If you’ve had a lifetime of boundary violations — those places where others of a higher rank, say a parent, sibling, teacher, doctor, partner — take advantage, abuse, misuse, intentionally hurt, betray, threaten, dismiss, diminish and regularly twist the truth — it is like being conditioned into a deep and unsettling psychological shifting shore of self-doubt and uncertainty. People aren’t safe.
We might ask ourselves what just happened?
Did it happen?
Is this a violation or am I overreacting?
Am I too sensitive?
We might be so accustomed to hearing our words rearranged into an alphabet soup that we keep re-reading the letters as if they are tea leaves to see if that can tell us the real truth.
We’ve lost our sense of self. Trust is severely harmed. The little child is lost and searching but now that little child is an adult. Who might grab onto anything remotely stable because our inner compass has been so violently rearranged that south is north and east is west. Or we might push away and disappear.
We can’t afford another relationship that is fraught with mistrust which can lead to evil.
The process of unfolding this debilitating state of heart and mind and soul — needs to often be done slowly and safely. The push-pull-run-fright-flight mode is very real. The splitting off and dissociations are there to protect that child-adult from further abuse, but it is also a skill that might want to be developed into staying present and being with the fear and finding a new way.
Our emotions aren’t the enemy but a new compass that shows a better way to cope. Often how we are feeling is spot on true. That unstable-crazy-like feeling IS accurate because the trauma experienced was violent and awful and very, very real.
It has been my experience that consistency is vital because inconsistency is too well-known, and it is destabilizing. Carefully listening to each story and holding the space as safe as possible. Teaching and uplifting independence is tree-like as one grows. The ground beneath doesn’t lie. And above all — showing the deepest, heartfelt respect for whatever stage a person reveals is paramount.
One more thing — protect children. Believe them when they tell you something is wrong or if someone violated them. Don’t laugh or blame or dismiss or punish them.
They are the innocent ones who still become adults — like you and me.