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why did being groomed/abused make me so extremely vulnerable to future grooming attempts? why am i so easily groomed?

brokenpony

Confident
is it an addictive mechanism at its heart?

when someone (especially someone in uneven power dynamic) starts to groom me i get sucked in really fast. like really really fast. it’s like in a movie when someone thinks they’re free and moves to escape and looks down to see they have already been handcuffed. it feels like i get taken over by the trauma response and experience that “compulsion to repeat the trauma” so strongly that i cannot do right by myself. and ofc that causes shame and desperation to not be this way. because i’m an adult now, i’m safe, in control? but—not then. i’m just not in control anymore. i don’t know how else to describe the feeling because it’s insanely complicated.

when i was a younger adult (i’ve had a few abusive relationships begin with grooming tactics) i didn’t know it was happening or that i was being abused, but last time (mid-30s) i did, but it didn’t make any difference??? i was reading books about it while it was happening (this person was my therapist which made it especially insidious because i could explain away a lot at first, especially because he would dismiss any of my questioning as me projecting past experience onto him, erotic transference, etc). it’s as if i just can’t break the spell once it has been cast. i watch the train crash in slow motion, i’m fighting a force inside me and feel helpless. but i’m not supposed to be because i’m an adult. but—not then.

i try to explain to my now therapist. this helplessness. because it’s post-traumatic but it’s a long-term helplessness that kicks in, not the same as acute freeze response that has happened in isolated assaults. it is a complex thing that in her view is a dissociated part but even still she doesn’t seem to totally understand the degree of helpless i feel. helpless to protect myself and the part from itself.

i’m an adult but not with “them,” once they target me like that. sometimes it’s the “watching yourself from behind the eyes” thing. how i willingly give them ammunition even? i hear myself telling them vulnerabilities i dont mean to share, watch myself regress, etc. it makes me feel so crazy and possessed. but then alone, outside the room, i can’t break it off because the drive to see them is so powerful and that’s why i call it addiction maybe. i want it and i don’t at the same time. i want it but am repulsed and scared too. i don’t want it. it’s not my wanting but intrusive. i fight myself and lose. perhaps adrenaline plays a part.

i have had little issues stopping alcohol, when i clearly had a problem, but not this. i have had some short relapses on it but i rarely crave it. i drank to feel emotions because i’m so numb. i am normally a controlled person (which can be good or bad, see restrictive ED, which helped me quit drinking bourbon every night due to calories) but not in this certain type of case. in the case of sexual grooming and abuse, it is like an alcoholic taking a sip after 15 years sober and then downing the bottle and never stopping until something forces them. with all the misery that comes with it despite the high you get.

i know about trauma bonding but it happens too fast to even be called that. i think maybe it is triggering past trauma bond feelings from other relationships before i consciously understand anything or even feel it. like within 3 meetings? and i’m sure they can tell. and the longer it happens the more this trauma response surfaces and takes hold and ruins my life. and the thing is i haven’t pursued a romantic relationship in 10 years because of this problem. i don’t take the risk and am scared of people. i feel sometimes the urges to go “replay trauma” but resist them the same way i resist alcohol. yet somehow it still happens to me. by chance. because predatory people seem to see that underneath my guardedness is vulnerability even i do not know or feel most of the time.

it also makes me feel very scared to realize how vulnerable i still am even holding all this knowledge about abuse dynamics, complex trauma, etc. and i don’t quite know what to do if this happens in the future. i can avoid relationships but once someone targets me and the “grooming” trauma response goes off it’s like, set in motion. it honestly feels like a manchurian candidate or pod person thing in how little control i have. a switch flips and someone i found unattractive when i first met them becomes desirable and i become hypersexual very fast even though i’m mostly sex averse or neutral in my daily life. it’s madness.

i write this because i fear it is happening right now with another person with power over me. i feel that “familiar feeling” all of a sudden for the past couple weeks and it’s loud now. like they are trying to make me feel special in a way that feels manipulative. i feel the traumatized “part” awakened again, wanting it to be true. i truly hope i am being paranoid because i feel an extreme draw to this person now, i cannot bring myself to cut ties yet, even though i also have no interest in them at the same time. the “desire” is insistent.

i try to keep cool and remind myself i have a safe therapist now to help me navigate if the unlikely possibility is true. it is unlikely to be true—but also that’s only part of the point. the point is that it could happen again, down the line, because even after all this time, knowledge, grounding, blah blah i can feel i am just as vulnerable as i was as a child, somehow. and because it is unlikely to be true maybe it is a good thing this person has triggered me so, a kind of space to work through it without the imminent danger my body feels it is in?

does this make sense? do you relate? please be kind, i’m struggling with this and have been having somatic flashbacks.
 
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i fear it is happening right now with another person with power over me.
Labyrinth up.

“You have no power over me.”

IE… Remove the power they have over you -OR- Throw up a wall / some personal defenses / professional distance… whatever is needed to break the pattern & learn some new ones.

ETA… That doesn’t mean you excise this person out of your life, it means that you don’t throw yourself at their feet, and roll on your back, and wait for them to gut you, or not. You can enjoy them, learn from them, a thousand other things with them. Durn near anything/everything EXCEPT declare/decide undying loyalty.
 
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i have 10 siblings who lived my childhood trauma with me. our responses varied tremendously. some of us groomed all the way to becoming pimps in our own right. others (like me) ran like bats out of hell. others grew up to be fighting machines able to fight for any cause, whether it is worth fighting, or not.

i believe we are born with base personality traits. my own approach to recovery has been to get to know my own self and focus on using those traits well with loving, compassionate awareness of who and what i am.

but that is me and every case is unique.
steadying support while you sort your own case.
 
The simplest answer is that being groomed and abused at a young age (or even as an adult depending on the circumstances) changes your brain in ways we often cannot anticipate. Our brains can transform data like that into something tolerable via normalization.

The more you experience abuse the more normalized it becomes, because being able to accept the abuse is often the only way to survive it. I was full-on date raped by a man and woman and for years I just thought it was sex that I regretted. Having done the math on my upbringing I estimate I've been raped about 600 times. Multiple times on most days for five years.

I survived it by ceasing to care about it (which is why I can speak about it openly). I don't blame myself for it and do not feel shame about it - but as a result I wound up being raped a handful of times as a teenager and young adult because I failed to understand that sex while black-out drunk and the other person sober, or sex with a 30 year old at age 14-15 was assault.

Even today I don't classify those experiences the same as those where I was physically forced or threatened. It wasn't necessarily that I enjoyed being abused but I had been conditioned to please men sexually throughout much of my early childhood, so I was simply behaving naturally.

Of course, predators look for signs of a vulnerable person and from about 13-22 I was extremely vulnerable. I had escaped my environment but was thrust into the world with deep issues as a result. I was asocial, RAD, SZPD and had a TBI that was much worse back then.

It's evident just by examining my posture and affect that I am unusual, and my demeanor is quite open and non-judgmental (so I would chat with strangers, crackheads at the bus stop, etc) and I didn't learn how to identify safe people or employ interpersonal boundaries until much later in life.
 
predators look for signs of a vulnerable person
@brokenpony is it possible that some of the same things that made you vulnerable/susceptible then are still around? The way I understand "grooming" the perpetrator picks up on needs of their target that they can use to get what they want. Pretty normal needs, in a lot of cases, like the need to be treated like you have value. What, exactly, they're going to use depends on them and depends on the subject. It's easy (at least for me) to go to the opposite extreme too, and assume if someone is being nice to me it means they want something, they're dangerous, and I should avoid them. Complicated! It's good that you have a therapist to help you navigate things.
 
is it an addictive mechanism at its heart?
i’m an adult but not with “them,” once they target me like that. sometimes it’s the “watching yourself from behind the eyes” thing. how i willingly give them ammunition even? i hear myself telling them vulnerabilities i dont mean to share, watch myself regress, etc. it makes me feel so crazy and possessed. but then alone, outside the room, i can’t break it off because the drive to see them is so powerful and that’s why i call it addiction maybe. i want it and i don’t at the same time. i want it but am repulsed and scared too. i don’t want it. it’s not my wanting but intrusive. i fight myself and lose. perhaps adrenaline plays a part.

Ive had similar experiences. When I first started being groomed I knew I was but I couldn’t do anything despite having free will to do so. So I let it happen, or at least I feel I did. Now I don’t know how to have normal relationships and I crave that feeling I used to have with him even though I know he used and abused me so horribly. I’ve read so much on it and I think it’s a mechanism to downplay or manage what happened, “it wasn’t that bad” but it really was. I have flashbacks all the time and even though I eventually reported it, I feel so guilty for betraying him. I hope you don’t repeat the cycle and you heal, you're in my wishes.
 
I think a psychoanalytic perspective is that your brain wants to learn how to master or overcome that situation. How to recognize it, how to say no or block it from happening, and possibly even how to prevent or punish someone who does it. So you recognize a familiar dynamic and some subconscious part of you imagines that this time you will be the one to come out on top.

Or you are just drawn to what’s familiar and haven’t yet developed the skills to extract yourself from a familiar yet bad-for-you situation.

I think we repeat stuff we are trying to learn from. I know that whenever I make progress with setting boundaries I am faced with a new situation which is more subtle or hidden than before.
 
I don't have the answers for you as it's something I've not overcome myself. I had repeated traumas into my early thirties. I haven't had any more for many years now, but that's because I don't let anyone close - seeing the line between letting someone close, letting myself feel loved and cared for and being groomed is something I can't do. It all looks the same to me.

What I do know is that groomers are good at recognizing needs and fears in people and they play on these. In me, this triggers very young needs that take over and blind me to the sense and logic of more adult parts.

In moments when Those adult parts have been suspicious, there's a need to test the reality of that live and care. Like the child part wants it so much to be real, that the groomer/abuser has to prove that it's not real. The reality of this is, that I would dismiss all signs that it is an abusive situation until after I had been abused again.
 
I used to think that I let out some sort of signal because it would always be me. Even if I was with a group of friends out one evening: if there was a creep about who wouldn't take no for an answer, it would always be me they picked on. if there was someone sexually harassing at work: again, it would be me they pick on.

I was convinced that it was all me.
But my T blew that apart in two minutes. She said that's a belief and what if I went about not having that belief, but a confidence that I'm ok, would I still feel as vulnerable? And, no I wouldn't.

I think it's being aware. Being aware of our behaviour, our patterns, our thought systems and beliefs. We're adults now and get to choose who we engage with. Bringing things into awareness just changes it.

So it can change.
 
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