UNDERSTANDING SELF DESTRUCTIVE & ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS THAT ARE A RESULT OF TRAUMA
first published September 2014
Trauma Recovery Group, established in June of 2013, is a therapeutic group for survivors of both childhood and adulthood trauma. The group is comprised of both men and women who find solace in sharing their stories and strength while traveling through the complicated paths of recovery.
Not long ago the group was honored to have trauma psychotherapy specialist and author of Fred’s Story: A Trauma Recovery Workbook, Ruth Long speak to the group about her work and provide insight into the trauma recovery process. Her words were found to be highly valued and deeply moving for the group.
Ruth began with discussion about behavior patterns and ways of coping that often leave survivors in the lurch because a natural pattern of defense with trauma says; “When stressors hit, I run home.” The metaphor of home was an effective one that evening as all attendees could relate to the idea of home being familiar and finding a sense of comfort in the familiar. Home at times meant an old abusive boyfriend/girlfriend, that bottle of whiskey under the bed, the blade hidden in the medicine cabinet or the abusive home they grew up in. While none of these things sound comforting at all, and they really aren’t, the comfort is in knowing what to expect. Ruth pointed out that “there is attachment to behavior and to make sure it is still there provides us a sense of control in having a choice to engage in it.” This idea helped the group to understand why they may keep such toxic people and things in their lives that don’t actually serve them well in their recovery. Real control comes from within oneself. It comes from the ability to establish healthy boundaries.
Control is not about making someone respect you or treat you a certain way but more about if “…you will honor what you told them. That is what boundaries are about.” This is where we will find control in our lives. This concept is an easy one to get twisted around even if you aren’t a trauma survivor.
Many individuals struggle with relationship dynamics and establishing healthy boundaries but in trauma recovery it becomes even more imperative that we ask ourselves “What did trauma teach me about my role in relationships?” Ruth pointed out that the answer presents a critical point of growth and insight. Did your trauma teach you to let anyone speak to you as they felt inclined, touch you in any given way, or ask anything of you and you would comply? Maybe your trauma taught you to trust no one and that everyone you came into contact with is a potential threat. Whatever the case may be chances are “your belief system will come true” says Ruth. Without even realizing it we often manage to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There can be both a great advantage and disadvantage to this belief system.
Ruth surmises there is a life script that often gets adopted as a way to protect ourselves and feel control in our lives and it goes like this: “Relationships aren’t safe. Someone will get hurt and that someone will always be me.” She reminded the group that “trauma recovery is like a roller coaster; lots of ups and downs, back and forth, twists and turns, but never linear. If you choose to stick with it, it won’t take longer than it needs to. The more you resist the longer it will take.”
Ruth was both entertaining and informative in her visit with the group. We are all thankful that she chose to share her time and wisdom with us.