Welcome to Part Four in the ‘Trouble With Trauma’ series…
So in the last post I talked about whether you grew up in an enmeshed or a neglected environment – or some point in between.
Added to the enmeshed/neglected upbringing is whether or not you tend to be an externaliser or an internaliser. When things go wrong – do you externalise the blame onto everyone else, or do you internalise it onto yourself. This approach tends to be based on personality and attitude.
If I am the sort of person who is an externaliser and I’ve grown up in that enmeshed environment from childhood, then I’m going to respond to a disconnection by reverting to child mode first – fearful of the abandonment. “Please don’t leave me, I’m really sorry I’ll do anything!”, but then if that doesn’t get me what I want, which is essentially a reconnection, I’m going to do an absolute flip and start yelling and screaming “You’re the worst in the world, I don’t ever want to see you again! Get out of my life!” Ranting.
That’s what an externaliser does – that’s throwing the feeling of rejection off self and onto others because they can’t handle how it feels inside. Often externaliser’s have grown up in that enmeshed space and when they feel that they can’t get what they want, they lose the plot. They end up feeling like they have to throw ‘molotov cocktails’ onto everybody else because they don’t like how it makes them feel inside, the shame that they feel from being abandoned.
On the opposite end of the scale, if you are more inclined to go into protector mode first, then you will internalise. You tell the other person what they did wrong, but then push them away. “Here is your ‘charge sheet’, there are all the things you did wrong! See you later, don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out!” At that point, most internalisers are quite in control actually, but they usually use an issue to decide that the other person is not going to give them what they want and will eventually reject them, so they push first. Ghosted!
Internaliser’s decide that it’s a done deal, they close the door and send people away – mainly because they don’t believe the other person is actually willing to give them what they want. However, when the other person has actually gone and they haven’t come crawling back, begging and pleading “Please, please – let me sort it out!” – this is when the internaliser will flip into child mode. For an internaliser – child mode is withdrawn, alone and isolated – curled up in a foetal position in bed and not answering the phone. A strong sense of being rejected, despite being the one who usually did the ‘eject’ to feel more in control of being abandoned.
An externaliser goes into child mode first ‘Two year old Tantrums’ and then into protective ‘Screaming Banshee’. An internaliser goes into protector mode first ‘Judge, Jury and Executioner’ and then into child mode ‘PJ’s and Alone’.
The clingy, enmeshed side is where that child part lives, so it’s our inner child who’s throwing the tantrum – it’s your four year old. You trigger into the part of you that first experienced abandonment at the hands of your parents and felt responsible for the rejection.
Your protector, neglected side is where your older teenage part lives. It is our inner protector that is feeling rejected already and decides to push first. You trigger into that part of you that is usually at least a teenage part, but often an adult. It is the part of you that developed in response to the feelings of neglect and unimportance and it is modelled off the adults you had around you in your childhood.
Why is it important to understand that we all have both child and protector. Depending on our upbringing, but we go to one as a go-to and then we flip into the other one. We need to understand that our protector part is the internalised protector of our child.
Your inner child is vulnerable and wants to be given unconditional love. I will let you in on a little secret – it is not possible in this world to receive unconditional love… From anybody! The only living being that will give you unconditional love is a dog.
As a parent, you might believe that love your child unconditionally… It’s not true – impossible for humans actually. You love them an awful lot, and you accept a lot of things from them, but you don’t truly love them unconditionally. Yes, I know that’s hard for you to hear, but it’s essential to understand it is a part of being human – not a personal failing.
It is critical that we understand this though, we crave connection as human beings and we fail each other in being able to provide it… Even when we really want to!
In all of our relationships and our connections with other human beings, we have to understand ourselves and where we are coming from in that relationship.
If we are reacting to someone close to us in hurt or anger, we have usually perceived a potential rejection, we feel that we are going to be abandoned. Our clarity and understanding of ourselves and our own feelings is fundamentally important because in any relationship that we have with another human being you have to understand yourself how you react, so that you can communicate to the other person why you reacted the way that you have. When we understand ourselves, we can own the feelings and manage our behaviour better through more effective and honest communication about our needs.
In my own life, I know I’m a protector first – I call her my ‘Xena Warrior Princess’ and she is very good at protecting my feelings by pushing people away before they can reject me. I disconnect from people ‘after’ I have read them the charges against them, but if I didn’t get something that was satisfactory, or it was just the same justification for the same unacceptable behaviour – I would just walk away.
Over the course of my life, I got more adept at this and I reached a point where I wouldn’t really give them much opportunity to explain themselves, I saw a familiar pattern and I would walk away from it rather than work through it to see if it was really the same issue. When I was younger, I expected that they would eventually come running after me, begging me to let them fix the problem – this was reinforced in my marriage due to the co-dependent nature of it. As I have matured, I didn’t give them much of a chance – as it happened more over my life, my tendency was to cut and run as I had decided that the other person would never give me what I truly wanted – which is unconditional love.
What is interesting is how my own internal system works. I make the decision to protect myself by disconnecting, but then I flip into my inner child who is feeling vulnerable. It’s important to understand our ‘parts of self’ and if you are not so familiar with this concept you should go and review one of my other videos about it (HERE).
My inner child is vulnerable and feels rejected and then becomes angry at my protector (Xena) part – think about how your critical internal voice works. In essence the child blames the protector for always making everybody go away and leave me – abandon me. The child believes that nobody is ever going to love me because Xena is such a horrible nasty person who makes everyone reject me. Yet the protector is actually the protector of the child, they coexist in a symbiotic relationship, remember that the protector develops in our own psyche in early childhood to help protect you from the feelings of abandonment and rejection that you feel but can’t control. The protector seeks to give you some control over the situation but often ends up doing that by becoming very critical of the child’s need for unconditional love as it is perceived as weakness and leaves you vulnerable.
Our ultimate need is for connection. I want somebody to love me unconditionally…. This is the basis of our human emotional driver. However, we need to recognise that we are never going to get unconditional love – not truly.