What is Chronic Family Trauma?
Chronic Family Trauma (CFT) is a term of my own devising as codependency doesn’t say all that I believe needs to be expressed about living in the equivalent of a war zone within the structure that is meant to support and nurture our growth as children and adults – The Family. This can come from living with people suffering from use disorders, as well as living with those who struggle with mental illness, or, frankly, people who have been traumatized as children themselves. It is intended to be a description, not an indictment.
Almost is Never Enough
“It’s hard to get enough of something that almost works.”
I heard that line a while ago and I haven’t been able out get it out of my head. I know most people with substance use issues will respond to that with a visceral understanding and a “YES” from their souls. But I wonder whether the unseen and unheard majority, those affected by the use disorders of others and C-PTSD understand that this same principle is in play for us as well.
Our adult relationships almost work. We replay the childhood dynamic, marrying people who we want to give us the love and the comfort we could not find as children. Often those people also have use disorders and/or C-PTSD, because that’s the dynamic we know. It’s how we feel “at home.” But home was never what we wanted it to be. We try once again to make something that causes us pain feel good. And it can almost work.
This is how we become addicted to relationships – getting it almost right, having people in our lives who almost meet our needs. There is love at the core, but the love is warped by our unmet needs and we fall victim once again to our own internal demons.
The dance we continue to dance with the those we love, creating the chaos of more lives affected by dysfunction, is scary and yet mesmerizing. We are drawn in again and again not so much by the other person’s promise to change but by the very fact that it’s so close to right – but not quite. And it is not ever enough.
Because the real key to happiness doesn’t lie in something outside. Contentment and real joy come from our love and acceptance of ourselves. Only then can we connect to another and find real intimacy. There’s another saying that I love – a play on the word Intimacy. “Into Me, You See.” If we can’t let people see us as we truly are (because we don’t think we’re lovable), we’ll never find the connection we seek. If those we love wouldn’t love us if they knew us, if we can’t love them exactly as they are, then real intimacy will be impossible. We’ll forever continue to live our lives trying over and over again to get a different result – because it is actually impossible to really get enough of something that almost works.