Games Your Brain Plays When You Have PTSD, Vol. 1

Occasionally making you irrationally suspicious of people you love because you love them.

The chain of thought goes something like this:

  • “The people who’ve hurt me the most were people I allowed to get close to me. Therefore, closeness leads to being hurt.”
  • “The common denominator in all these relationships was me, which means I’m a dismal judge of character. That means deep affection for anybody is a red flag, because my track record reflects a preference for people who hurt me.”
  • “Therefore I should feel suspicious of those I love most, because history tells me my affection for them is a sign of their untrustworthiness.”

The kicker is that this line of reasoning isn’t entirely without basis in reality. Repetition compulsion, the pattern of reenacting traumatic events in a doomed effort to master them, is a real phenomenon. It’s one reason why if you have an alcoholic parent you’re likelier to marry an alcoholic, and why children who grow up in abusive households frequently select abusive intimate partners. It also helps explain my tendency to gravitate toward friends whose treatment of me falls on a spectrum from indifference to, on at least a couple of occasions, wholesale bullying.

This is not to say that most of my friends have been assholes. Far from it. The basically decent people I’ve admitted into my life outnumber the basically shitty ones exponentially, but the shitty ones were doozies, and my impulse to give the benefit of the doubt to people I like a lot means it sometimes takes me way longer than it should to correctly identify an asshole when I encounter one. This self-knowledge only amplifies the little voice of paranoia in the back of my head that loves to remind me of every occasion when somebody I cared about showed me a warning sign that I immediately rationalized away or pretended not to have seen, and sometimes it makes me see everybody, but particularly my close friends, through a lens of misgiving.

tl;dr: Scumbag Brain is very real, and “trust no one” is just one of the many cunning disguises it likes to wear.

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