Relationships come in many forms. There are family relationships, friendships, collegial relationships and romantic attachments. The closer we are to someone, the more vulnerable we become. Once we open ourselves to another person, we become more susceptible to rejection and abandonment which fuels our deepest insecurities. Those who have experienced adverse child experiences and trauma or acute dysfunction and instability in their family of origin experience insecurities that can lead to self-sabotaging behavior.
I recently experienced this with a close friend. He had a hard life being traumatized by an angry, even violent, father. He experienced emotional and physical abuse at the hands of a young father who probably experienced anger and rage from his father. Even though his mother divorced, the effects of childhood trauma was already present. Years ago, we did not know much about the effects of this abuse on adolescent brain architecture and behavior.
In high school he experimented with substances and other risk behaviors. Fast forward into his adulthood, he also experienced a painful divorce, rejected by the love of his life. He never remarried and experienced addictions, homelessness and continued his risky behaviors. After two motorcycle accidents, he decided to get some help. Soon after he relapsed into addictions with opioids claiming that he was in constant pain from all his injuries.
Just last month his younger brother told family members they needed to do an intervention. They went to my friend’s apartment and found him living in squalor unable to walk, crawling to the bathroom and crying out in pain. He was a hot mess. He was in a borderline diabetic coma, sweaty and clammy and was lashing out.
Getting him to the hospital, his family learned he had a ruptured lumbar disc which made him unable to walk. He had surgery and was doing better. Once thankful to his siblings for surrounding him with care and taking charge of his health, he started lashing out asking to be left alone. I explained to the family that he needed some understanding and grace as he is sabotaging his closest relationships because he does not feel like he deserves to be cared for and loved well.
Researchers describe this phenomenon as a trigger point. We may not recall early experiences in life, but our emotional memory triggers a deep sense of hurt and pain. Him lashing out, which may seem like an overreaction to others, is his way of dealing with his insecurities and lack of self-worth.
This sounds dire and depressing. Fortunately, even if we have experienced adverse childhood experiences, we have a choice. We can allow ourselves to become victims of the pain of the past or we can surround ourselves with healthy relationships and supportive connections so that we do not engage in self-sabotaging behaviors. Healthy close connections give us opportunities to heal from our past and work on ourselves, learning that we are enough, have self-worth and deserve to be cared for and loved well. Next week’s article will outline how to not sabotage your happiness and your relationships. email@example.com; www.myrelationship
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