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It changes you.
It molds you differently from the rest of the world.
It shapes you in ways that no one will ever be able to understand.
It creates these layers that run so, so deep that at times even you don’t know what’s going on within you or where it is coming from.
That’s what trauma does to you.
In the words of Dr. Gabor Maté, “Trauma is not what happens to you. It’s what happens within you as a result of what happens with you,” and who can ever reach those depths? Sometimes, even you can’t.
Going through anything that is traumatic for you isn’t easy, and that’s why it’s trauma, isn’t it?
Perhaps even more difficult than going through it is trying to work through it. Yes, we must work through our traumas and heal them so that they don’t stop us from leading a better life. But, in reality, working through them is painful as hell.
You need your soul’s strength to go into your own depths and pull out parts of you that are just lying there waiting to be rescued but also somehow being okay with just being there because movement hurts.
This is the paradox of healing.
You cannot heal until you’ve allowed yourself to go to those deep, dark places where parts of you exist in hiding—those parts that are always in excruciating pain and are screaming out for help. Yet, going down to those places hurts like hell.
It does take a tremendous amount of courage to be able to reach within and heal those parts, and it also takes the same amount of courage to hold everything in—to let those parts stay there and somehow just protect them. That also demands strength.
Loving someone who is carrying so much pain and anguish within is not easy.
How do you love someone who’s never been loved?
Someone who’s never been able to truly open their heart to warmth, kindness, and vulnerability?
Someone who’s coped by either giving too much of themselves or by putting on armor so that they can continue to give what they have without having to bear the pain of being vulnerable again?
Can they even be loved? Can they ever love you back the way you want them to?
Yes, they can and need to be loved because that’s the very thing they’ve been deprived of. They need to know that there is a safe place for them where all parts of them can begin to crawl out slowly and get some air.
They need to feel that irrespective of what they do or don’t do, they will still be accepted, loved, and cherished.
They need to feel seen, heard, and accepted for who they are, and that’s when they begin to heal in small ways.
“Safety is not the absence of threat. It is the presence of connection.” ~ Dr. Gabor Maté
We may not always be open to the idea of therapy or deep spiritual work to heal.
But what we do need the most is love, and because we haven’t really gotten it the way we needed it, we somehow learnt to give it to ourselves in whatever way we could.
So we don’t really learn how to heal; we learn how to love ourselves in ways that help us move forward.
However, when someone is far away from the idea of healing or love, it can be difficult to give and receive love from them.
Over time, their edges become rough and sharp. When they need to be open, emotional, and vulnerable, that’s when they put on their armor because that’s all they know.
That’s how they’ve always protected themselves, and if they don’t do that, they won’t be able to give what the other wants.
So in essence, the way they love is also from a distance. They are there, yet they aren’t.
And that’s hard.
Loving someone who’s been living with years of unprocessed baggage is hard. It’s confusing, chaotic, frustrating, and can lead to an invalidation of your own needs. But it doesn’t have to be this way—if we allow ourselves to step back and look at this person for who they are, the baggage they carry, and how they cope with it.
Being with them, supporting them, or getting them to meet your needs might seem like an uphill task, but it doesn’t have to be if you do it with love.
Over time, it can help the other person to lower their guard and open themselves up. However, this can only happen when they are willing to at least try.
It is important that we all do our inner work before and while being in a relationship, or else it will be our baggage which will be running the relationship and not us.
No matter how much someone tries to make us feel loved, heard, and understood, if we are not open to putting some of our baggage down, no one will be able to help us, and that will always be on us.
If you’re living with or are in a relationship with someone who’s carrying the baggage of their past and are far removed from the possibility of healing, then these are a few things they would like you to know.
Having gone through my own journey of trauma and healing, I can say for sure that these certainly help:
1. Don’t try to fix them. Instead be curious about why they do what they do. Invest time and energy in understanding them. Cut them some slack. They don’t always know what’s going on with them or why they react in certain ways. Make an effort to understand them first and then help them to do the same.
2. Don’t expect them to just know what you need, how, and when. State what you need clearly and lovingly. Tell them why something means so much to you and allow them to do the best they can. They won’t always get it right. They may not always understand or do things the way you want them to. No one does. But what matters is that they know how to show up, be there, and put in the effort. They know the significance of being there, so let them.
3. Don’t expect them to display their emotions appropriately because they won’t. They will either show too much or will distance themselves. Understand that that’s how they cope. Instead of taking it personally as if it’s something against you, recognize that everyone copes differently. Give them that space to just be.
4. Be vulnerable. When you become vulnerable, it makes them feel that it’s okay to feel what they feel and that it’s okay to share.
5. Take time to understand their love language. They may not always be open about their thoughts and feelings, but they might show it through small acts and gestures. Yes, taking care of what you need on a day-to-day basis, arranging things for you, and taking care of logistics are also ways of showing love. Loving someone doesn’t always require an “I love you” and “I’ll be there for you” verbally. Sometimes, it’s just there in front of your face, but you’re too busy waiting for some words to spring up.
6. Be patient. Really patient.
7. Work on your own healing so that you can understand how to support yourself better.
8. Create your own support system outside of your relationship so that you don’t feel completely dependent on them. It helps your partner to feel safe and have their own space too because they too get consumed by their guilt for not doing enough for you or not being able to support you. It takes the load off both of you.
9. Validate your partner’s efforts no matter how small so that they can feel that their contribution means something to you. This would enable them to step out of their comfort zone and more gradually.
Everyone heals differently. For some, not burying their pain deep down is their way of coping with it.
Yes, being in a relationship with someone who’s not processed their baggage is difficult. It’s not going to follow a conventional path. It will have its bumps along the way.
But if the relationship is strong, then your love will find its way, because it is only love that fills the gaps and heals.
“We were hurt in early relationship, which means we’re going to heal in relationship. Relationships can be the ground for healing when approached properly.” ~ Dr. Gabor Maté