Complex trauma survivors often have this complicated relationship with visibility. 

On the one hand, many of us have learned over the course of our lives that to be seen isn’t particularly safe. 

Many of us consequently go through adult life trying hard NOT to be seen. 

It makes us anxious when attention is drawn to us. 

When someone wants to talk to us— when someone even calls us— we often assume we’re in trouble. 

We bend over BACKWARDS to NOT be “high maintenance” in our relationships or jobs— and if someone insinuates that we ARE “high maintenance,” we often feel TERRIBLE about it. 

For many complex trauma survivors, invisibility isn’t just the superpower they WISH they had— it’s something they’ve worked hard to cultivate. 

But then, on the other hand, feeling functionally invisible to certain people can be one of the most painful experiences of a complex trauma survivors’ life. 

We know what it feels like to be “invisible” to the people who “should” have seen us. 

We know what it feels like to be ignore by the people who “should” have been invested in us. 

We know what it feels like to be betrayed by the people who “should” have had our back. 

We often know all of that because we felt it growing up. For some of us those were some of the FIRST things we felt in life. 

As a result, in our adult relationships, we can often be hyper aware of whether we’re being seen and respected— at least by the handful of people who “should” see and respect us. 

If someone says they’re our friend— but then they don’t seem to have much genuine interest in our life, we notice. 

If someone says they love us, but then behave toward us in ways that really can’t be described as loving— we notice. 

If someone talks over us or interrupts us, as if what we were saying or expressing didn’t have particular value— we notice. 

We notice— and sometimes we react. 

Lots of complex trauma survivors find it surprising that, as hard as they’ve worked to NEVER feel or express anger in their adult lives, that feeling ignored or disrespected by certain, specific people can very suddenly elicit feelings and expressions of anger that even WE didn’t know were inside us. 

Almost nobody likes to think of themselves as an “angry” person, and complex trauma survivors in particular tend to go to great lengths to NOT be fundamentally “angry.” 

But when someone who “should” have our back behaves dismissively toward us, for some reason it often hits a button that lets ALL the anger we never expressed flow. 

Which, of course, means we sometimes feel ashamed afterward. 

After all, the emotions of anger and shame are often hard wired together in the nervous system of a complex trauma survivor. 

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to apologize for feeling angry OR hurt when someone behaves dismissively or disrespectfully toward you— especially a friend or lover. 

It DOES hurt. 

It hurts in a specific kind of way— because it recreates certain experiences that were at the root of our ORIGINAL hurt. 

How you manage and express your anger is up to you. I’m not in the business of telling anyone they’re dong it wrong or right. 

But you need to know that it’s not “wrong” to FEEL what you FEEL. 

You also need to know that this is the textbook definition of a trigger: a present day experience that is recreating old dynamics and emotional patterns. 

You bet your nervous system’s going to react. 

It’s not “wrong” or “bad” for doing so. 

YOU’RE not “wrong” or “bad” for having feelings and reactions. 


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