When There’s Drama Look For Trauma
Todays email was from a 30 year old woman who punched her boyfriend in the face after she saw him flirting with some other women.
I’m pretty sure it’s the longest email I’ve ever gotten so I did have to trim some of it out. I had to read this email about 5 times as it was really long and overwhelming.
Now, I didn’t mention this in my reply email to her, as it was something that I thought of as I was writing this out.
I have a saying that a lot of times helps me see things clearly: It goes when there’s drama, look for trauma.
Anytime I hear about something that seems outrageous or a behavior or response that’s out of proportion, it’s a signal to me that there may be trauma involved.
Before into I get into the email I just want to share some symptoms of trauma.
Poor memory problems (like their memory is in a fog), Difficulty concentrating, shutting down feelings, panic attacks, irrational behavior, difficulty regulating emotions, self injurious behaviors, hyperarousal to abandonment, excessive temper, demanding emotions, unable to trust others, separation anxiety, anxious or avoidant.
Can this person modulate affect?
When I hear of those symptoms, I know that theres a good chance there is a trauma involved somewhere. Remember, if a trauma is bad enough, the brain can’t separate the past from the present.
And until a trauma is talked about, nothing changes. Time doesn’t touch it. It floats in a timeless realm.
Kind of like the villains of Superman 2.
30 year old woman who has an Very anxious attachment style. I like to call her Rocky
Hi Craig so It was bad. Things were amazing until one day at a beer festival I got black out drunk (which magnifies my anxious behavior a hundred fold) I got jealous thinking he was flirting with some girls he was playing a game with. I don't remember anything, but apparently I walked up to him and punched him right in the face.
I screamed and caused a huge public scene in front of some of his friends as well. He took me to a friend's house and dropped me off and told me we were done. This was just last weekend. I actually hadn't had an episode of feeling jealous or insecure with him before this. And though I do often get angry when drunk, I've never been violent. It was like the alcohol caused me to have a PTSD flashback to my ex and I lost all control.
Craig: We’ll call her boyfriend Apollo.
Okay, so I have to point out the obvious first. Hitting someone in the face is grounds for a break up. So if he wants to break up with you over that, understandable.
It sounds like something triggered a flashback. I don’t know what kind of childhood you had, but it did not sound pleasant. Since you mentioned having a high level of anxiety, it sounds like you may have had some abuse or neglect going on. I would guess at least separation anxiety from abandonment issues. If trauma is bad enough we can’t separate it from the past and it feels like it’s currently going on.
I think there is a lot more going on than just you punching him. It seems to me that maybe he was flirting with other girls and you knew it. You got pissed and you attacked him. You are putting all the blame on yourself about the incident, but my gut tells me that maybe he was flirting with the other girls during that game. You are quick to discredit yourself because you were so drunk, I’m not so sure this was entirely your fault. What if he was flirting with other girls? Obviously it’s not okay to attack him, but that would trigger your separation anxiety.
Rocky: I was still currently very drunk at the time, though my memory was kicking back in, and tried to beg his forgiveness once we were in the car. I then punched myself in the face in an attempt to show him how sorry I was. (seemed rational at the time) and when that didn't work I threatened suicide. All things I would never do sober.
Craig: Now this is a conversation I would like to have seen. She wakes up from her black out and sees his shiner, what happened? Who hit you? I’ll kill them! Who did this to you?
Apollo: You did.
Rocky: Baby, I love you so much I’m gunna kick my own ass.
Craig: Sometimes ya just got to laugh at this stuff.
Rocky: We moved in together after only a month, but it just felt so right. We have so much in common it's like we were made for each other. Until this happened, of course. Now everything has changed.
Craig: They moved in together after a month. What can go wrong?
She says: This week has been strange. He was very angry with me the day after (understandably so) and I cried and begged forgiveness and swore to never touch alcohol again (which I fully mean. I will not ever allow myself to be violent again). He said I could continue to live here until I made new arrangements, then left and went and did all the things from our list of date plans without me. And told everyone he knows about what happened. He told me they were talking about what I psycho I am.
Okay, I think it was decent of him to say you can stay there until she makes arrangements. Even if all his friends think you are a psycho, why is he telling you that. He’s throwing that in your face.
He is twisting conversations they’ve had in the past around.
Monday and Tuesday they hung out. Wednesday he freaked out when he texted her but she didn’t receive some of them. He called her in a panic when he thought she had blocked him. But as soon as he saw she hadn’t he stopped talking to her.
It’s ironic that when he thought you had blocked him he can call you in a panic (when he has separation anxiety) but when you have it, you’re “crazy”. If that makes you mad, it should! It’s okay for him to have separation anxiety and act irrational, but not for you. Sounds fair (I’m being sarcastic).
Rocky: He told me it was up to me, but I could come home if I wanted and said, though he didn't want to get back together, he'd give things time to see if I've changed (ei no anxious behavior. Waaay harder than I thought it would be.). Thinking everything was ok, I did come home on Thursday. I wish I hadn't.
When we're home together he's texting people constantly, which he didn't do nearly as much before. The first couple days I suppressed my anxiety about it. Assuming that he's just eating up all the attention he's getting. Though I did break down crying several times because it hurts to see how much happier his friends seem to make him. With me, even though he's being nice, he's still very cold and serious. When I try to talk about my feelings, he just says 'I don't know what to tell you.' Then he's right back on his phone.
Craig: He’s giving her mixed messages. Its setting her separation anxiety off. You can’t stay in this position. Not knowing one way or another is going to drive you crazy.
Rocky: On Saturday he stayed out late with friends. He didn’t tell her where he was. He said his phone fell between the seats. He came home at midnight and when she tried to say that she has feelings he said
"Well I'm still a person with feelings and the polite thing to do would have been to let me know!" Said in tears and anger. "Why?! We aren't together anymore. I don't have to tell you anything! You're making a huge deal out of nothing and being crazy!" We fought like this for awhile until I apologized and we went to bed in our now separate rooms.
Craig: More abusive behavior. He is minimizing her feelings and discrediting her by calling her crazy. His behavior is worse than hers.
I don’t like this guy. He is giving her mixed messages and he is cruel.
She went to apologize in the morning and as soon as she went in there to talk the phone goes off. 2 women text him. He says They’re friends. I’ve known them forever.
This dude is up to no good. If you want to say he’s single. That’s true, but stop with the conflicting messages. You’re in or your out. Don’t keep toying with someone’s emotions. It’s wrong. And he freaked out and lost self-control when he thought she cut her off.
He just kept saying "Not if you keep acting like this! If things get better, there may be hope. But not right now, not if you don't stop being crazy." So I calmed down and apologized once again. But now I'm more anxious about his phone than ever before. And he's been on it all day. He hides it on his chest when I walk by.
Come on. This dude wants the best of best worlds. He is keeping Rocky hanging on the ropes meanwhile he’s talking to like 5 different women.
He had a girl invite him out to a concert. But hes not interested ONLY because he has plans with one of his buddies.
She tries to talk to him about things with him. After I calmed down I calmly told him that seeing him on his phone so much makes me worry. He just shrugged and walked away.
This guy knows he has her in the palm of her hands and he is exploiting her. I don’t like him.
Rocky: I don't know what to do. I'm going to look at a room for rent tomorrow and told him that. Again, no reaction. I'm stuck feeling like a prisoner to my pain. He tells his dogs how much he loves them and how lucky he is right in front of me. Makes me feel awful. The DOGS are more deserving of love than I am.
It sounds like he deliberately is trying to hurt you by telling the dogs how much he loves them in front of you. I’m not sure if there’s anything to this but you said the dogs are more deserving of love than you are. Has someone ever said or done anything like this before to make you feel this way? I’m guessing someone has.
Rocky:It seems that the requirements for my forgiveness are to act like a Stepford wife and just keep a big smile on my face while he knowingly does things that hurt my feelings. He seems to be enjoying my pain, but then what about the times he's nice?
Could be Borderline? Possibly Narcissitic?
Rocky: What I did was really terrible though, so maybe this is normal considering the circumstances? Is this punishment reasonable? Should I be tolerating this?
Craig: No. There’s something about this guy that feels off to me. I don’t like him. Now, I think you would be challenging in a relationship because you have a lot of anxiety. But this guys, I feel like he’s got a
Rocky: I just want things to go back to the way they were. It hurts that he doesn't care about my feelings anymore, but do I even deserve that? And if it IS reasonable for him to be acting this way, how do I control my anxiety about his phone and what he's doing in his now private life?
It would be perfectly reasonable for him to break up with you over this. What I don’t like is the mixed messages. Either talk it over and work it out or end it.
Rocky: Is it better to just be done and see if he goes into his own separation anxiety? I want him to understand that I'm hurting, but anytime I try to explain my emotions he says I'm attacking him. He thinks I'm crazy now, and I'm starting to worry the same. Am I being selfish?
Should I be swallowing my pain and just letting him do whatever makes him feel better? I feel lost and confused. I really want to fix things because it was REALLY good before. I feel like if I leave right after we've had a bad day like today then that's what he'll remember.
But maybe if I can keep my cool for a while and get him feeling better like he was earlier this week and THEN leave, just maybe he'll miss me. Or maybe the phone thing is a legit reason to leave for real. I don't know if I'm being paranoid anymore or not. Please help!
Craig: He has you questioning reality. And for good reason. After going through this email again I picked up a bunch more things that I didn’t the first time. Here are some of the manipulative behaviors that I picked up.
Gaslighting – that didn’t happen. You imagined it. they distort reality and erode your sense of reality. They get
Deliberately misrepresenting your thoughts and feelings to the point of absurdity. She had made the comment that the dog needs to be trained, that they shouldn’t get rid of it because it’s a good dog.
But he twisted it around to make it seem like she said We should get rid of the dog because you said it’s awful.
Name Calling- calling her psycho, crazy, spouse beater,
Smear campaigns- slandering you to all their friends and family.
My gut tells me you grew up with some abuse or neglect. It sounds like you’ve had trauma in your past and it hasn’t been dealt with. It is going to keep coming up until you really talk about it. For that, I would really encourage you to find a therapist who is experienced with trauma. I also think you need someone who has a good understanding of attachment theory as they can help you with your anxiety).
I would say alcohol is not your friend. You may have some real issues going on with that. It seems to me like drinking is only going to trigger all the trauma and anxiety that you have. You’re an adult, you have to make decisions for yourself. What are the benefits and risks of you drinking? Only you can decide that, but it played a major part in potentially ruining this relationship. If it has had any impact on your other relationships, than you need to take a real look at it.
A lot of your anxiety over this has nothing to do with him. You have to learn to calm yourself and sooth your own anxiety. My guess is that you have not learned to do that.
If it was me, here’s what I would do. I have rethought my original email to you. I don’t like this guy and I would move on. I would work on yourself. Watch every single one of my videos. Find yourself a therapist and work though your issues.
Now, if you decide you want him back here is the way I would do it. I would very seriously look for a room to rent. Find one that you like and be prepared to move there. Then say, listen I want to work things out but I understand if you don’t. Tell him your plans and see how he acts. If he talks to you like an adult and wants to really work things out, then consider it.
Don’t beg. Don’t plead. Come to him like an equal and act like an adult. If he says he does not, tell him Okay, I understand. Make arrangements to move out. When you do, simply tell him to contact you if he changes his mind. Then don’t contact him anymore.
If he is attached to you and starts to miss you, he will contact you. If that happens, then tell him you want to take things slow. If he does have an avoidant attachment style, he may not be attached to you enough to do so.
You are going to be okay. You survived for 29 years before him. You are an adult now. You can take care of yourself. It’s okay if someone walks out of your life (even though it hurts). You aren’t a little girl anymore. Remember, you are now an adult and you’re going to be okay!