Recently I have discovered through my own facing of past trauma and pain, everyone defines their experience with it differently. You will meet people on your journey who can relate, or feel familiar, to the pain you have experienced and endured. I think where we tend to go wrong in society is disconnecting each other through invalidation and sympathy. There is a video I will leave below that I always watch when I am feeling at my most vulnerable. It explains the simple difference between sympathy and empathy. We as human beings, tend to get the two mixed up by thinking they are the same thing. The reality is, they are not.
Lately, I have seen people outwardly expressing their pain which I truly commend and admire. I see the rawness of the hurt, the aftermath of trauma, grief pain and heartache. All these feelings I know oh so very well. I have seen the people who are being held accountable respond in the most invalidating, denying and guilt way. However, I thought now was the right time to share what I have learnt through all the turmoil I have suffered in my past.
When I was in the midst of my pain, I was incredibly insecure with who I was. Feeling shame nearly every day of my life due to living with an illness that is highly stigmatised, I would respond emotionally to others insecurities. I was surrounded by people who invalidated, shamed and silenced me. It was the most isolating, dark and confronting period of my life. I spent all my energy trying to get people to believe me because I wanted to be liked by others. I wanted people to at least like me even the slightest bit. Because I didnt like myself. I assumed if people weren't being kind to me at my lowest point, then I didn't deserve to be kind towards myself.
After weeks of ongoing self-harm attempts to end my life and emotional responses towards negativity from others, I was deflated. I wanted to drop my sword and surrender to the pain that felt like it was never going to go away. It consumed me. I was naive at the time thinking I had this self-respect, this mediocre treatment of myself was a reflection of the people I was attracting in my life at the time. I suffered the repercussions of my emotional reactions to the point I nearly lost my life. I felt like I had no friends because I was blinded to the ones around me who were loving me despite the scars on my arms, who were coming over and comforting me when I wouldn't shower for days, who were trying to care for me when I really didn't care about myself. And this is what I went through.
The natural instinct that some of us learn at an early age who grow up in invalidating environments is blame. We blame people for pain caused. And this is completely warranted. If you grow up in an abusive environment, you are fundamentally shaped to react to trauma and pain in the only way you know how- by emotional reactions. You will cry when a parent hits you, you will numb out when a parent silences you. You will punish yourself as you don't know how to regulate the emotions in that moment. So you start to feel it. And feeling pain is one of the most scariest feelings in the world. So immense it can literally take over your body reactions and make your brain shut down. There is scientific proof backing my last statement. (See 'BPD and Mindfulness' book).
Can I blame people for my past hurt? You better I can. But the biggest thing I learnt while starting recovery is only I can be accountable for my own behaviours. I cannot control the cruel projections people have placed upon me. I couldn't control the sexual abuse from my past. However, I learnt to control my own emotions, thoughts and feelings to reduce the suffering I was experiencing. Not so my abusers, hurters and acquaintances could walk away scotch free, living a fulfilling life where they weren't accountable. I learnt that wishing for them to hurt as much as me was pointless, that their own time will come. And if they don't get to experience the pain I feel, that they will live quite a content life. I see content as travelling very safe in your comfort zone. It's only when you go out of your comfort zone is that you learn. I feel like living the rest of your life not learning, there will be no room for growth or change.
I learnt that people with BPD can, in FACT, control their emotional reactions when pain arises to smack you right in the face and heart. I spent my years in excruciating amounts of pain because I didn't have the skills to try find that wise mind I know every human being can have. Once I learnt to validate the emotions in the moment, that's where I was able to maintain and control my reactions. Reacting emotionally can only fix things temporarily. Once you learn how to validate emotions and tune in to your reactions, the more you can ease the pain in the long run. The amount of energy I spent lashing out at people who hurt me was not worth it. They were never going to experience the pain caused because they weren't aware of it at the time. You can only hope in the long run on their own path, that they are aware. However, why waste your time and energy on people who only invalidate you and make you feel unsafe? There is a lot of reasons we hold on. Mine is attaching myself to things I felt I deserved because of the own inner relationship I had with myself from the abuse I endured. This is different now because of the healing process and all the hard self-work I put in each day to make sure I am okay when I do find myself lost in past memories, thoughts and feelings that surface from post trauma.
The last thing is, you don't need to convince, justify or make people believe you. I spent so long trying to get everyone to believe my pain, believe my truth and I wanted people to believe that I wasn't a bad person. I spent a lot of wasted time trying to do this, that I completely lost the person I always shape to be. I learnt that the most important people in your life are the ones who don't question who you are, who are honest when they see you may need to check in with yourself as you may not be aware you are impacting others, who validate, listen and support you regardless of your diagnosed mental illness, trauma or pain. They are the people who are meant to stay in your life. Losing friends along the way is painful and hard to adjust to. But with loss is gain, and you gain what I believe the definition of friendship is- the ones who are there by your side, through every hardship you are faced with. This is also adaptable to intimate relationships. Relationship concepts are very diverse these days, so it's about what every you morally think is a healthy and validating relationship. Do not hang on to people whose morals and values are not similar to yours. There is an old saying that 'opposites attract', which is true to an extent. However, people who have a heart like yours, kindness like yours, compassion like yours, and empathy similar to yours, are the people you'll feel the safest and connected to.
The moral of this blog is, as hard as it is to radically accept what has happened to you, you cannot change people. You can provoke something in them to maybe make them think they need to change and treat people for the better, but the only way they can learn is on their own account. We can guide people, try our hardest to help them and support them, but if they reject that and it's not reciprocated, then these people aren't 'your people'. They belong in their own comfort zone, and us proding them will only cause reactions we may not be prepared to accept. Concentrate on your own growth, and the right love and kindness will come to you. It took me 27 years to finally be able to accept this love, validation and support I have from people around me because their support pushed me to grow and move forward. There is no point watering a dead flower, unless they want it.