I would love to tell you nobody will ever abandon you again.
I would love to tell you all relationships are safe.
I would love to tell you the WORLD is safe.
But I can’t.
The truth is, there ARE dangerous people and situations out there.
There ARE predatory people and organizations out there.
There are people and organizations that will specifically target vulnerable people— people who have been through trauma, and who are struggling with the aftereffects.
In trauma treatment and recovery, you’re going to hear a lot of “you’re safe now.”
When people say this, they often mean “you’re not as vulnerable as you were when you were a child. You have knowledge, skills, resources, and physical size and strength you didn’t have then. You’re not as dependent upon abusive people and systems as you were then.”
All of that tends to be true— but does that mean we’re “safe” now?
One of the big problems I’ve always had with some messaging around trauma is that healing is a matter of “leaving the past in the past.”
It’s true that post traumatic disorders often leave us confused about what is “then” and what is “now;” but it also tends to assume that the most dangerous parts of our journey are in the past, and we can “leave them there.”
As someone whose professional life is devoted to working with people struggling with trauma, I can assure you: not all danger or pain IS in the past.
There are absolutely people reading this who are STILL in abusive or exploitative relationships or situations, who feel trapped in them.
There are people reading this who are struggling with institutional abuse or culturally sanctioned exploitation.
There are people who experience much of their “everyday” existence in our culture as traumatic due to their racial, ethnic, or gender identity.
Realistic, sustainable trauma recovery doesn’t assume that the danger or trauma is necessarily in the “past.”
It doesn’t assume that trusting people is necessarily “safe.”
The skills, tools, and philosophies of trauma recovery need to help us protect ourselves now and process ONGOING trauma, as much as they need to help us come to terms with past trauma.
I cringe a little whenever I see a therapist say that “you have to let people in” or “you have to trust people” in order to recover from trauma.
First, it’s my experience that there are very few “have to’s” when it comes to trauma recovery.
(Some— but few.)
Second, “opening up” and “trusting people,” in the abstract, may not be possible or advisable for many survivors in recovery.
We didn’t come by these attachment wounds by accident.
Often our instincts about who we should or should’t open up to or trust have been skewed by the things we’ve experienced.
Often we have very real struggles with the very idea of “opening up” or “trusting” people— and we don’t get past those struggles by forcing ourselves to connect before we’re ready.
So— I can’t tel you the world is objectively “safe.”
i can’t tell you that person isn’t going to leave you.
I can’t tell you that the people around you are any more reliable or safe than the people you grew up with (how the hell would I know?).
What I can tell you is, the more work you do in trauma recovery, the SAFER the world becomes FOR YOU— not because the world itself is any more or less are, but because YOU are more integrated, aware, and skilled.
We need trauma recovery tools, skills, and philosophies specifically BECAUSE the world isn’t safe.
We can’t let our trauma recovery be dependent upon the world or other people being safe.
But WE can be safer IN the world, and WITH other people.