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1. Seeing who will fight for you.
It’s not that you push people away so that they can’t push you away first, it’s that you push them away so you can see whether or not they care enough to keep showing up. People who have been repeatedly bruised in relationships need to feel wanted, not just settled for.
2. Changing your hair – or some other part of your physical appearance – drastically or regularly.
People who change key identifying traits about themselves, like hair color or nickname or clothing style, are usually trying to subconsciously adopt a new, safer “self.” It is a way of masking the parts of themselves that they feel have been rejected.
3. Sharing what’s worst, first.
People who have been hurt repeatedly tend to take a counterintuitive approach to new friendships and relationships: they share what’s least appealing about themselves first. They warn or show you what they feel is least lovable, so that they don’t get attached before the other person can decide they aren’t worthy enough.
4. Bonding over pain rather than interests.
Most people forge friendships through similar experiences, interests or opinions. People who have their defenses up forge relationships through mutually understood pain. People who have been hurt or traumatized look for others to see and understand them on a deeper level than others do – and if they are not careful, they can confuse pacifying their hurt for actually being in love.
5. Displacing feelings and worrying about irrational things that you know aren’t actually the problem at hand.
One of the most misunderstood defense mechanisms is displaced feeling – or more commonly, displaced fear. People with deep psychological traumas tend to worry about ordinary or irrational things, things that they know aren’t really a problem, and therefore, feel it is safe to project their feelings on.
6. Living through the aperture of how others perceive you…
… Which is a fancy way to say “being obsessed with what other people think.” What we often don’t realize about this is that we can’t know what other people think of us, we can only assume. What we think others think of us is actually what we think of ourselves. Other people’s opinions are mostly transient, and most of the time totally unknown to us.
7. Relying on divination or “signs” to tell you what’s “right” for your life.
If in the past someone has felt certain about one decision – like a serious relationship – that ended up being completely wrong for them, they will often turn to desiring some kind of external means of approval or validation in order to make choices that are the least likely to get them hurt again.
8. Bullying yourself into change.
When people who have been hurt in the past adopt negative self-talk, they are often trying to hurt or numb themselves before anyone else can do it first. Unfortunately, it is a counterproductive approach, as they end up abusing themselves far worse in the long-term.
9. Disassociating from a certain time of life, group of people, or former identity.
To disassociate from a particularly painful time of life isn’t just to detach from the experience and consider it “behind you,” it is actually a means of repressing memories.
10. Regressing to childlike anger.
People who become uncharacteristically angry at things that don’t warrant such over-reactions are typically reverting to a childlike “safety” mechanism, throwing a “fit” to get attention or love the way they did as a child.
11. Regressing to childlike desires.
Some people will avoid taking on responsibilities, committing in a relationship or even to one job or town because they want to maintain a feeling of being “free” and “safe” as a child would.
12. Becoming a perfectionist.
Most people think that perfectionists are just Type A control freaks who have unreasonable preferences. Really, they are people who have been hurt in the past and try to identify ways in which they can perfect their lives so as to insulate themselves from criticism, or more pain.
13. Over-intellectualizing basic things.
Life doesn’t happen from the head, it happens from the heart. But people whose hearts are damaged can’t perceive life from a perspective of enjoyment or presence, therefore, they have to compensate by trying to understand the “meaning” or cultural significance or evolutionary purpose of things. It is a way of stripping emotion from an experience that was otherwise uncomfortable.
14. Isolating, or avoiding deep connection.
“Hell is other people,” so the saying goes, and typically when we are deeply hurt, it is not because we have failed in life, it is because we have been disconnected from other people in life. “Failure” is what we ascribe to behaviors or actions that we think make us less lovable. However, if someone has been hurt repeatedly through their relationships, they will begin to isolate themselves and adopt an attitude of “this isn’t worth it.”
15. Becoming overly-ambitious.
A lot of people who have been hurt in the past tend to become abnormally motivated to be “successful,” or to prove that they are more than what was assumed of them. This is actually a positive way to move on from pain, but is a coping mechanism when it consumes your entire life.
16. Distrusting yourself.
If during development, there comes a point at which someone is in deep pain and yet are forced to continually deny that pain because other people think it is uncalled for, “bad,” or deserving of punishment, a toxic dynamic of self distrust begins to emerge. A lot of adults who feel lost, emotionally all over the place, unsure of themselves and anxious just can’t listen to and trust their feelings. This can also manifest as intense indecisiveness, fence-sitting and low self-esteem.