8There may be nothing more horrible than the isolation that comes with a childhood of complex trauma.
It isn’t that we are alone. We are probably surrounded by people, but we are alone on the inside. Life is happening around us. It may even be happening to us. But we aren’t really involved. We are watching. We are watching others have fun in life. We are watching others meet milestones. We are watching life happen to others. But this life is not for us. This life is not ours to live.
Sometimes I feel like I was dropped off on Earth from another planet. It feels like my actual family and community asked me to visit this planet and learn the ways of Earthlings. But on the way, I accidentally hit my head and became an amnesiac. Now I am wandering around Earth trying to act like a human while my real family desperately tries to find me. It might seem far-fetched, but there isn’t anything more far-fetched than my actual story.
Feeling out of place is so normal that feeling anything else feels out of place. I have always wanted to belong somewhere. I have searched for a place or a community that felt good to me, that felt like home. In the end, I was always left feeling like an outcast. Is that because I didn’t belong? Maybe. Maybe not. But I had inner parts who were convinced I would never belong. They knew I was never going to be like the others. They knew I would be rejected and abandoned by them. And because they knew it, they made it happen.
So I search for home. It might fuel my love of travel. Maybe I believe if I see enough places in the world, I will find my home. It probably fuels my extroversion despite my relational trauma. If I can finally meet the right group of people, everything will be okay. I will finally be home. And this is how we live after trauma. We search. We search for that family, community and feeling of home. We search for something that will make us feel like we belong somewhere, anywhere. We want something more than isolation. We know we are supposed to belong.
But we don’t know it’s an inside job. It isn’t about others. It is about our own beliefs and messages. We are telling ourselves the reasons for our isolation but they aren’t real. Let’s look at the most common beliefs keeping us isolated.
I am not good enough for others. This was drilled into our heads by abusers and bullies in our traumatic childhoods. It doesn’t even matter if these things were said out loud. The behavior of our abusers was often meant to be interpreted in this way. And since our child brains are wired toward self-blame, we get the message loud and clear. We take that message into adulthood and watch it manifest over and over again. So we isolate.
I can’t connect with others. In childhood, we didn’t do what other kids did. We didn’t have time to play. We were too busy trying to stay alive. And there is no more energy available after the obligatory survival tasks. In adulthood, we can feel awkward in situations that seem “surfacey” or all about fun. We live in a very deep place focused on hyper-vigilance and trauma recovery. We can’t connect with others who are doing normal life stuff. We just don’t get it. So we isolate.
I can’t trust anyone. Let’s face it. In childhood, we could not trust almost everyone around us. Even people who appeared to care really didn’t stand up for us the way we needed. And sometimes, people developed trust to manipulate or betray us. In adulthood, we have this expectation of humanity and it is not helping us to meet great people. We can’t. If we meet a great person, we don’t believe them. We are sure they are lying. And after many attempts to meet someone trustworthy to no avail, we give up. So we isolate.
The irony is there are so many of us isolating from the world for these reasons. And if we knew about each other, we would build networks to support us in our journey home. But first, we must look inward and recognize the lies we were told and the lies we keep telling ourselves. We are not meant to be isolated. We are meant to connect and belong somewhere. But we will have to come out from behind the curtain of isolation we have created. Only then can we come home.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW