Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
I. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
II. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I still don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in the same place. It isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
III. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there, I still fall in. It's habit. It's my fault. I know where I am. I get out immediately.
IV. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
V. I walk down a different street.
© 1977 Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery
It's very easy to believe that the things in our lives that happen to us or around us are ABOUT us. We assume responsibility for things that may have nothing to do with us personally instead of asking ourselves a simple question: What else could it be?
Other people sometimes act in ways that create distress in us. A go-to response for many people is to internalize the actions of other people. "My significant other had a fight with me and won't tell me why and then they stormed out of the house and they must be angry at me and nobody has ever really loved me and what is wrong with me?" might also be interpreted as "My partner was in a really bad place today. Something may have happened (...work, home, during commute, bad dreams, no sleep, feels ill...) that I don't know about. I'll let them talk to me when they are ready." Try to allow for their mood being about something that is not you. Some things might feel very personal without being personal at all. Sometimes how someone acts is fully about them and not at all about you.
What a relief, right?
This kind of cognitive restructuring is often helped by finding a professional therapist to help you recognize when you are internalizing and guide you in changing your perspective. Find someone you can trust if you can't do this kind of work on your own.
One of the things I most want people who have trauma histories to know is this: you don't have to trust everyone. You don't have to trust me. Meeting people, especially those you are "supposed" to trust, may create in you a frisson of fear. You experience intense caution around others because you have been through something, perhaps many things, that hurt you. Emotional pain. Physical Pain. Abandonment. Childhood experiences that you cannot erase no matter how hard you try. You did not experience these incidents in isolation and so you may be vigilant around other people. That's okay. Fear is a normal reaction when you have experienced trauma. Trauma itself is defined as a "normal reaction to an abnormal experience." You don't have to trust someone when you meet them. Allow yourself to understand the protective nature of your fear and then allow your boundaries to soften. Some person hurt you. Every person won't.
Trust when you are ready. It's not a race.