I've seen the immense frustration in myself when my fundamental need for the nurturing I never got doesn't happen (it usually doesn't unless I clearly focus my attention on it).
Yes, this seems to be a kind of learned helplessness that is only overcome by conscious will.
I guess being with such a traumatized mother at such a difficult time for her, taught me to hide my needs in very early youth and find indirect ways to get them partially met.
Not sure what needs you might be speaking of but in considering this I also recall the experience of fear and trepidation because getting them met again might not be easy. Just thinking about this can get my stomach tied in knots of anxiety.
In adult relationships, one learns that no one person can meet all our needs. These days I'm reflecting on that knowledge and realizing that I anxiously and vigilantly kept my mother at the center of my existence, partially because I had to be ready to get some nurturing whenever possible. Unfortunately, it also ensured that I would be there for her, not always in ways that I liked.
Undoing this tangle of interaction has been slow, but deliberate. I have stated in my actions and words that I don't want to go back to the old ways of being a secret source of comfort. Although my mother has not explicitly said that she understands everything that happened, I can tell in other ways that the message is getting across.
Learning to hide my maleness was a trick I learned very young. Perhaps this is a common pattern to survivors of female abuse.
I wonder if my mother was under some undisclosed stress at times, in which case I would be watching for when this would ease up, for when she would be herself. Of course, I had no control over this, although I may have imagined that I did. That may be where the gender confusion came up. By hiding my maleness, it was probably easier to imagine her responding to me.
The price I paid for losing an essential part of me was heavy, though. It has colored my adult interactions. With the help of therapy, I have been able to begin looking at what may have been lost and what I'd like to recover.
The road of true contact is still painful to walk down, feels right because it feels real. Working with the pain is a process. It tends to push me into feeling isolated. I can usually tell when that is starting to happen and am trying to learn how I have been accustomed to dealing with it. This can be a bit horrifying, since I've been doing it for so long. Some of the coping mechanisms are still firmly in place. I am comforted by the fact that when my body calms down after facing it, I start to feel real feelings.
Thanks so much for continuing to share your experience. It is awful and mind-boggling to examine, but helps me feel less alone.