When I was hired for my first clinical position on my journey to therapy, one of the very first things my supervisor at the time (and greatest mentor to date) told me was “you get into this field of a reason.” We went on to discuss perhaps its because of having an ill family member, or experiencing the hardships personally; anything that allowed us to feel that we had a connection to this kind of work. While keeping a professional relationship, I couldn’t tell him all of the personal investments I had in this line of work. I was very aware of these, but I refused to be that therapist who found herself through her navigating work with other people.
This conversation tends to come to me from time to time. But I have come to find that there is so much more to consider than just this. See, as I’ve progressed through my career; bachelors degree, clinical positions, master’s degree, educating other students on how to work with human subjects, soon to be PhD.. there has been been a lingering question.. one I hadn’t been able to identify until recently.
How come therapists who are trained to identify and assist others with their trauma have such a hard time dealing with their own?
As referenced earlier.. No, I do not mean how do we navigate through our own while we examine others’. And yes, I’m sure we could simply chalk this up to how we cannot see things ourselves of which we tell others. Just like how we can help talk our best friends through a break up, yet, can’t do it for ourselves. Right?
Let me begin by explaining that I come from a childhood that allowed me no privilege of experiencing secure attachment. My father was abusive and as he was removed from the picture, my mother seemed to grow more emotionally abusive and manipulative as myself and my siblings grew older. Extended family? Yeah, right. I found myself seeking the love I felt I deserve my entire life in other people.. in relationships.
I do not recommend this to anyone.
Now, what I mean when I ask my previous question is that I was raised amidst trauma. I knew all of the signs before even receiving my clinical training. So when I began dating men like my father, and women like my mother, why couldn’t I stop? As a clinician, I have been trained to know the signs and symptoms of abuse, I KNOW what trauma does to people physically and psychologically, in the immediate future and long term. I sat through a three year relationship being mentally, emotionally, and physically abused and to this day still find a way to blame myself. I cannot release myself of any blame in the situation, but what’s upsetting is that I catch myself rationalizing why I deserved the treatment that I did, quite often. I find myself falling into the same patterns in rationalizing why I should’ve continued to stay, the same patterns and second guessing that I was nearly trained to do, in order to acknowledge and accept all of the wrong “I” had done.
My training and own personal therapy allowed me to realize that I began dating people who resembled characteristics of my mother and father because it was like a second chance. “Maybe I can work towards acceptance and affection and this will make me feel secure.. validated.. ‘good enough.” Of course, this is all unconsciously, but I reached a point where I IDENTIFIED IT. I identified it and still went back to a man who wanted nothing more than to control me and find his own self-worth in how much he found himself allowed to do that. I went back to a woman who wanted nothing more but to feel validated through desire from others.
Not only did I engage in and allow abuse to continue in two of the most maladaptive, destructive relationships I have ever had. But I allowed room for things to be said about me once everything fell apart. About how crazy and manipulative I was. How I continually gas lighted my ex-boyfriend and how much I lied to him.
Ask me if I ever spoke up and defended myself.
This is called guilt.
I swear one day I will write a book on this.
Last updated December 06, 2017