Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash

Healing as Self Protection

Tarika Powell

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It’s sad but true that one of the reasons you have to work through your trauma is so your trauma can’t be worked. Even if it’s not the primary goal of healing, it’s something that many trauma survivors come to understand on the healing journey.

There are some very sick people in this world who will learn what you react to, then create a scenario to get your reaction. You’ve met these people at work, school, church, and in your family. You may have dated or married one. Many of them have (to quote the film Raise the Red Lantern), a Buddha’s face and a scorpion’s heart. Often you’re dealing with an abusive person. At other times, it’s someone who needs to control outcomes to feel safe, and this drives them to try to control people’s reactions. (Which in itself invites abusiveness into their behaviors. )

Some people simply must have control over others, and making you react is a form of control.

Learning about your reactivity is a protective gift to yourself, because you best believe that toxic, abusive, and passive aggressive people will learn about your reactivity. Then they’ll try to play you like a fiddle to gain control, to feel superior, or to reinforce a false narrative they’ve created about you. Anyone who’s ever become the target of a narcissist (a real narcissist, not the internet kind), or a “harmless gossip” who’s actually a covert manipulator, can relate.

I have had the misfortune of having my trauma, my triggers, and my truth used against me, and I blamed myself. So many of us have had that experience. But you cannot blame yourself for not knowing someone is hiding a scorpion’s heart.

These people spend a lifetime crafting masks that fool even the most astute people. Even the most hypervigilent person can’t anticipate every manipulator. In fact, some of these people specialize in targeting survivors who are mistrustful and perhaps isolated as a result. They were practicing and perfecting their mask on people like you long before they met you. They revel in fooling people.

I’ve put a lot of effort into reclaiming the power that abuse had stolen. And I learned that when I reject my wounded parts, I leave them unprotected, and a lack of protection is how they got wounded in the first place.

Give yourself protection. Embrace the parts that hurt. Sometimes when your hurt parts keep trying to get others to listen, they really need you to listen. Give them your love and protection so that people can’t keep using you against you.

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Tarika Powell

Environmental policy expert living with PTSD. Writes about environmental policy, mental health, DE&I, and abuse culture. https://tarikapowell.com