Can Someone Diagnosed with C-PTSD have any Close Relationships?
Posted On: November 3, 2019 | Time: 6:07 pm | no comments
CAN SOMEONE DIAGNOSED with C-PTSD HAVE ANY CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS?
Listen to this response by; Betsy Usher, PsyD ( Rebel, Activist, and Survivor Helping to change Stigma who seems like a sister from another mister) She is a Doctor of psychology & Mental Health Film Writer/Director
Great question. So many of us experiencing C-PTSD struggle with this topic, if not all of us.
If you are needing a one answer sentence to Can……Yes one can. Let’s explore a little more though.
Now C-PTSD can come from childhood abuse, intimate partner abuse, prisoner or war, being in a toxic cult…I’m going to talk about childhood abuse and why a survivor with C-PTSD would struggle with close relationships, what are close relationships, and how do you know if you have one?
C-PTSD from childhood abuse from one or more parent (caregivers/attachment figures).
When a child is abused the message they internalize is that I am not lovable and the world is unsafe (aka people).
Their caregivers let them down. Period. They did not teach them how to receive love, how to give healthy love, and how to engage and experience a healthy relationship. Instead they taught them self hate, shame, feelings or worthlessness, and confusion with relationships.
So what is left after this damage is done?
EMPTINESS and A Deep Inner Critic (Criticism of Self).
The deep emptiness is a huge hole that no matter what one cannot see to fill for an expended period of time. The criticism then about that emptiness creates self invalidation (abandonment) which doesn’t allow a person to know themselves fully. They in away hate themselves and spend most of their lives running from themselves. This leads to an inability to trust one’s self and expends to not trust others as well. If you cannot trust others you cannot become connected and have a relationship with them?
Therefore, I believe this emptiness and the feelings of shame/worthlessness that is the inability to connect and have close relationships with others beginning in childhood and into adulthood.
Children need to feel lovable, valued, respected, independent & dependent, worthy of taking up space, and safety. C-PTSD children received mixed messages about all of these experiences.
Example: Healthy family dynamic
Child (5 y/o) sees his birthday cake on the counter before the table is set to eat it. He takes his finger and dips it into the frosting and licks his finger. Mother catches him. She says, “Tyler, I know it’s so hard to wait for your birthday cake when it’s right here, I’m sure that was very exciting to dip your finger in the frosting and I bet it tastes great, I can’t wait to have some too. Now that you’ve tried it I’d like you to wait with the rest of us until the table is set and we can all eat together. Do you think you can wait with Mommy? I know it’s hard and you’re doing a good job in this moment right now waiting and not eating more.
The message: You can make mistakes, do actions independent of what I ask and I will still see you, understand you, accept you, respect you, and love you. I still feel connected to you and will not abandon you. You make sense.
Same situation. Mother says to son after catching him. “Oh Tyler, I’m so disappointed in you for doing that to the beautiful cake I just bought. I don’t know why you would do that to me after I already told you to wait. You have ruined the cake now and everyone will have to see this ruined cake cause you didn’t care about anyone else but what you wanted. God everything is ruined. I guess I’ll have to fix it per usual. You are always causing mommy so much stress, go away now so I can work on the cake you ruined. Five mins later during cake singing, “I love you son, happy birthday to my big beautiful boy.”
Message from unhealthy dynamics: You are a disappointment, worthless, unlovable, unforgiveable, hopeless cause, too difficult, a burden, annoying, disgusting, and a waist of time and space.
The unhealthy messages are played out to C-PTSD survivors daily, hourly, every or most interactions. Since children do not yet know themselves, they look to the parents for their identity and mirror (reflect) back what the parent sees of them. So, they believe their caregivers and hate themselves and believe other’s do or should too.
Here’s what I believe happens. A child is not taught what love feels nor how to have a healthy relationship in regards to communication, active listening without being triggered of shame, trusting someone to be consistent about how they feel about you, and allowing someone to love you for real. Lastly, they are prime targets for other abusive and problematic people and therefore their lives are full of them and they don’t even know, they think it’s them that is still the problem.
Therefore how in the world would they know how to be close with others? Yet…..it is the only way to undo the toxic damage that was done to them. To rebuild what it feels like to have a healthy and close dynamic with someone else. They don’t know however, how to find one and then maintain it without sabotaging it.
They have been so criticized and discarded they can’t trust other’s wont feel the same about them. The thinking is…if my own parents don’t love me I’m not lovable and how could anyone else love me?
However, C-PTSD people are sensitive (aka in tuned) and desire to give and receive love more than anything. They desire connection so deeply yet feel conflicted if they even want to venture into any form of a relationship and worry they will screw up any relationship they have or want. Then they are attracted to and attract others that feel similar or predators who pick up on this vulnerability. Therefore, most of their “close” friends are either similarly struggle in close relationships or they are problematic people such as abusers who damages them further; the cycle goes on then.
The only way through this is to practice authenticity, real vulnerability with healthy people, and practice opening up. It takes work and failure at times to find the right type of people to have healthy relationships with. With the right therapist this can be the first place to practice this type of relationship in a safe and contained way.
We have to drive away the problematic people so we can find healthy relationships to stand a fighting chance.
The way to do this is to have boundaries, meaning learning to say no and not be responsible for how the other person feels to your boundary; that is for them to figure out. The second way to do this is to find respect, love, and compassion for yourself so you’re not people pleasing all the time and creating a space where people can use and manipulate you (aka problematic people).
Anyone who wants to be close to you really fast, move in together within a few weeks or months, texts all the time, wants to see you everyday in the beginning of a relationship is the first sign of a person that is problematic. If you feel you are like that, I promise it’s their lead that is driving that feeling in you to want to do it too because you want to be loved so badly and this person is manipulating you that they are that perfect person, it’s different motivation then why you may want to be close fast.
See, it’s not all about if a person with C-PTSD can have healthy relationships; it’s about finding the right people so it’s possible to be close to them without further damage. It’s two people creating a safe space together so it cultivates this closeness.
The survivor needs to be free of shame in a relationship, even if they are an addict, engaging in self harm/self destructive at times, and are imperfect at practicing being vulnerable. Therefore, they need healthy people that will not scapegoat them or further damage them. Then they are quite capable of learning and practicing being close with someone. I believe this is the ultimate goal of someone with C-PTSD; to be close with others and I believe although it takes time and practice to learn how to be close, it is more than possible, it’s probable.
Please reach out and find out about my heart centered programs, approach and coaching if you are looking for a support person that can help you heal from dissociation, reprogram the inner critic, heal from Co-Dependency, heal from toxic shame, perfectionism, toxic guilt, recover a sense of self worth, self regulation, and more, heal existential depression and suicidal tendencies, overcome learned helplessness, and heal self abandonment behaviors.