We can’t ignore the fact that we live in a ‘no gain no pain’ society and this has influenced many aspects of our ordinary lives. So it is not surprising that the same rule applies to love. We often get persuaded into believing that in order to access true love, there needs to be torment and tears.
Think of films and books, where the most mind-blowing and captivating love stories are the ones where at least one of them suffers and chases; or when the partners are so ‘passionately’ in love that they fight and make up (insert your imagination here) all the time.
But what happened to that kind of love that makes one feel safe and nurtured? That kind of love that makes one thrive and develop as a deserving human being? Of course, to maintain love we have to work hard and commit ourselves, but this does not mean that we have to sweat and cry blood; or plague ourselves at night, tossing and turning in nightmarish scenarios of abandonment and despair.
At a societal level, we know that we get affected by media and mainstream narratives, but I think that we need to pay closer attention to the personal level as well. Usually, people who subconsciously look for difficult relationships are the same ones who have barely ever experienced safe and unconditional love. Maybe their first relationships with friends and partners were very turbulent and chaotic. Or they witnessed their parents fight and argue, or they had to chase their own parents or caregivers in order to get their needs of safety and nurturing met.
Can we change things? Can we actually review our love imprinting and build relationships, be they romantic or platonic, based on mutual respect and encouragement to become better people? I believe we can. Sometimes realising that we fall into the same patterns (for example, becoming infatuated with someone who is emotionally unavailable) can be a good enough realisation that helps us to stay clear from similar occurrences. Some other times, we might need profound, repairing and healing therapeutic work in order to challenge deeply rooted beliefs that suggest that we are unlovable or not deserving space in people’s lives and minds.
So I believe that love does NOT have to be tormented. A loving relationship is an essential space for us to grow, heal and thrive. If we feel stuck, drained, fatigued and distraught when we are around specific people, we ought to review our position and take ourselves out of these difficult scenarios. It is an arduous task, but it is nothing less important than eating the right food or getting good quality sleep. It is about self-care and survival.
More often than not, in my practice I come across people who are haunted by their past traumas, for example difficult relationships with their parents, abuse or bullying. Especially during our first meetings, I encourage clients to start making connections between their present thoughts, feelings and behaviours and their formative years of life. This is what I call joining the dots in a psychologically informed way.
For example, a client might struggle to form lasting relationships because they fear they will eventually be abandoned. So they either establish superficial connections with others; or they become quite attached to the very people that are bound to reject them, which in turn confirms their belief of being unlovable.
Therefore, as soon as they recognise their ways of operating in the present by making links to their past, clients develop new insights which render their current struggles less random and thus possible to tackle. However, it is at this stage that clients might start considering themselves as damaged goods and become hopeless, as they believe they will never be able to evolve. Or even worse, they feel that their predicaments are due to the fact that there is something irreparably wrong with them. They become cynical and this can stall their progress.
What I will never stop putting across to clients is that gaining insight is the very first important step towards healing. This represents a vital opportunity to appreciate that WHAT they went through is wrong, instead of thinking that THEY are wrong.
We as human beings have no fault for how badly or unjustly or uncaringly we were treated. However, we are accountable to take those steps that will allow us to heal by changing our behaviours, and to surround ourselves with nurturing people that can provide us with what we fundamentally need and deserve.
In other words, we are not wrong, our traumatic past is.
Like in most cases, self-compassion is the key because, after all, if we don’t learn to truly acknowledge our worth, how can we expect that others will do that for us?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, can be very debilitating. It presents itself with a number of symptoms that can be distressing for both the person who experiences them and people who are around them.
It usually starts at least a month after a traumatic event takes place.
What’s a Traumatic Event?
Generally, it’s an event in which the traumatised person thought that they, or someone close to them, were going to die or suffer from severe harm. But it can include all sorts of experiences that are perceived by the traumatised person as dangerous.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Usually symptoms are grouped in categories:
- Traumatic memories intrusions: this is when the person experiences flashbacks, in the form of images, feelings or body sensations.
- Avoidance of any reminders of the traumatic event, even when the link is symbolic. For example, if someone had a car accident, which they found traumatic, they may not want to sit in enclosed spaces resembling the space within the car.
- Sudden changes in mood and anxiety, which can be triggered very easily. This problem is also known as emotional dysregulation.
- Being very alert and jumpy, for example when walking in the dark or hearing a sudden noise.
- More often than not, feeling spaced out and experiencing out-of-body sensations. This phenomenon is also known as dissociation.
5 ways to determine if you have PTSD?
1. Find any written information pertaining to psychological trauma, from reputable websites and books.
3. Talk to your GP, as they will definitely have at least a broad idea of what PTSD is and can direct you to get the right help.
2. Talk to trusted people in your life, such as close friends or family members.
4. Have an introductory chat with a mental health professional, such a psychologist, psychotherapist or counsellor, to discuss your symptoms and whether it would be helpful to embark on therapy.
How can you cure your PTSD?
Bear in mind that one of the biggest factors that will not allow you to heal from PTSD is hiding your emotional struggles from others, because it reinforces your strong sense of shame. It is easy to blame ourselves for what happened to us, but it is not helpful or healthy. This is why trauma-focused psychotherapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) are the best ways to address PTSD, because they enable the person to break the spell of their traumatic past so that they can live in the present, without being dragged back to the traumatic experience... and finally move on.
“Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.”