The Cycle of Trauma
The idea of “an eye for an eye leave the whole world blind” is about the defense mecahnisms that lead to the cycle of trauma. It never stops because of Displacement, Projection and Denial. The good news is that strategies through forgiveness work that force reflection can break this cycle. Just keep in mind the myths surrounding forgiveness, like how it doesn’t mean you need reconciliation.
Defense mechanisms are designed to cope with feelings we have trouble expressing or resolving and while they succeed in certain ways, they fail us in others. We might be able to block out things that are painful for us, but it doesn’t mean they’re not influencing your behaviors through your subconscious. If traumas go unresolved, they create larger, longer problems.
Displacement is when we take a trauma and direct those feelings toward people we don’t feel threatened by. Do you ever notice how people generally treat family worse than they treat friends or strangers (with the exception of keyboard warriors)? We know that family is more likely to take it and maintain a relationship with us. Just an example, your boss was really mean to you at work and you’re still mad, so you come home and you’re not kind to your spouse or kids, so they get upset and take that out on someone else…etc.
Projection is when you take a feeling or emotion that’s unresolved and you imagine someone else is displaying that feeling or emotion. If you’re holding onto a trauma about something, like hatred toward someone for causing it, you might project that onto someone else that you feel hates you for no reason. Body shaming is another example and can be the result of insecurity, which might have come from a trauma. One of my uncles has fatphobia and his sons developed traumas from growing up around that and developed body image issues. One of them is obsessed with working out, possibly for this reason. They’ve also tried to bribe their family members that are out of shape with rewards to lose weight. My mother was bribed with a house and my sister was bribed with $10,000 to hit a certain goal. Their traumas then make other people self-conscious, which only continues the cycle by passing it onto their kids or others.
Denial can happen for a variety of reasons, but it can commonly be to keep the peace. Rather than confront your emotions and someone that caused you a trauma, you’d rather keep quiet because you feel it’s in everyone’s best interest. It’s not in your best interest! Holding things in just results in the previous two defense mechanisms coming out. While you might be able to resolve an issue with someone, it doesn’t always go that way and toxic relationships aren’t worth keeping, but it’s worth having a strategy when expressing issues.
I kept quiet and held resentment for a long time for many things that happened as a child, like my aunt and uncle hiding my clothes except 1 outfit and offering some back for each A or B I got in school. Eventually I had to stop denying what happened and after making a list of grievances and writing what I thought their motivations were, I tried to get closure by understanding and asking them. In a perfect world, it would’ve been acknowledged. I was told I lived in a fantasy world and got gaslighted instead. When a relationship is toxic and harmful, reconciliation is not advisable.
If I didn’t take all the issues I had and bring them up, even though I was gaslighted, I’d subconsciously project or displace my unresolved emotions. I’m confident that the forgiveness work I’ve done is why I have stronger relationships and boundaries at this point in my life and why it was so difficult to maintain partnerships and friendships when I was younger.
Breaking the cycle starts with you, it’s never too late to work on yourself.