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I Feel Like I Am in the "Trauma Olympics" With My New Friend

Thread starter #1
So I met a new friend... she seemed like she had an admirable goal of helping others with trauma... it's her life's mission. But it seems like her traumatic background defines her so much so that she awkwardly interjects some reference to her trauma every 10 minutes or so in a group setting and one on one. And there's a subtle oneupsmanship whenever I explore trauma theories with her kind of like since she's been through so much she's automatically the expert on the subject. I can understand how this could be a massive defense mechanism on her part. How should I respond to her constructively and supportively? Have you ever experienced this?
 
A

Anonymous.

#2
Maybe try shifting the subject when trauma talk comes up? Or maybe gently ask is their another time we can talk about this subject or do you need support right now? Or say I see you're bringing this up often, is there a way I can help you feel more resolved, or maybe a way you can make it feel resolved?
Simple responses also seem to halt a conversation if that's what you're going for.
Boundaries are important and there's a time and place for everything.
I feel I used to be this person...so that's my advice. I also have ocd so maybe this also plays a role. They may be obsessed with the subject until they feel they can come to a solution.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
#4
I do not know the situation but the best I think you can do is to note your own reaction to her perceived competition. Since she is not really taking something from you or others and only expressing herself through her own trauma lenses, the best is, I would say, to acknowledge, your reaction, and respond to her objectively like yes you mentioned that before, I think I understand. I find people like this have a huge and extremely damaging background where they were never heard, acknowledged and constantly aiming for recognition. It is really admirable you are recognizing her but rather than shutting her down (not that is what you want but may be perceived by her), you can more pay attention to your own triggers and relax and relaxing in you may be communicated to her non-verbally that she is being accepted. After all you are all new to each other so she is probably spilling out until she is done.
 
Thread starter #5
I do not know the situation but the best I think you can do is to note your own reaction to her perceived competition. Since she is not really taking something from you or others and only expressing herself through her own trauma lenses, the best is, I would say, to acknowledge, your reaction, and respond to her objectively like yes you mentioned that before, I think I understand. I find people like this have a huge and extremely damaging background where they were never heard, acknowledged and constantly aiming for recognition. It is really admirable you are recognizing her but rather than shutting her down (not that is what you want but may be perceived by her), you can more pay attention to your own triggers and relax and relaxing in you may be communicated to her non-verbally that she is being accepted. After all you are all new to each other so she is probably spilling out until she is done.
Yes. Seems pretty accurate. She seems to have a big chip on her shoulder because the mental health system/legal system/mother/men have repeatedly let her down so she has a really negative view of psychology as a whole, understandably so.

Understood. It wasn't my intention to shut her down, just not the best equipped for this type of situation. Now that I understand it better, I should probably stop approaching this topic as an intellectual dialogue but moreso from a place of emotional healing for her. She covers it as an intellectual pursuit, but is more emotionally raw than I realized.

I also have a trend of befriending people who have a lot of unresolved trauma and getting lost in their issues so I wanted to understand healthy boundaries.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
#6
I really admire your candor. Sometimes we meet people who drown us in their traumas and until we realize we are losing us into them...it is empathy overdrive. You feel her pain but it is overwhelming. Where do you draw the line? as you said perfectly, you take care of your insides first!
 
Thread starter #7
Maybe try shifting the subject when trauma talk comes up? Or maybe gently ask is their another time we can talk about this subject or do you need support right now? Or say I see you're bringing this up often, is there a way I can help you feel more resolved, or maybe a way you can make it feel resolved?
Simple responses also seem to halt a conversation if that's what you're going for.
Boundaries are important and there's a time and place for everything.
I feel I used to be this person...so that's my advice. I also have ocd so maybe this also plays a role. They may be obsessed with the subject until they feel they can come to a solution.
Ahhh. Interesting. That makes sense. She just seems to do this both in group and private conversations. And since I am new to the group, I don't feel like it's my place to redirect the conversation or halt it. Her friends seem to either awkwardly acknowledge it or ignore it. Its as if, like @grit said looking for recognition.

I have only hung out with her 3 times so maybe I can give her some gentle validation so that she feels like she has someone who gets her on some level. I can tell that the group really cares for each other but she seems to be looking for a deeper connection.
 
#8
But it seems like her traumatic background defines her so much so that she awkwardly interjects some reference to her trauma every 10 minutes or so in a group setting and one on one.
After meeting someone only 3 times, this would strike me as possibly someone with poor internal boundaries to be spilling out so much information to very new people... Whenever I bump into someone with crappy boundaries, I tend to strengthen my own. Or I end up realizing I should have...

To be supportive, if you are in the place to hear about the trauma, I'd suggest focusing on finding what you can emotionally validate.... but balance it out with boundaries. You also don't have to avoid the intellectual discussion, that may be her way of sharing without it getting too heavy for herself. But do avoid trying to change her mind. Sounds like it just gets into a debate you are not interested in partaking.
I also have a trend of befriending people who have a lot of unresolved trauma and getting lost in their issues so I wanted to understand healthy boundaries.
They are getting lost in their issues.... sure... but there is another half to the relationship puzzle. Outside of abusive situations, people tend to vent on those who allow it. In private conversations, it's ok to say, "I'm glad you are reaching out for support. I'm not in a place to talk about this right now myself." But if you are up for it, maybe when she gets off on an intellectual debate, maybe consider asking "How do you feel about sharing this information with everyone/me?" Sometimes that question can shift things from intellectual to emotional. Surface to real. It may also help the bewildered friends to ask her, "is there way we can support you on your journey through this?" Maybe she's looking for support or feedback others don't know she's hoping to get.
 
#9
Wow, that sounds difficult to deal with. It sounds like she hasn't processed her trauma properly and overshares with people because of it. Also that it has become her identity. Maybe research 'Woundology' - the definition of it is: 'Woundology is the tendency to insistently hold on to old traumas. You define yourself by your hurts, not by your strengths, and there in those hurts you stay stuck forever.'

Sounds like your friend is doing this. The problem is that it can minimise your experiences and as you said there's a oneupmanship thing going on. This can be damaging and draining for you. Look after yourself. Her behaviour may become toxic and unhealthy for you. You need clear boundaries and if it becomes too much, make sure you are assertive enough to end the conversation or change the subject. I have a friend who does this from time to time. I remember meeting her in a nice calm park and we were walking along, I had just had a tough week at work and thought it would be nice to just catch up and have a nice relaxing afternoon with an old friend. She started talking about the past and about witnessing someone ending their life, she was going into lots of detail and as we walked I listened but saw a lake and suddenly suggested we sit by the water (I find being by water so calming). She agreed and we walked towards the water and she carried on talking but in that moment I knew what I needed and I needed to be grounded and calm. Once she stopped talking, I made sure I steered the conversation towards something else. I felt more in control because I had found something to ground myself. Sometimes people like that will take over and can be quite intense, it's important that you try to look after yourself and be aware of the dynamic in the friendship.
 
#10
How should I respond to her constructively and supportively?
Why?

Just on the subject of boundaries... Another why... Why set out to change someone you’ve only just met to better suit what you want out of a friend? You don’t like her, or at least you don’t like this aspect of her, but rather than taking note of that? And spending LESS time on someone you don’t get on with and MORE time on people you do, you want to direct your energies on project-person? Seems a bit like crushing on someone who’s married or gay (or straight if you’re gay).
 
Thread starter #11
Why?

Just on the subject of boundaries... Another why... Why set out to change someone you’ve only just met to better suit what you want out of a friend? You don’t like her, or at least you don’t like this aspect of her, but rather than taking note of that? And spending LESS time on someone you don’t get on with and MORE time on people you do, you want to direct your energies on project-person? Seems a bit like crushing on someone who’s married or gay (or straight if you’re gay).
Uhhh ok. I don't want to change her. I just got overly excited to possibly make a new friend but didn't know how to react that one aspect or what to make of it. I was drawn to her because she presents herself as someone who's mission is to help others heal from trauma, studying with some of the prominent experts in the field. So I thought it would be cool to exchange ideas.

I asked on here so I could get a better understanding of the situation before writing it off completely. The advice on here has all been on point. I ultimately decided that I want to keep her as a casual friend but keep an emotional distance from the topic of trauma... it's obvious she needs to heal more.

Example: I brought up the connection between DID and extreme childhood abuse when someone else asked about how childhood trauma can manifest. But she goes on a rant about how "your field - psychology" is horrible and that DID is often just used as a way to gaslight people and about the underlying issues with personality disorders and diagnoses. Later it turned out she was highly traumatized with incompetent therapists misdiagnosing and mistreating her.


In short, I thought there was some potential in her as a friend but it turns out, It's just the continuation of my pattern with people.
 
#12
That makes sense why you would feel baffled how to respond. She may be stuck in transference. You talking about psychology theories suddenly makes you the bad guy in her eyes because of unresolved hurt and pain from actual bad folks in her life.

There is a type of communication technique called non-violent communication (NVC). It has little to do with violence but is actually about how to handle people who are argumentative. It’s easy to learn and I’ve found useful with people who are caught up in emotionally driven arguments. There is free info you can find online about it and books as well. Might be helpful to review to handle these group conversations where she gets a little adversarial.

It could be helpful in other situations too when dealing with someone whose unresolved stuff is triggered.
 
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