Sunday, November 26, 2006

It seems familiar, but it isn't really...

The battle is over, but self-vigilance is still constantly enforced...

Three features of post-traumatic stress disorder are particularly damaging to intimacy:

1.) Avoidance: Feelings of detachment and estrangement from others can lead to self-imposed isolation. I am different from others / I can only trust myself.

2.) Hyperarousal: An overdose of adrenaline can lead to increased irritability and outbursts of anger. I must protect myself; I am in danger.

3.) Re-experiencing: Intrusive recollections of past trauma tend to occur even after true danger has receded. They may be an attempt to process the experience. Suddenly, I find myself back where it all began... Can I never escape from this type of experience?

Self-isolation can be motivated by a desire for safety - but in fact, often makes a person more vulnerable. Without a support network, a person has less physical and emotional resources. Also, it is easier for human predators to take advantage of isolated individuals.

A moment of personal disclosure:
When I first married my husband, there were moments when I felt threatened to my very core. The first year of marriage is often the most difficult, and I became fully aware during our honeymoon that I had married a fallible person, who might possibly hurt me.

In my mind, the first half of my life was checkered with events that had made me feel powerless and out of control. It was only after entering college and being legally emancipated, that I had taken control of my life and created an atmosphere of stability and safety.

In college, graduate school and the workplace, I'd established a circle of friends. But, I had always tried not to be overly emotionally dependent upon them. Whereas, in marriage, by yoking myself to another person, I had allowed myself to become vulnerable.

This was an incredibly scary realization for me.

I wish that I had been better prepared for the experience. However, since we can't undo the past, and my husband and I are still happily married, my goal is for other people who age out of foster care to feel better prepared to navigate what they might experience in terms of their fear of dependence on someone.

Think about it:
If the very first emotional / physical support systems of your life disappoint you, the logical response might very well be to depend upon yourself.

This will often get you through the short-term, and ensure your physical survival.

But, if at some point, you want to commit to another person, to love and be loved by them, that might be hard. Because, in loving them, you are vulnerable to them... and that means that they can hurt you.

Since they are human, there will undoubtedly be moments when they disappoint you. And at those times, having them fail you might bring to the surface the memories of every other time that someone from your past has failed you.

But something is different... can you guess what it is?


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