Eh, they might misunderstand you.
Or, worse— they might intentionally misconstrue who you are and what you’re all about.
They might come at you, telling you you’re someone you’re not, and that you prioritize things you don’t prioritize.
Trauma survivors get this a lot. Other people trying to tell us who we are.
And we, being trauma survivors, have real trouble NOT taking it all very seriously— and very personally.
When we’ve been through trauma, we very often struggle to define who we are.
All those years when human beings are SUPPOSED to be figuring out who we are and what we’re all about, WE spent just trying to survive.
Our developmental trajectory got thrown for a loop.
So we often arrive in adulthood not really knowing who we are— or even feeling like a fraud or an imposter.
We may not know exactly WHY we feel like a “fake” person— but all we know is, we feel like we’re performing a role, like a character in a play. And we’re constantly afraid other people will see that, and call us out on it.
There’s a certain type of person who knows this— instinctively, at least— about us, and who tries to use it against us.
Usually the people who try to exploit our insecurity about who we are are people who wants something from us.
They want us to do what they want us to do.
They want us to prioritize their wants, their needs, their viewpoints.
And they will absolutely f*ck with our heads in order to get what they want.
There are certain words that many complex trauma survivors find REALLY triggering.
“Selfish.” “Disloyal.” “Entitled.”
The people who want what they want might throw those words at you, to get you to respond— because they know, at least instinctively, that complex trauma survivors would rather die (sometimes literally!) than actually BE (or be thought of) as selfish, disloyal, or entitled.
We associate those words with abusers— rightfully so.
And survivors will do triple backflips to NOT be like those who abused us.
We spend large chunks of our lives trying desperately to NOT be those things.
So when someone comes at us, trying to manipulate us— throwing around words that they know will trigger us— we need to be smart.
We need to remember that when someone who wants something from us uses that language, they are trying to push our buttons.
We need to remember that someone SAYING something about us doesn’t make it true.
We need to remember that we are GOING to feel reactive to those words, and we’re GOING to want to prove the person wrong— and that superficially, the path to “proving them wrong” may seem to be doing what they want us to do.
Their game is, “prove that you’re not selfish, disloyal, or entitled, by doing what I want you to do.”
It’s tempting. We really, really, don’t like those words. We really, really don’t want to be like an abuser.
This type of manipulation is similar to gaslighting.
In gaslighting, the abuser tries to make you feel crazy.
In this, the abuser tries to make you feel sh*tty.
Either way: the tactic has nothing to do with reality.
It has EVERYTHING to do with an abusive person taking advantage of our identity struggles.
Do not bite.
And be ready to reassure the kid version of you, who you carry around in your head and heart: no matter what that person is saying, it’s not true. It’s a trick. It’s a trap. It’s a ruse.
Easy does it.