) my ego is wrong.

My core wound is that I was terrorized by my parents from infancy onward, but my secondary wound is all of the brainwashing in the form of gaslighting, minimization, and denial that went with it. My abusers insisted that whatever my feelings or needs were did not matter, and that I was bad and wrong for having them. Every version of “get over it,” “you’re overreacting,” and “it wasn’t that bad” was used on me, so much so, most of what I am dealing with now is the fallout from the secondary wound. Much of my complex trauma is connected not just to the experience of being abused but to the failure of those around me to validate that it happened.

So, it’s kind of a big deal for me to admit that, yeah, that crash was scary for me. Yes, we are safe now, and yes, I am grateful it wasn’t worse. But I know for me, “it could have been worse” is a form of minimization that gets in the way of the part of my brain that needs to heal.

I think much of the tension I am feeling right now is bracing myself to be invalidated for having any kind of reaction or feelings about what happened. I am learning to give myself the validation I need that whatever it is that I am feeling matters. What anyone else thinks about how I am handling things doesn’t matter. Judging if my reaction is “too much” or “too little” is inconsequential to the feeling itself. I am reminding myself that my own perceptions matter and need great care.

When my kid falls down and scrapes his knee, my first reaction is to tell him, “You’re okay!” in order to make him stop crying. I do this form of minimization because, as an empath, I feel his pain as if it were mine, and I want it to to go away quickly. But it’s not a very empathic response, is it? I am essentially telling him that his perception doesn’t matter, and mine does. I am essentially gaslighting him so that I might be more comfortable. I am learning to turn this habit around and better validate what he is feeling. And as I learn to validate his perceptions, I am learning to validate my own metaphorical cuts and scrapes.


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