Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW
Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and the most gorgeous day in the history of the planet. I enjoyed a trip around Green Lake with family and friends, followed by a luxurious afternoon hanging out in the backyard with newspaper, popcorn and pruning shears.
I engaged in my usual springtime attack on the blackberry brambles that each year attempt to swallow my vegetable garden whole. I don’t know about animism as a spiritual concept but based on the scratches up my arms, blackberry vines sure appear to be both sentient and malicious. I’ve tried negotiating, offering a corner of the yard as their own, a sort of blackberry preserve…but there’s just no reasoning with them.
Blackberry vines remind me of those tyrannical people who infringe on other’s personal boundaries without regard for anyone’s wellbeing but their own. Like the evil plant that bears the sweet fruit, these people often have some type of appeal, but ultimately the charm of their wealth or fame or attractiveness is not worth the thorns of their personality.
And here’s where trauma enters the story: if you were raised in a family where your needs for safety, security and love were often unmet you can be used to abusive relationships so that you may not recognize the pain they are causing you. You may even seek out people who hurt you because that feels normal. In the therapy world, we call this the “trauma scaffold”: a base or childhood of trauma makes future traumas more likely. It’s terribly unfair, unless you can think of emotional pain as an alarm clock, ever reminding us to wake up and get to work (on ourselves).
For your spring relationship cleaning, consider looking around for any human blackberry brambles in your life and weed them right out! If you know they exist but can’t bring yourself to hack off the relationship at the roots, therapy can help.