Trauma Masking As Power

Saturday, October 17, 2020

"I won't text you back for hours, 
But I just want to bring you flowers..."

Trauma masking as power

***

Tell me about your first time? I'll tell you mine.

I lost my innocence 7 years ago on a beach in California but somehow I only realised it just now. It happened in the rain, aptly, in Long Beach to be exact and 7491 miles from home. I lied about it to the rare few I ever pretended to tell. Then the lying got worse: to myself.

And I would have stayed this way had it not been for a starry night of serendipity in the springtime of 2020. A dear friend of mine, let's call them "L", and I were spending a night carousing to poetry, Van Gogh, and a LA based artist we both cherish by the name of Lana Del Rey. Our favourite sad girl was about to become our mutual ground zero. 

L reveals how unblossomed at 15 they got up to no good with their English teacher every night till 5 am for months. In the darkest hour of the night L describes how they didn't understand exactly what was happening, but we all know what it's like the first time we fully give our honest self in pure childlike innocence to someone and they actually reciprocate. Starry sky paradises in the eyes. World of your own that no one else can find. Never ending summer.

But summer's end did come, brought on by L's discovery that their English teacher actually had a partner the whole time and with the eruption of public scrutiny which ultimately caused their separation. L goes on to narrate the aftershocks of the next 9 years: older, many loathsome and sometimes abusive men were the only type of men who felt like summer again. A almost-decade of dead-inside staring at the ceiling, so sick of your own bullshit but you're still doing it anyway kind-of-cycle. L also describes how playing the part of "The Other Woman" à la Lana felt like power and how through time that just became character.

"Some might not realise until years later, and many never, how trauma and affinity to familiarity start as a small haunt but can infuse into your very stature"

And it was in that very sentence that my own darkness from the last 7 years made sense to me for the first time. Trauma masking as power. 

 No one even knows what life is like
Now I'm in LA it's paradise  ♬ 

"With Lana, it's not about the older men, for me it's about LA". I'd never told anyone this.

7 years ago after unthinking episodes on the darker web I found myself connected online to someone we'll call R. I was a neurotically antisocial and closeted 19 year old who's life comprised of digital fantasies and being voluntarily locked up at home. I was from Sydney and R was from LA, so I would wait until 2am to pour out the inner treasures of my haphazard heart with all the eagerness pent up from my superlatively conservative upbringing.

I spent obsessive amounts of time creating montages of my life for R. It was perfect at times, but inversely, I reflect that upon the many times that R made me beg and do things for attention. Stockholm-like hostage of the heart - felt like love.

In the summer of '14, I set out to wander the further I'd ever been from home, to meet someone I had never met, with only vague Long Beach address to go by. R had egged me on to visit for months, conjuring rose coloured fantasies about LA. 

But on that fateful day: the blackest radio silence.

Landing in LA, I sent messages that are left on read to this day. I can't remember how exactly I felt because since then I got really good at putting any feeling that was even slightly nuclear into a cement box and forgetting I left it at the bottom of the ocean. I do remember that I drove in a senseless state from LAX to the Long Beach. Then I sat like an agent on stakeout in the rain for two hours outside the address that R had given me months back.

A blunt smashing of my side window broke me from my watch. A middle-aged blonde lady launched at me and accused me of trespassing. "I'm looking for "R"" I defended, showing their picture. She beckoned twice, "There's no "R" here", before a front door slam - shotgun to my perfect delusion. It's all static from there, but I do remember I drove as fast as I could and somehow ended up by the sea. I don't recall how long I lay in the rain for but just that I wanted to run into the blue - so I did.

The Blue
I concluded months after that I had been supremely catfished, but I couldn't care very much by then because I had already started playing the character of the jetsetting ingénue who was always frivolous and who's only measure of life was how great the parties I went to were. He was untouchable and he came out to play whenever I was scared to. Trauma masking as power.

Just like L, my choice of partners has consistently shocked my best friends and I could never explain myself.
  • Never fully emotionally or physically present (better if both)
  • Interstate or overseas
  • Always had a chaos I identified from the beginning
  • Trustworthy, healthy and secure? That was a big boring "no"
It was only in speaking the truth to myself in the darkness of L's apartment that I realised that this had been my blueprint for every partner in the last 7 years. 

Modern day romantics teach us to trust our instinct in love and to honour that mythical spark. Alain De Botton suggests that instead of the illusive spark determining suitability as we all believe, it actually rather reflects a subconscious affinity to familiarity (à la Attachment Theory) - and when you has a history of powerful traumas, an affinity to people who may bring you familiar types of suffering overrides other forms of familiarity, and so you are hypnotised by a spark that is actually trauma masking as love

It's also a running joke that I'm the worst replier - 2 day replies aren't uncommon. I now realise how it was exactly after LA that I started replying slower because the thought of being left on read brought me back to the blue. 7 years on and I somehow had let that became how I responded to everyone. It felt like power, but it was the biggest healing to realise why I behaved this way. Even years on, each time I needed to reply, perhaps there was part of me that felt like I was still in Long Beach in the rain staring at my phone. Trauma masking as power.

In Healing Together:
In good spirit I want to ask you - are there thoughts of trauma that became actions that became habits that became character in your life? 


Have you been honest to yourself about past traumas in your life and how they have affected you? Remember, it's normal to react with distance, illusion or power while you're healing but what we don't often remember is that the more habits become character the more invisible it becomes to ourselves. 

I dislike platitudes, but awareness is truly the first step. Now I'm trying my best to unlearn the trauma cycles I had thought were just my character. My friends tell me they're pleasantly surprised that they can see me actively trying to reply immediately these days. It doesn't hurt me anymore. 

I'm a believer that if you let these cycles take hold that you'll build mental and emotional systems that put you into an echo chamber of bad decisions, suffering and potentially depression. "Anchor" is one metacognitive technique I use where I create a powerful emotional and intellectual point of self reference that I can hold onto when I am tempted by my trauma cycles.

One such anchor I use is to always surface the memory of the exact moment an ex partner made me feel the lowest I had ever felt in my life as a human being. I use anchors for everything - fitness, work, learning - and the aforementioned anchor helps me run the other way when I am tempted by my affinity to dangerous potential partners. I'm also trying to condition myself to love and be excited by good character. Anchor is very much about owning your brain like a pet and architecting the maze you want it to run into. 

If I'm to leave you with final thoughts - let's make ourselves aware of our trauma masks and then break them. Let's also be more aware that other people also have their own trauma cycles and by sharing and showing each other we're not so different we may mutually help break each others' cycles. Guard your thoughts, always review your attitudes and habits. The biggest mindset switch I've made is "I don't go out into a relationship to find happiness, rather I go into them to share my own happiness". 

I just want to bring you flowers. Real love manifesting as power. 

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9 comments

  1. Really thanks for sharing. I think about myself.hope you are happy

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  2. Anyone know where this is?

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    1. In the Sydney countryside by a town called Orange on the main highway they call, "The Golden Highway".

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  3. ⚓⚓⚓⚓⚓⚓

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    1. The more anchors the better, just make sure you also assess them and make sure they're inclining you toward healthy behaviours. I found this helpful - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUqRTWCdXt4

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  4. Beautiful sharing from you. I sometimes feel like I am plagued by some inner demons as well. I am truly sorry for what you went through. You could perfectly recount every moment of that journey to LA, even though it was many years ago, meaning that it must have left some indelible marks on you. Looking forward to your next sharing, and Lana Del Rey!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading. We all have inner demons (whether we are aware of it or not) - I've learned the importance of being honest with yourself about these demons, conscious of how it affects you and pragmatic about how you may heal them by creating anchors for yourself. Wishing you all the best!

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    2. Thanks for the advice, wish you all the best as well!

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