When we work with inner parts for a while, it becomes obvious that it is about resistance. Our inner parts share their resistance to life. That resistance can show up in many ways. It can be a resistance to work (or doing anything at all). It can be a resistance to relationships with others. It can be a resistance to taking risks or living out our purpose (usually one in the same). The real forward-movement comes when we look at our resistant thoughts, not the positive thoughts.
But the mainstream self-help world wants us to believe that our healing and recovery happens when we focus on the positive. It is definitely more convenient. It feels a lot better. If we spend our time inundating our minds with positive thoughts, it is a distraction from the pain we are in. But it doesn’t work … not really. The power lies in our ability to accept our shadow self, the inner parts within who don’t believe we could ever be good enough, do well enough or even belong on this planet. If we don’t allow these parts to express, they will stay just below the surface inundating our everyday lives with resistance to what we want. And there are no mantras for our conscious mind that will overpower the unconscious. It will never happen.
We may set an intention to write that book we have always wanted to write, but our unconscious is telling us we aren’t good enough to be an author.
We may have a mantra to take more risks, but our unconscious is full of warnings about staying safe at all costs.
We may make a decision to be kinder to our child, but our unconscious is only interested in keeping everyone safe at all costs. read more…
It will probably come as no surprise that I have struggled in relationship for most of my life. Until I had children, I never felt like a priority to anyone. And I can hear that inner part who tells me that my children have no choice in the matter. So I guess the real statement is I have never felt like a priority to anyone who had a choice. That sounds pitiful. And I am not looking for pity. I am just being honest because let’s face it, somebody has to be honest about this stuff. And I’m going to be very honest. This discussion feels a bit risky, and for me, that is saying something. But risk is becoming a part of my daily life these days, despite how much my controller hates it.
My relational life has revolved around this concept of “low priority”. When I have truly fallen for someone, they have always been unavailable. By unavailable, I mean they were either involved in a relationship or healing from a previous relationship. I was an afterthought. I was someone to pass the time with. I was the person who would get them from one real relationship to another. But I was never going to be that real relationship for them. I was never important enough to them. And the most significant problem was I didn’t know this. I would tell myself they would focus on me soon. I would tell myself they were going to leave that other relationship anytime and make me the priority. I would tell myself things would get better.
But that was never going to happen. In those few cases where someone decided to make me the primary partner, I lost interest pretty quickly. Deep down inside, I knew something must be wrong with them if they picked me. I wasn’t good enough to be the priority. I knew it without a doubt. And in reality, these people did hold a tremendous amount of pain. Their pain rivaled mine as it does in relationship. They were addicted to something and it wasn’t me. And I was addicted to the running, the busy, the people-pleasing, whatever it took to distract from the lack of connection I felt. read more…
I received my new passport today. My initial reaction was an overwhelming sense of joy. That isn’t very common for me, but in this case, it makes sense. I LOVE to travel. I almost love it as much as I love talking about trauma recovery and inner parts. So you probably understand that is a ton of love. I have been a traveler since a very young age. I lived in England and the Netherlands and have visited many European countries. I have a long list of places to see. And this list is much more important to me than accumulating stuff. But for the past eleven years, I have been raising my kids with almost no help at all. I have also been starting a business which has been a bit of a financial challenge (to put it mildly). I haven’t been in a position to travel. And honestly, it has been breaking my heart.
Last month, when I decided to practice an extreme form of self care and go to a conference in Scotland (and visit England too), you can imagine the upheaval in my inner family system. My controller was there to shout all the reasons this was a fiscally irresponsible decision. She quickly loaded on the guilt trips about leaving my kids for the week and how I should spend the money on them. I should take them on vacation instead. My mean kid was there to tell me how I don’t deserve to have something so nice and how everything would go wrong. On the flip side, my younger inner parts were so excited to get to do something they wanted to do. Keep in mind that I have only traveled alone for work since my children were born. For eleven years, I haven’t gone anywhere for fun without my children.
And honestly, that’s been part of the problem. My entire approach to living my life has been a trigger. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children. I would do anything for them. And I often sacrifice far more than I should, leaving me out of energy for anything other than the business and parenting. But that is the way my defenders operate. They keep me running with very little time for myself. That is their plan. The busier I am, the less I notice my own emotions. The less I notice my own needs, the less I will take risks to provide for those needs. The more trapped I feel, the more hopeless I will feel. And that will keep me out of trouble … just like in my childhood. read more…
One of the most important and difficult aspects of recovery work is finding balance in our lives. During our traumatic experiences, our inner parts split off in an attempt to keep us safe. In doing so, they stored their childlike beliefs until they had the opportunity to heal from their past experiences. And these beliefs consider the world from a black and white perspective. It is not a balanced view. But in healing, we can find that balance. Not surprisingly, it takes time and patience to get there.
While we need to find balance in every aspect of our lives, one of the most significant is how we view our family. I have heard from most survivors that they struggle to let go of their family. We usually have at least one part who feels an inextricable connection to them. This part is tied to them through blood, DNA and traumatic experiences. All these things can create a contract with those who treat us horribly. Strings are attached and they are hard to cut.
But that is only one side of the pendulum swing. Within us, we also hold that inner part who despises the family. And while that anger is not misplaced, that same anger may also be aimed at the self. “If the family is bad, so am I.” “If the family is capable of horrible abuse, so am I.” And on some level, that may be true. All people are capable of both good and bad. But it is our choices that make the difference. We aren’t born with an unfulfilled destiny to commit evil written on our cells. We make that choice to go one way or the other (or somewhere in between). But we may be using our own DNA as a reason to hate ourselves.
Coming to a place of separation and understanding can be critical to our healing journey and quality of life. And yes. We can hold both. We can understand that our family members made horrible choices because of their own trauma and the trauma of the generations before them. We can also understand they have good characteristics and strengths that were used for very bad things. We can even understand they may have had strengths they used for good things on occasion. But we can also separate from them because their behavior is abusive and does not allow us to heal. We can do all of this simultaneously. read more…
For the past several years, I have been on a journey to heal my trauma. And not surprisingly, it hasn’t been easy. I have discovered countless belief systems holding me back from the life I want to live. I have expressed more emotions than one body should be capable of holding. I have written my forgotten childhood in hundreds of pages of documented recovered memories. As a part of my coaching business, I have spent hours on the phone with other survivors helping them to learn the same techniques I have learned. I have never felt lonely or bored or without purpose. On the contrary, I have sometimes felt that my life was hurtling out of control and I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to. (I didn’t want to though.) With all the beliefs I have left behind, there has been one nagging, unresolved feeling.
I have had NO desire for a social life. I just haven’t really seemed to care about it much. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t felt isolated either. My children are always around. I interact with the parents from my children’s school. I talk with clients all day long. I even go to parties sometimes. And when I am around people, I have been known to NEVER EVER shut up. I know you are not shocked about that. But when I am considering what to do with my free time, the desire to be alone wins almost every time. My extreme extroversion is barely noticeable. And honestly, when it comes to intimate relationships, there has been absolutely no interest.
While the later may make some sense based on my past, it also doesn’t make sense. I spent my young adult years as a serial monogamist. I could not be single. It was impossible for me to do it. My inner safety seeker felt a need for relationship in order to feel protected and safe. My love seeker felt relationship was her only validation as a person. These were some of the many beliefs I was brainwashed in to believing by my family. And I had a serious tendency toward the “fear of missing out”. If my friends were going places and doing things, I could not be left out. I was always paranoid about friends leaving me, abandoning me, rejecting me. And it all stemmed from my trauma. read more…
When I was growing up, the rules didn’t make any sense. I didn’t know this was part of the plan. I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought I just hadn’t figured them out yet. I thought the adults knew the rules and I was too young, too stupid or too inadequate to know them. I always felt like I was really close to ending the chaos and abuse. I needed a little longer, a little more information and I would be able to follow the rules. Everything would be better then.
But that was a defense mechanism. In reality, there were no rules. The only rule was there were no rules. If I figured out a rule, it would change the next week, so it no longer applied. This was a part of the control. This was a part of the manipulation and gas-lighting. I was supposed to remain confused and disoriented. But I didn’t know that.
I looked for ways I could figure out the rules. How can I live with less chaos and confusion? There must be a way. One of the places I found rules that made sense was in school. I thrived in the school environment (despite my intense dissociation which certainly made learning more challenging). I loved the rules. I thrived because I always knew what I had to do and when to do it. I could fight through my traumatic responses and meet the deadlines and the requirements to excel. It was the only place that felt safe. I knew what to expect and when to expect it.
The black and white rules of the school system fueled my academic success and my approach to life. I decided that I would follow the rules. I decided that if there were no rules, I would run the other way. Nebulous environments of any kind were fear-inducing, and per my controller, completely unnecessary in life. I wanted rules because I knew I would be fine with rules. I would be more than fine. I would excel. read more…
During the past few weeks, I have experienced several instances of “social commitments gone wrong”. Plans I made with others fell through (or almost did) and it wasn’t because of me. And based on my reaction, I can sense that at least one inner part isn’t handling it well. I have been unusually upset. I can hear the angry rants bubbling up to the surface. And of course to some extent, it’s valid. People should honor their commitments. But I also know this comes from my past experiences.
- I was not a priority in my family. I felt that in every way. Nobody cared how I felt or what my experiences were. If something more important came up (and almost everything was more important), it took the top spot. It rarely mattered what I had going on. I learned to fend for myself. I learned that if something mattered to me, I better ensure it would happen on my own. To this day, that belief affects my isolator part and it manifests as rigid independence.
- My childhood was chaos. Things were always changing. My very dissociative parents would make plans and forget they made them. Their addictive behaviors would send them in unhealthy directions at the drop of a hat. And this kind of change was not the “flow with the universe” kind of change. It was dangerous change that generally has some kind of new trauma associated with it.
- I didn’t feel worthy of friends. This message was reinforced everyday by abusers inside and outside my family. I was sure that friends were only around for a short time or were only trying to get what they needed. It didn’t help that my parents were always thwarting any close relationships that concerned them. If it looked like I might confide in someone, they would make sure that someone was out of the picture.
If there is one thing I have seen as a common thread to a childhood of trauma, it is the invalidation of everything we believe to be true. Our needs aren’t validated or met. Our emotions are not validated. They are touted as problematic. Our memories are not validated. Often we are told we are making things up. And our narratives are not validated, leading to a defensive creation of a false reality just to get through childhood.
And if there is one thing that is hardest in recovery, it is learning to validate ourselves. We usually come to the recovery process with no sense of self. We don’t know how to trust ourselves or how we feel and we aren’t sure how to get there. We may get flashbacks and excuse them away as made-up. We may start to feel an emotion and hear that voice telling us not to be ridiculous. It is a pattern set deep in our psyches and we are not going to overcome it easily.
But as I have become aware of my inner parts, I have learned one very important thing. My parts are telling the truth. It isn’t just their memories that are true, but their emotions and beliefs are completely evidence-based. When I allow my inner parts to feel and to share where those feelings are coming from, they are valid and justified.
You may be thinking that can’t be true. When you are walking down the street and are suddenly in a panic, it is not a valid response. And from that standpoint, you would be right. But your inner parts don’t live in today’s world. They live in the past. And something about the current experience reminds them of something very bad. Based on that bad experience from 30 years ago, the emotion is completely valid. And that is where we must start. read more…
For anyone who has spent time with me over the past few weeks, you probably found it hard to miss my latest obsession. Recently I discovered BBC’s Sherlock. I know what you are going to say next. “Elisabeth, you are 7 years late to that party.” I know that. I have never been a big fan of crime shows and I guess I assumed this would be the same. I never bothered to watch. But Sherlock is not about crime. It is, but it isn’t. It is about something else. And while I know my inner parts have driven this obsession (because all obsessions are driven by parts), I am just now realizing why. Sherlock is about inner parts. It is about trauma. It is about repressed memories and the way they run our lives. But most importantly, it is about love.
I am not one of those self-development people who touts the all-encompassing beauty of love in the world. I didn’t grow up in an environment that supported such things. I never had the luxury of spending time on things like love. I grew up in hell. So not surprisingly, my controller took over. My controller has always been very strong. My controller was built for survival and lives in the mind. Vulnerability, emotions and love were never a part of the program. Love was a mistake. Love was something to be avoided at all costs. And there is no TV character who epitomizes the controller more than Sherlock. He is the ultimate controller
But all controllers have one thing in common. They can’t do what they are trying to do. They can’t eliminate love from the equation. It is not possible. Why? We are here for love. And everything we do revolves around it. If you had told me that 10 years ago, I would have told you that was ridiculous. Or rather, my controller would have told you that. My controller believes love is an option. But my controller had a formidable opponent in my love seeker. And while my love seeker may be young, she is driven by love, which will always overpower the mind. read more…
The impacts of my traumatic childhood cannot be measured. They are too vast and far-reaching for me to classify, categorize or otherwise explain. That said, I do try. My controller hasn’t given up on the idea that I can define it. This blog exists because of my attempts to define it, so it’s not all bad. But the reality is too much for any one person to grasp entirely.
Over the course of my adult life, I have done my best to be an adult. But with a childhood of complex trauma and a coping mechanism which took the form of dissociative identity disorder, I haven’t always had the ability to handle life from an adult place. Sometimes my younger parts have handled things for me and this has rarely gone well. Sometimes my controller has handled things and exhausted me in the process.
But sometimes the paralysis hits. I don’t know exactly what causes it. Maybe there are too many parts who want to go in too many directions. Maybe the powerlessness is too much for the system and the shutdown is inevitable. Maybe some part believes that if I hide from it long enough, it will go away. All of these reactions come from my childhood coping and none of them will bring the best result. But often, I don’t have the ability, awareness and fortitude to overcome it.
Recently, I have noticed that my precious computer has been acting in a problematic manner. I do have an information technology background, but unlike many of my friends working in that sector, I am not a gadget person. I don’t like replacing technology at all. I don’t like the unknown. I don’t like change at all, but especially not with something as important as my phone and my computer. As I watched the erratic behavior of my computer increase over time, I could feel that urge to hide, to put my head in the sand, to expect some kind of miraculous recovery of hardware built for temporary use. I wanted a fix that didn’t involve hard work on my part. I didn’t want to deal with it. read more…
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