Recently I have had to come to a new level of understanding about myself. For years I have been attracted to the potential of others. I have picked my closest friends through this viewpoint; it worked for many years. However, as we get older, things change, and people change. This view of the world no longer works. Instead, it flipped and it led to more pain than good. I wanted to break down what I call Potential Trauma Lensing for yall and maybe it will help shine a light on some of the darker places and bring understanding.

Trauma Lensing

As a child, I was sexually abused by a babysitter and other family members. My parents didn’t know how to handle such a thing and thus, I was often beaten. I will admit, I wasn’t an easy child to raise. I grew up with extreme ADHD and I was one of four. One of my survival skills during this time was to see the good more than the bad.

I choose to see my mom as a loving and caring person, which was only part of the truth at the time. The truth was, she was scared. She was hurting, angry, and oftentimes felt like she was a failure. She was also physically abusive. The lens I choose to see her through my whole life was that of a caring and loving mother. It wasn’t until after she died did I see the full picture. Let me give you an example.

When we were younger, my mother use to take her thumbnail and grab the soft tissue part of our ears and drive us to the ground. It was very painful. While doing this to my brother one day, he decided to fight back. He had it. He broke free from her grip. While doing so, he hit her. As a child, I jumped to protect my mom. Which kid wouldn’t want to protect their mom? A few minutes later, she did the same thing to me for jumping in.

I choose only to see the good in my mom. I choose to “forget” what she did to us. This helped me survive as a child. I call this Potential Trauma Lensing.

Effects of Potential Trauma Lensing

This lensing forces us to see the “Shiny” inside someone. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it will come to bite us in the long run. Often times I hear people bash the homeless, and I stop them pointing out the life of the homeless. There is a reason they are in the spot they are in and not all of them are bad. This gives many of the homeless I encounter a sense of being seen and human. Seeing the “shiny” in someone has brung about great healing in others. However, only seeing the shiny isn’t true and has led me down some hurtful roads. We can see what’s there, but we can’t make what’s their reality. The next story of a close friend in my life is how this Potential Trauma Lensing affected my life.

A close friend

I grew up with two extremely close friends. For the sake of privacy, I will call them Bob and Rob. I met Bob at school. When I met Bob, we both didn’t have any expectations of each other. We didn’t choose to see only good or bad. We saw each other as each other. Bob and I are still good friends and I often miss talking to him. While Rob on the other hand was another kid in the neighborhood. Growing up, we didn’t really have expectations of each other. I saw him as a fun kid to play with. We played all kinds of imaginary worlds. I was able to be the kid I wasn’t allowed to be around him.

As we grew up, he started going down different paths. Even though I saw warning signs, I choose to still see him as the friend I could be the kid I wasn’t allowed to be. As I went to college, and he started his college life, we drifted apart more and more. I was always there to help. I always choose to see the good in him and he in me. This was the Potential Trauma Lensing at play. After his first marriage failed due to abuse, He changed. I continued looking for the good in people, while he started seeing the darker sides of people.

Married Life

After I married, my wife and I moved 2 hours away. I lived in some rough conditions. He imposed aspects of his failed marriage onto my marriage. He saw my wife as an abuser and often talked bad about her and my living conditions. I, however, choose to see the good in each situation. When I should have been seeing the truth. It was hell with some good things. When we moved back to my hometown, things got better between us. It was nice for a while. We often played games and had game nights. Keeping true to our child-like states. He was there for my kids’ births and I was there for his kids’ birth. It was nice. I choose to keep seeing that side of our relationship.

The downfall

After my parents died, my view of the world was destroyed. No longer could I see my life growing up as fluffy and happy. The clouds I grew up with turned into the truth and it didn’t turn into truth that made sense. Complex PTSD showed its ugly head and it was ugly. The good fun part of me died. At this point in my life, I was just trying to survive. Instead of seeing the truth, I was suffering, He choose to look through the potential lensing like I was with him. However, the realisim was there. He was stuck between the two. I needed him to be the fun friend. I needed him to be my supporting friend. That wasn’t how he was.

The Potential Trauma Lensing

I choose to keep seeing him as a supportive friend. He chooses to still keep seeing me as his childhood friend. We both had the same lensing going on. He went as far as to take me to a mountaintop and threaten to leave me there if I didn’t wake up. He didn’t because of a storm. After being clean for a month of my addiction, We hung out, I was so excited I allowed my addiction to control the interaction. It was my fault. I longed for him to stop me, but he did not.

He moved away for work. I choose to still see him in the light of a good supportive friend instead of seeing that our relationship was split apart. During our time apart I learned to draw boundaries on myself. A while ago, he stated he was coming into town and wanted to grab lunch. I was excited, but I also drew a boundary, mainly on myself asking him to call me out.

The day before the meetup, I messaged him to confirm and He stated he was canceling. He later told me that he “didn’t want me to relapse”. Which was a lie. That’s when the lensing broke and I was able to see things as truth. We were at two different points in our lives. He couldn’t be a supportive friend because He was still stuck in the hurt of a past relationship. I couldn’t be the fun friend because I was trying to rebuild my inner child.

Holding onto Potentials

When you hold onto the “Shiny” aspect of people, we fail to see the consistency when they show us they are not that shiny. They are not the potential that we need from them. As you can see in the story, we both hurt each other over and over again. He took me to a mountain top with full intention of leaving me there. I choose to see the good in him. I held on tight to that view and he did with me.

What are you holding onto in people?

Breaking The lensing

Accepting Reality

The first step in breaking free of Potential Trauma Lensing is accepting reality as it is. When someone repeatedly shows us who they are, we should trust and believe them. We shouldn’t constantly try to see them in another light. It’s up to us to accept this reality. It’s a painful thing. The thing about this though, this new reality, might just be temporary. I may rebuild my inner child and be child-like again. I may become what he needs, and he may become what I need. We may become close friends again. However, at this moment, we are not. I have accepted this reality. I’m tired of hurting myself by rejecting this reality.

Self-Focus and Growth

Instead of using all that energy on someone else. I have chosen to invest in myself. At the core of the issue, we as humans want validation. That validation should come from within. At the end of the day, all we have is ourselves. If we are unable to be with ourselves, then how can we be with others? So, let’s take the energy we are placing towards our expectations, and put it back into ourselves. Let go of the self-inflected hurts and move forward. We need to accept that people change.

Acceptance and Moving Forward

Instead of trying to make people in our own minds into something they are not, we should accept them as they are. Our mental well-being begs for this. Once we embrace this reality, this world as it is, and not how we would have it, there is a sense of peace. This means taking off those trauma glasses. It’s ok to be hurt by others. It’s not ok to keep looking at the world through that lens.

Accepting the world as it is is hard, but worth it in the long run. As always, Please seek professional help if you need it. The Trauma Lenses can be glued to our faces. A well-trained trauma therapist can help take those glasses off.

You got this.

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