We all dream of being loved unconditionally, having all of our needs met, growing up to find loving relationships in friends, romantic partners and to be loving parents....
Sometimes this happens and sometimes love goes terribly wrong. When love goes terribly wrong it can leave a person scared, confused, hurt and struggling to make sense of relationships and the world.
From the moment of conception, our templates for understanding ourselves, others, the world, trust and safety, are based on our experiences of relationships with those who are supposed to love and protect us. More specifically our caregivers, close family and trusted adults.
When we have “good enough” caretakers, most people develop templates for understanding themselves as good enough, others as primarily safe and the world as predominately safe.
When our trust is betrayed by physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect a person may develop templates about themselves as “unlovable”, “disgusting”, “broken”, etc. They often develop beliefs that others are not safe, cannot be trusted and that there is danger all around. In order to survive, the mind and body use a variety of coping mechanisms: from denial, repression, dissociation, to betrayal blindness.
Betrayal blindness (Jennifer Freyd) is one way of understanding why Little Red Riding Hood didn’t know that the wolf was dangerous. When one experiences trauma, especially interpersonal trauma, one way of protecting the self is by not “knowing what we know and to not see what we see” (https://www.sash.net/betrayal-blindness/).
Unfortunately, if not processed and resolved, betrayal blindness can be carried through one’s life, affecting a person’s ability to detect danger in all relationships. This often leads to a significant increase in a person’s chances of being retraumatized and revictimized throughout their lives.
Part of the work of healing from trauma is about rewiring the brain and the body. Teaching it that not all people are dangerous and that there can be some safety in the world. An essential part of trauma work is about the relationship itself. Indeed, research on therapy methods (dodo effect) has time and time again shown that the main healing factor in therapy is, contrary to popular belief, the quality of the relationship, independent of the “technique” utilized.
So, when loving relationships go terribly wrong, the betrayal and trauma is formed in a relationship and therefore needs to be healed in a relationship. This is why therapy has the potential to be truly healing. To be seen, witnessed and validated in a safe and trusting space is of utmost importance.
So perhaps when choosing a therapist, look beyond all the letters behind their name and look at them as a person. Ask yourself is this someone who i can potentially see myself connecting with? Perhaps even trusting a little? And with time, hopefully they will be able to help you realize that not everyone is out to hurt you and that healing is possible.