How To Trust Your Own Perception After Childhood Trauma

So you have left your crazy, dysfunctional family and went out into the world to carve out an existence for yourself. You have gotten educated, you have studied and perhaps even read a few self-help books and promised to yourself that you will not follow in the footsteps of your parents and do everything differently.

You have made a pact with yourself that you will never become like your mom and that you will lead a sane life. But then you stumble into all of these toxic relationships and ask yourself how this is even possible.

You seem to attract problematic people like deer calves attract wolves, some of them even remind you of your parents! You begin to wonder whether you are under some ancient, generational curse.

Well, this idea of a generational curse is not even that far fetched. However, it is a taught curse rather than a spiritual one.

Your toxic parents have taught you to tolerate not only them, but to tolerate other toxic people, too.

And the dysfunctional characters around you can sniff this out like a dog can sniff out a bratwurst. When they come into contact with you, they can somehow sense that you are the perfect match to their dysfunction.

I tell you how this works by giving you an example from my own life:

Just a few months after I was born, my father decided to spend some time in his home country. He returned after 3 or 4 months and was quite surprised when I wanted nothing to do with him.

Before, we had a great relationship, but after his trip, something had changed and I did not like him anymore. As a baby, I communicated this through constant crying when he picked me up.

He had also brought his nephew from his home country with him and with this guy I behaved totally different. I immediately liked him and preferred to be with him rather than with my own dad. My father couldn’t cope with my rejection for him and my affection for his nephew.

He took it very personally, his pride was hurt and he became frustrated and angry. His negative feelings even erupted into violence towards me, to the point where my mother arranged for me to live with my grandparents because she felt I was no longer safe around my father.

A mature, mentally healthy parent would have asked himself: Why does the baby behave this way? Is there a logical explanation? He would have probably come to the conclusion, that after such a long absence, the baby, who had felt abandoned, was very upset with daddy.

But my father was neither mature nor mentally healthy, in fact, he had started taking the drug LSD during his stay in his home country and returned to his wife and child as a junkie! I guess I, the baby at the time, sensed that this was not the daddy I remembered and I just wanted my old daddy back! Thus the constant crying.

Unfortunately, I was punished harshly for voicing my feelings. This is the message I received:

If you trust your perception and behave in alignment with it, the most important people in your life, your caretakers, whom your survival depends on, will no longer be pleased with you, in fact, they will turn against you. You will get injured and perhaps even die, so for the sake of your own survival DO NOT trust your perception and pretend that everything is fine, even if it’s not.

In dysfunctional families, you will always find people who pretend, that they don’t know what they actually know.

They overlook the alcoholism, the drug abuse, the emotional/physical/sexual abuse, the lies, the cheating, the stealing etc., instead of confronting this kind of behaviour.

Their silence makes it possible, that the dysfunction can go on unchallenged.

The dysfunctional family structure needs those silenced people, they stabilize the family, because if the family only consisted of abusers and people who speak up about it or even report the abuse, it would collapse after a short time.

There would be divorces, child protection service would interfere and people would be sent to prison. Nobody wants that of course, so children in such families often learn from a very young age that silence is a virtue and outspokenness and confrontation will be punished.

They learn, that feeling their feelings and trusting their perception is a bad and dangerous thing to do, that their perception is inaccurate and unwanted, that they should be ashamed of it and that it has to be hidden.

If you are constantly pretending that everything is ok even if it’s not, you will after a while believe the lie and the true knowledge that you have about the situation will be deeply buried into your subconscious mind.

So the answer to the question “Why do I attract all of these dysfunctional people into my life? Why does this always happen to me?” is: This is not your fault. You have been trained all your life to overlook, accept and not confront dysfunctional behaviour and thus make toxic people feel safe around you.

Whenever you meet someone new, they usually reveal a lot about themselves through verbal and nonverbal communication.

However, you have been programmed from childhood on to not trust your perception and to overlook all the red flags.

Imagine you go on a first date. Unfortunately, your date is completely distracted (= emotionally absent) and instead of trying to get to know you he texts and calls his friends throughout.

In addition, he gets drunk to the point, where you need to call a cab for him because he is too drunk to even do that for himself. Nevertheless, you won’t confront him and won’t ask uncomfortable questions concerning his usage of alcohol. Despite this disastrous first date you even go on a second date with him, where he gets hammered again!

Can you see why this guy who has clearly difficulties to control his alcohol consumption feels safe around you? You don’t bother him, you tolerate his bad behaviour and even ask for more.

I understand that you might feel discouraged now. But if you want to change your reality, it’s up to you, YOU need to change.

You can no longer operate as a safe space for dysfunctional people, you need to start digging out your perception from your subconscious mind, bring it to the surface and start trusting in it and acting on it, despite all of your insane childhood programming, which taught you otherwise.

So how are you gonna do that? Here are a few strategies that would apply especially to a dating situation:

1. Accurate perception of reality starts with the present moment. When you meet a new person, be fully present. Being fully present also means to be fully sober, so don’t let any substance blur your perception. Make sure you pay attention and are not getting distracted.

Use your senses, especially sight, smell and hearing, to gather information about the other person.

Pay attention to the thoughts that come to your mind first. And then ask questions in a neutral, non-judgemental tone and observe how the other person reacts.

Let’s say your date has the back of his car filled with empty beer bottles. You could say something like: “Oh, you’ve got a lot of beer bottles in the back.”

Now observe how he reacts. Is he getting defensive or angry that you asked? Does he pretend he didn’t hear you? Does he mumble something unintelligible? Does it take long until he answers?

Take a mental note about it. Later when you get home, you write it into your journal and ask yourself how you feel about the whole situation. Were there any red flags?

Also, listen to what your counterpart reveals about himself, do not brush it under the carpet. If he says something like: “I am rather superficial”, don’t ignore it, ask him what he means by that.

Take a mental note again and when you get home, journal about it and ask yourself if this guys character is in line with your values.

2. Don’t be obsessed about whether he likes you or not. It’s much more important to answer the question whether you like him. And if yes, what exactly do you like about him? Is it only his looks are also his character? Does he have any admirable character traits? Which ones?

What do you NOT like about him? Allow yourself to feel your feelings, accept them and inquire, why you feel like you do. What are your observations and emotions telling you?

3. Don’t rationalize yourself out of your perception, don’t try to silence or ignore the voice in your head, especially if it’s trying to warn you.

4. Spend some time thinking and journaling about past encounters with toxic people. Which red flags did you notice but chose to ignore? How would you react today, if you came across the same situation? What would you do differently?

5. Don’t seek validation from other people. It’s ok to get some advice, but at the end, it doesn’t matter what your best friend thinks, it matters what you think! Don’t let other peoples opinions quench your perception.

Ok, I am challenging you now to put into practice what you have learned. Don’t sleepwalk through life any longer, instead be awake and sharpen your attention. Keep in mind, that you no longer want to be a target for toxic people.

Embrace consciousness, apply your intuition and analytical skills, start asking uncomfortable questions, inquire like it’s the Spanish inquisition. And then act in alignment with your findings.

You will see, that in no time your perception will fully emerge from its artificial coma and toxic people will flee from you like cockroaches when the light turns on. Because if there is one thing those shady characters hate, it’s the light of truth.

Question: Which were the red flags that you have overlooked in the past? Please tell me in the comments!

Until next time,

P.S: If you start asking people justified, yet uncomfortable questions, they might feel threatened, especially if they have got something to hide and you seem a little bit too alert for their taste. Therefore expect to lose them. Just be prepared for that and don’t doubt the method. Personally, I think it’s better to be alone than to be in a bad relationship.

[Photo by Jonatan Pie on]