Overcoming Polyamory Distress through Healing Complex PTSD and Anxious Attachment
“Own your shit.”
“Do the inside job.”
“It’s your soul’s journey.”
“You are responsible for your emotions, not me.”
“If you truly loved me, you’d be happy for me.”
I don’t consider myself a polyamory proponent. I believe it works for some and not for others.
I do believe that polyamory has the potential heal many of the world’s ills when done in a conscious, consensual, and even tribal capacity.
After putting my ear to the online open relating ground for several years now, I’m coming to see that there is a chasm of misunderstanding between those who wish to share themselves and those who struggle sharing them.
I’ve observed in some other communities a general revulsion for jealousy and “hypocrisy”, and fear or scarcity patterns are labeled as unhealthy codependency or enmeshment.
Sometimes I wonder if the spiritual impetus to welcome solitude and loneliness emerged out of necessity to fill the chasm that monogamy created when it splintered the tribe.
As I’ve shared before, I tend to live on both sides of this fence.
Up until two years ago, I had created a personal poly hell for myself, riddled with anxiety and projection that every one of my partner Shai’s next love interests would spell the end of our relationship.
It wasn’t until I discovered attachment theory that I understood the root of my pain. My entire life changed the day I began reading Attached by Amir Levine.
It was like opening my eyes to see a previously invisible prison around me, and attachment handed me the key to freedom.
Walking through the door, however, required confronting just how traumatic elements of my childhood and my formative love relationships were.
And pushing through many hardened layers of protection I’d created to survive.
Those layers sometimes make it very hard to share the one man in the world who’s ever made you feel truly safe.
My entire world became different, and yet, years later I still struggle depending on the situation.
It’s hard to admit that at times I use painful events from the inception of our current relationship as a template to project into a dark future.
It’s harder to admit that this is because it’s incredibly challenging for me to forgive and let go.
So when I recently discovered a book called Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, everything clicked into place.
Complex PTSD is defined as “the result of long-term exposure to traumatic stress. It typically arises as a result of ongoing stress or repeated traumatic events in childhood.”
C-PTSD shares many of the same behavioral patterns as acute PTSD you’d expect from a veteran or assault survivor.
The difference being, you may have had a normal home on the surface with loving parents who did their best, but their unconscious wounding and patterns may have created chaos for you during the most formative time of your life.
I suddenly realized that there was a legitimate reason why my mental software programming could be so at odds with the beautiful free love reality I live in every day. And why others navigate it so differently than I do (ie, with grace and ease).
I realized that while my heart was born to love more, my mind and body were never trained to feel safe in sharing love.
Based on what I’ve observed online, I’m not alone.
So, I’ve decided to work my way through a resource I found called The Complex PTSD Workbook by Arielle Schwartz.
And, I’ve decided to share all of my journaling exercises in our private Facebook community for conscious polyamory and open relating, Leveled Up Love.
The workbook’s tagline is unlike other aphorisms like the ones I wrote I above. Rather, it is this:
“You are not broken or need fixing. You’ve just been deeply hurt and need care.”
This is very, very important. This places a completely different lens upon “jealous” and “hypocritical” behavior in poly.
Suddenly, we peer through the lens and see wounded souls who were never given a roadmap to inner safety.
That perhaps they do know how to truly love, and, nothing in the world before you has shown them that a source for love isn’t going to leave them.
While I understand now that safety starts from within, we are not meant to “own our shit in a corner” and go this road alone. The book goes on to say:
“Recovery from developmental trauma requires that you have a reparative experience in a relationship. Within the compassionate ground of another, you embrace the experiences of confusion, discomfort, anger, grief, shame, and pain.”
I believe that leaning on others to heal in relationship is not enmeshment; it’s intelligent design.
There’s a balance of course, but I’d like to see more holding space than just giving up.
So why am I doing this, here and now with you?
Because compersion still mostly eludes me and I’m ready to ignore it’s taunting voice until I’m ready.
Because I know my vice grip on the past is holding us back.
How do I know? Because if I dare to dip into those memories, I’m flooded with sadness, fear, or anger.
If they were healed, I should feel almost neutral. But I don’t.
Could it be so many people have been burned in polyamory already for reasons unbeknownst to them that it’s simply too painful to try again?
Or if they already have trouble making monogamous relationships work, how could they possible fathom handling more than one?
And that many breakups wouldn’t need to happen if they knew this?
I know that there is a legion of beautiful, fragile, wounded souls who could make this lifestyle work if they just had the right tools.
I see a vision of more partners available to love because they’re equipped to handle this, and more partners to help them who are literate in C-PTSD.
Less loneliness. More love.
I see a future for polyamory, one that is trauma-informed, focused on healing, and built on compassion and non-judgment.
I also see a future for monogamy, one that is chosen consciously and consensually and no one judges anyone for that choice.
I believe understanding C-PTSD are the stepping stones in both of those paths.
Will it be the Compersion Cure? Not sure. But just by embarking upon the journey, I feel a wellspring of strength emerge.
Even though going this workbook is a solo journey, I won’t be processing on my own.
I’ll be held in the compassionate container of both my amazing partners and trained professionals.
And I’ll be doing this with you. Full frontal. All in.
For those who struggle, for the anxiously attached, for the wounded, this is for you. Know that you are not alone and we’ve got you.
For those who don’t struggle but are with someone who does, you may glimpse into our inner world and hold our space with care.
In that, we all heal together.
We were never meant to go it alone.
⦑ lea Ælla ⦒
Poly Compassion Queen
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