Making Yourself Safe for Others
Sometimes we fear we are so dangerous that we can’t bear to risk hurting another. Fortunately, there is someone trained to help us become more safe for others.
Repeating the trauma
The compulsion to repeat trauma is something that grips traumatised people. Sometimes they are almost compelled to repeat, in some way, the circumstances of their original trauma. This is pretty understandable; in an effort to have things turn out differently, the traumatised person can seem stuck in an endless ‘Groundhog Day’, sometimes playing the role of the person who was traumatised, sometimes as someone who stops others being hurt, sometimes even as a perpetrator of trauma. Eventually, the truth comes roaring in that all this is related
When it plays out in therapy
Many people who suffer from trauma know this. They know that they are going to keep coming back to the original problem in different ways. Because of this, people are sometimes reluctant to get treatment from a psychotherapist. They are afraid that some elements of the trauma will play out with the psychotherapist itself – if they know, for example, that they get angry, then they fear they are going to get angry with their psychotherapist. They hope time will heal them, but time is not a healer.
This fear of hurting another can cause then to not seek treatment – they don’t want to expose their psychotherapist to this.
Don't worry – your therapist will cope
However, “psychodynamic writers have emphasized the inevitability of enactments with the therapist of aspects of a trauma history” (Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual). What does this mean? It means that a good psychotherapist knows that some of his clients are going to unwittingly and unwilling play out some of the aspects of their traumatic life with their therapists.
Despite their best efforts, it will happen. The good therapist is prepared for this and will be able to cope with your strong feelings. They will support you and stick by you through difficult times, even if they are sometimes on the receiving end. The danger is, of course that if you don’t get help then someone else – family, colleagues – might be on the receiving end.
If this applies to you, I urge you to not let this stop you getting the help you need.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Now read about facing our unfinished business.
- – Tim Hill
Reference: PDM Task Force. (2006). Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual. Silver Spring, Maryland; Alliance of Psychoanalytic Organisations