“I’ve poured my heart and soul into healing from the trauma. But for some reason I still can’t seem to shake loose from this man who has broken my heart again and again. Even though I’ve done the trauma work, I keep going back. What on earth is wrong with me? Is there any hope or will this be the rest of my life?”
I could feel the emotion she was wrestling with through the message she sent me. My heart went out to her.
From what she wrote, I knew the reason she had not completed her healing.
I get many clients like this, who have either not been able to start their healing, or who have done hard work on their trauma, but do not feel like they have made the progress they so deeply desire.
There are many great trauma healing programs available. Some inpatient, some outpatient. Some through great seminars in person, some through great webinars online. Some through great books, some through great workbooks.
What we don’t often talk about, but is crucial to people with trauma… Are the reasons some people never get to the place of the healing they would like, or never start at all.
I think it’s crucial that we include these things in our messages about trauma. Otherwise, people who have hopes for healing from trauma and have not yet begun, along with people who have done a lot of trauma work … Walk away disappointed.
I shared with her one of the reasons that you will find in the list below about why she was stuck in her pattern even after doing great trauma work.
Let me clarify that I believe everyone can heal from trauma. But there are five things that either keep people from starting or cut them off short of the results they want in their lives.
There are five major reasons people don’t heal from trauma. I am sharing them for two groups of people:
- Those who have trauma and desire an extraordinary life. (Some have started the healing journey, others have not).
- Those who know and love others who are still struggling with their trauma.
If you see yourself (or someone you love) in any or all of these five things, just know that total restoration is still possible. Let’s examine all five:
1. KEEPING THE SECRET.
Some people are deeply committed to keeping their trauma secret. This falls under two different categories:
- Wanting to keep it secret because they believe it might make them look bad. (You can read more about that in item #4 below).
- Wanting to keep it secret because of their fear of the outcome if they revealed the trauma. Often as a result of direct or indirect threats if they did so. Or they feel it would endanger them (and/or their future) if they revealed the trauma.
Some therapists, as well as other clinicians, use words suggesting they are “protecting the person, situation or organization that created the trauma.”
However, most people do not protect the trauma or abusers unless they have a great deal of fear of the outcome.
Saying that they are “protecting” sounds like a deep devotion. When it’s usually a great fear.
Much has been written about how inappropriate it is to be “protective” in this situation. However, it is not loyalty-based, it is fear-based. And people who have been traumatized do not need further shaming.
This is why I prefer to call it “fear of the outcome.” Or “endangered by the outcome.“ I find that more honoring of someone who has been traumatized and is afraid to tell the story.
Quite often, and in my experience over 50% of the time, there was some threat, either spoken or unspoken that evokes the “secret keeping.”
- Someone who was forced out of a business and was threatened to be “destroyed in their professional field” should they not just say that they resigned.
- Someone who was raped and assured that their family would be destroyed should they reveal what happened and/or who did it.
- Telling a child who has been abused that “no one believes children who say these things happen to them, and they are known the rest of their lives as malicious manipulative little liars.”
- A pity threat is often used as well: “If people found out about what we did, they would put me in jail for just for loving you. And I know you wouldn’t want that to happen.”
- And you might be surprised how many have been silenced by “religious rules” in the name of God.
They’ve been told things like: “What happens in our family stays in our family.” And: “If you do not honor your mother and your father your days will be cut short.”
Not only does this set up spiritual issues, but it keeps people silenced.
I’m grateful when these people find their way to me. I tell them: “Sometimes honoring your mother and father is about telling the truth about them. Not to Facebook, not to the world, but to someone you can trust to help you heal!”
I’ve heard hundreds and hundreds of examples, and usually it’s a decade or more by the time people get to me.
If you are one who is holding the secret because you’re afraid, find someone you can trust. Someone who is more interested in seeing your healing then having you make it public.
You do not have to live with the secret. You do not have to be ashamed of the secret. You have a voice. You have a right to get help. You do not have to keep the secret any longer.
2. FAILING TO RECOGNIZE HOW IT IS DRIVING THEIR LIVES
I have a wonderful intern who is already a wonderful counselor. But she brought an example of this to me from one of her clients recently.
The client had been sharing how that he just kept the past in the past and did not let it bother him. Yet because he was so committed to keeping his “past in the past” instead of dealing with it, his wife who was healing from some hideous abuse was being shamed by him.
This great counselor under my supervision was able to help him see that how pushing down his trauma was causing him to shame and be very insensitive to his wife.
There is a plethora of research that shows that what we push down and deny, we repeat the history and wound others.
Not only do we repeat it, but we are totally blinded to what we are doing.
I have a trauma chart that I use with these kinds of people to help them understand that sometimes a constant striving to look polished and put together is actually a result of the trauma that they are doing their best to keep buried away.
Anything that we push down is like a jack in the box. The moment we least expect it, it pops up and has major influence on our lives. And the lives of others.
Just know that the longer it stays buried, the more toxic and rancid it becomes. And you deserve to be free from that!
If you know someone like that, very lovingly share how that they may even be repeating what was done to them on others they love (in modified ways).
It’s a difficult conversation, but when done with lots of love, it might actually inspire them to get the help that they need.
3. NOT BEING ABLE TO FIND THE HELP THEY NEED.
Although there are many wonderful therapists, coaches, and other trauma informed professionals who truly understand how to help people, for far too long, people who were not qualified have inadvertently done more damage than good.
I would say that at least 60% of the people who come to me for help with their trauma have had multiple bad experiences.
Everything from being told to “just pray about it” to being told to “just do more affirmations,” or worse yet, to “leave the past in the past.”
All of those are very akin to being told to “just get over it.”
The majority of the people I work with are very accomplished, talented and wonderful people. If they had known just how to “get over it” … I can assure you they would’ve already done that by the time they get to me.
If you are one who has had a bad experience, I’m very, very sorry to hear about that. Or perhaps it wasn’t a bad experience, just a long process with a lot of money spent that failed to bring healing.
Let me assure you that there are plenty of qualified people who can help you.
Before you begin to wonder if this is an ad for myself, indeed it is not. However, I have trained hundreds and hundreds of people in healing trauma, and if you private message me, or send me an email (DrNeecie@DrNeecie.com). I will do my best to provide referrals. (And no, I get no kickback on referrals!)
Having to write that and put the disclaimer at the bottom tells you what has happened in this professional arena that has caused people to lose confidence in anyone being truly qualified to help.
In addition, there are many workshops, trainings, and great books that can be of help. I have two workshops that deal with trauma recovery:
- Power of Purpose
- Life Coaching Institute
Go to Amazon and search for “books and workbooks on healing from trauma” and you will find many resources.
There is truly help for you!
4. ADDICTION TO PERFECTION
In all fairness, this addiction to perfection is not always voluntary. Sometimes it’s pressed upon people.
Ministers for example. To be a respected heart surgeon, it’s understandable that you will lose a few patients along the way, no matter how hard you try to help them.
However, to be a minister, you are held to levels of perfection. People (and certainly the media) love to find every falter and mistake of a minister and hang them for public humiliation.
I am not defending those who lost their way and got totally off track. But there are many hurting ministers, doing their best to find their way to healing from severe trauma. And yes, if it’s found out, their ministry could be destroyed.
There are others in the situation:
- Parents who have had CPS step in unfairly.
- People who could be discharged from their jobs if trauma was interpreted as a mental health issue. (Such as fighter pilots, airline pilots, etc.)
- There are some cultures who ostracize or do worse things to those who have some of the struggles associated with trauma.
It’s absolutely no wonder that these people become addicted to perfection. Hiding any trauma at all costs.
But then there are others .. those who decided to cover any hint of trauma with perfection.
Often they afraid of their reputation being marred, or falling from fame or losing respect despite things they have accomplished.
These fears and concerns can create an addiction to perfection.
I know when someone comes to me with great stories about how things from their past have absolutely no impact on them, that they are likely deeply struggling with the trauma.
How do I know? Usually I know because the smile from the nose down does not match the emptiness in their eyes. My heart breaks for them.
If you know someone like this, do your best to let them know that it is okay to find a trustworthy person who can and will help them heal from their trauma.
Living from a place of perfection is exhausting! Ask me how I know?!
Once I left my addiction to perfection behind, I promised God that if he would help me heal from the trauma that kept me stuck in the perfection cycle, then I would help everyone I could possibly reach.
You do not have to live in perfection. You are more than good enough to just be you! No perfection required!
5. THE TRAUMA BOND.
This is by far one of the greatest reasons that even people who seek help for their trauma do not complete their healing. Simply because the trauma bond is not being addressed. What on earth is a trauma bond?
It is an unhealthy attachment to someone who abuses you, hurts you mentally emotionally or verbally, over and over again.
It is like going back to an empty well with a bucket, hoping this time there will be water for us.
To those who have never experienced a trauma bond, it just seems like the person with the trauma doesn’t have good common sense. Or that they are being foolish.
I’m very thankful if you are one of those that you have no frame of reference for a trauma bond!
However, because trauma bonds are quite prevalent, those who have them have already heard those kinds of statements. That they don’t have good common sense, that they are foolish, or something is wrong with them.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons they don’t bring it up when they are getting help. They often think and hope that it will just get better if they deal with the trauma.
To a certain extent that might be true. But the trauma bond is not something that just “goes away.”
Often, like addicts, they will say … “I’m not going back to that person anymore.” And they mean it wholeheartedly at the moment.
But then there is just this uncanny magnetic draw back to the person that has hurt them, or to someone else who treats them similarly.
A trauma bond can be broken. When I say those words to someone with a trauma bond, they often cry. Because although they may not speak of it much, they know that it’s a key component in their lives that they simply cannot seem to master.
If you know someone and see them returning again and again to the person who hurt them, or the situation that hurt them … Please override any natural inclination to shame them. Not only is it not helpful, but it often sends the one with the trauma bond running back again to an empty well.
Walk with them, encourage them, and above all else, help them find help in the form of coaching, therapy, books to read or workshops.
I began with the story of a beautiful girl who kept returning to the place of her trauma bond.
She had indeed done some beautiful trauma work with a good friend of mine, a remarkable therapist, in Arizona. But she had moved to Dallas in hopes of reconciliation with her former husband who continued to demean her, mock her, and refused to be kind and tender with her (except for when he wanted sex).
We began the work on her trauma bond, and just this past week, she decided to commit to a relationship with a wonderful man who had been trying to court her for many years, while she kept him in the “friendship box” … at arm’s length.
I loved what she said to me: “I didn’t really feel anything happening while we did this trauma bond work. But Sunday morning I looked over at him in church and thought to myself… I have been asking God to help me get over this and send me a wonderful man.
At that very moment in the message, which was about being faithful in relationships, the pastor made a humorous point.
Just like the person who asked God to save him from the flood. A big duly truck came along, and he refused, waiting for God. The waters rose and a boat came by. He refused, waiting for God. Then when standing on the roof, a helicopter threw a rope down, and he refused. Waiting for God.
When he got to heaven, he asked God why he didn’t care enough to save him. God said: “I sent you a huge truck, a big boat, and a helicopter …”
The pastor continued, “Many of you have asked God for a great, healthy relationship. And I believe he wants that for us all.
But sometimes we are so busy looking out there somewhere, we don’t realize that God has sent them to you in the form of a truck, which you denied. In the form of a boat, which you denied. In the form of a helicopter. Perhaps you should look around and see who is beside you!”
She said, “That literally happened! At the moment I was looking at him differently. And I knew. He has loved me faithfully and has been kind to me through all of this. What was I thinking?”
The truth is that thinking gets overwritten by the trauma bond until it is addressed.
Everyone deserves healing from trauma.
Is it easy? No. It is not.
Don’t allow f any of these five things to keep you from the healing that you deserve.
And the fulfillment of living an extraordinary life!