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Is this part of PTSD?

S

strawberrywater

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I was in an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship several years ago (I'm female, partner was male).
Sometimes I see him in other people, and get a bit disturbed. I had a boss recently who had the same personality as my abusive ex, and I had to quit the job because he reminded me too much of him. This has happened with other people sometimes -- friends, potential partners, coworkers.
I even see it in myself sometimes -- I'll get super impatient with someone and have a slight outburst, but I recognize it. I consciously realize what I did, and that it is probably a result of having been in an abusive relationship.
Is this part of PTSD? Seeing traits of an abusive ex in other people?
 
J

JeanPierre

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I would think so.
Even without ptsd you would recognize the traits. ✌
 
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jointhedots

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Yeah, it sounds a lot like the symptoms of PTSD. Hyper sensitivity/vigilance is a key feature of PTSD. It can happen at any time and for any reason. It's a survival mechanism that is designed to alert you to potential danger and what makes it more compelling but also difficult to deal with is the fact that having experienced what it is you are being alerted to before the urgency to deal with this danger can seem like life or death. It feels like the experiences you went through before that created the trauma are going to happen all over again and so you're seeking to confirm this is going to happen in any way possible to then get the hell out of there.

You did the right thing leaving that job. That's a very healthy thing to do considering the fact that your own life story reflects a truth that seemed very similiar at the time to this person you shared the same workplace with. Why would you want to even entertain the possibility of the story behind your trauma becoming what your story is about today? Sometimes though you have to be careful that you're not going too far to protect yourself from threats like this. Sometimes the threat doesn't exist and what people might exhibit in their behaviour is not indicative of whatever story you have in your mind. You can isolate yourself from the world by shutting out everything that you perceive as a potential threat and this only seeks to fufill the expectations that you cannot move on and that around every corner is the reality that you live experience the trauma again and again, and again, and again...

It's actually not the case, and that's the black and white thinking trap along with other cognitive thinking traps like catastrophizing, mind reading etc. You may go out seeking it and sometimes by being too defensive you actually end up seeking things out like that because you're trying to project your reality and your past onto others so that they fufill the roles you have given them in your mind in relation to who they remind you of and what that means in the context of your relationship with them. You might end up treating everybody who happens to be a certain way in the way you'd treat an abusive ex-partner even though they are not your abusive ex-partner nor if it came down to actually gathering evidence for them being like you abusive ex-partner would they likely be an exact match.

This is where the journey towards really understanding trauma and how it can affect your life really helps because it gives you extremely valuable insight into how your world changes as a result of being traumatized and how those changes can seem like the ultimate reality now they have happened. Changes because of trauma are not necessarily changes that can be reflected in how the world actually works or how other people are, their intentions, their personalities etc. I spent a long period of my time seeking to find the bad in people but without realizing at the time I was simply traumatized and trying to label everyone with the same label my adoptive abusive family had attached to them because of what they did to me. I actually lost some really amazing people in my life because I was trying to find any way possible of confirming how evil, malicious, cruel and how much they were out to get me. When I find the slight bit of evidence, say, a benign expression of their body language or a simple passing comment or something in my head I had found ALL THE EVIDENCE and now Shirlock Holmes was making his final conclusions on the cracked case. In reality it was ME if anything who was guilty though I didn't want to believe it and instead wanted to be the perpetual victim forever being victimized by others and me outing these people (who were not actually that bad) somehow made me better.

Having said all that, keeping your distance from things that remind you of your past is usually a good thing. It's better sometimes to not take the risks. And if you trust yourself fully and your a good judge of character the chances are the decision you made was right. I find myself around people who ring alarm bells in my head and usually it's simply a case of walking away, changing rooms, talking to someone else, reframing the situation to reflect my seperation to these individuals, establishing boundaries and generally not projecting all my baggage onto them because this sometimes (if they are actually a threat to you) will pick up on this and now you're automatically in a dysfunctional dynamic whereby they know something isn't right and probably will try probing in order to get some sort of satisfaction out of it. Emotional detachment helps a lot too. Most people there is a level of emotional attachment you need which is basically the minimum for healthy interactions and this is fine but going over this can sometimes be indicative of deeper issues that need resolving and this is where you find yourself in a situation that might confirm to you that you're going to get hurt in some way because you're investing in the situation and toxic people like investment and like to exploit those who are perhaps not in the best place and who leave themselves open to being victimized. By having healthy boundaries in the first place the risks for this happening are greatly reduced.

In all cases, weigh up the pros and cons and do yourself a favour by being the judge in your own life in a way that reflects positive character traits and a stable and healthy sense of self. There's a time for listening to your heart and listening to your mind and know what situations require which. Sometimes you may need to hang up the phone IMMEDIATELY and not even ask questions. In these cases there probably likely is a risk of things flaring up in your life that potentially causes you to experience the reliving of trauma. Get out of these situations and DO NOT think twice about it. In other cases it might not be the case at all and perhaps the one thing you can do is open up, learn to be more vulnerable, reflect a congruent and authentic sense of self who does not come with walls up around them and who is able to connect with others and offer themselves in a way that promotes everything that is positive, reaffirming and beautiful about life. Again, there is a time and a place for everything. Experience will help guide you through these moments. Sometimes you might get it wrong. For example I've met people who were toxic people and who I had been nothing but nice towards, even telling them about my abusive past in the hopes of being the one who goes first and establishes trust in the relationship. I saw the warning signs but didn't want see the worst in them. When things did go wrong such as when I moved into a house share with two guys who both had untreated borderline personality disorder who conspired to make my life hell because I set healthy boundaries and didn't get invested in their dysfunctional lifestyle choices, I simply shut them out. Because I had done things right and had established healthy boundaries in the first place I could say no and I could justify detaching from them completely. It annoyed the hell out of me though because I had let myself down in a way giving people like that an oppurtunity in the first place but it's experience. In the future if I met someone who triggered those warning signs again and in similiar situations I would greatly reduce my willingness to participate in a relationship beyond brief and superficial encounters.

Trusting yourself is key but also knowing that you're not always right and that just because you've gone through trauma doesn't mean you now have some sort of magical power(s) that allows you to see deep within someone and read out their intentions before they act them out themselves. This is a sure fire way of losing people, potentially good people who perhaps really want to break through and give you the things you may never have had or at least had for a long time (in my case anyway). Sometimes you can project your life experiences onto others and sometimes the ones you project this onto could be the ones who were never going to be the ones to put you through that again, intentionally and in some sort of pre-meditated, calculated and predatory way (much like many partners who are perpetrators of domestic violence/abuse).

Hope this helps and good luck! :)
 
S

SunnyDaze

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Hi there @strawberrywater .

I'm sorry for what you've been through. I suggest you seek out a professional to work through the abuse you endured,if you haven't already.

What you described can be a part of PTSD but it can also happen without it. Seeing a professional is important though to see if it is or not and to get help dealing with it regardless.

Hugs
 
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