When I read the book “Healing Developmental Trauma” by Laurence Heller, this all really came together for me.
When children do not get their needs met, they do not learn to recognize what they need and are unable to express their needs and often feel undeserving of having their needs met so they often will get their needs met in other ways. The need for connection and attunement is what usually is developed from birth to 2 years old when we depend on our caretakers for everything. Children often adapt by giving up their needs as it is too painful to ask for them to be met. We become numb to our needs and emotions and it is often held as physical tension and as collapsed and frozen states. It is almost as if we experienced PTSD as an infant/child when our needs were not met, which keeps us from being present in our bodies. This can happen for many reasons like when the mother is ill or just not skilled in these things themselves. It also is a part of more severe abandonment like when a mother dies or leaves at an early age. They are not taught how to attune to their own needs and the coping mechanisms become our beliefs and the way we operate. These beliefs are not true, but you never learned that. What was missing at this early age was attuned gaze, skin contact, touch, secure holding so that infants can learn to regulate themselves and learn that having needs is OK and even a good thing.
We are living in survival mode. Many go into freeze states in order to survive. Muscular contraction, bracing and collapse are adaptations required to survive. When you begin life experiencing rejection and isolation, you often turn to isolation and rejecting of self to survive. They learn to cope by attuning to others needs and neglecting their own. Codependent relationships often result. Burnout and bitterness are often present. This is often accompanied by not being able to take love in and not being able to ask for help themselves. People with such connection/attunement traumas believe they are undeserving and think that there is something wrong with themselves at a really deep level. The feeling of never being enough and never having enough will replay itself throughout a lifetime.
Caretaking is how they cope. They create relationships where everyone needs them and only they can offer the help that everyone needs. This often leads to giving to others what they are really hoping to receive themselves. They become hyper – attuned to others needs. The need to be needed is fulfilled by caretaking.
It shows up in a massage therapist (and other health care providers -aka caretakers) by thinking that you need to keep your clients to yourself and make sure they don’t go to anyone else. It shows up by always giving your best advice so that you are always needed. It shows up in the constant drive to take more technique classes to show you are the best and to feel better. We feel slighted when people don’t rebook or when they call and don’t leave messages.
Our repeated patterns become a way of life – we fix and caretake, but wonder why we are still unhappy or unsuccessful. The old beliefs that we are somehow not good enough haunt us. Our defenses protect that wounded, vulnerable part of ourselves. The key to transforming the pain is to start becoming more aware of our patterns and to start asking questions.
If our defenses hide pain – what pain am I hiding from?
If our defenses hide our fears – what am I afraid of?
The mask of the caretaker hides our pain and suffering. Our “I can do everything myself” and “I’m fine” help us to cope with the pain and suffering. This mask is also what often isolates us from others and the connection we really need.
In the Service of Life.
Being a massage therapist and being of service is what often will reveal these deep truths about ourselves. It is an opportunity to grow and flourish.