I have been discovering and learning about my inner landscape for a while now. And I have learned some key aspects to this process of recovery that must be understood. If they are not understood, we will not be able to accept this work. As a matter of a fact, we will be miserable. What are those facts?
- Your understanding of your narrative is going to shift constantly.
- Your understanding of self is going to shift constantly.
- There is no definitive truth. Nothing is as it seems.
- As you change, people will think you are crazy.
- The changes will drive you crazy.
When I started my blog, I understood this on an intuitive level. I may have even understood it on a conscious level but hoped I was wrong. I knew the information I would be providing might shift and change over time. And it definitely has. My own personal journey has constantly informed my writings and my work with clients. With all that said, my revelation this morning should come as no surprise. But of course, it does.
For the past few months, I have been discovering new parts. This isn’t surprising. I discover new parts, new beliefs, new memories, and new buried emotions all the time. I am an excavator. It is what I do. I embrace curiosity so much that if I was a cat, I would be dead. But when I woke up this morning, I had a word in my head and it was screaming at me. read more…
One of the most difficult (and necessary) parts of the recovery journey is to find our way back to the body. This is an incredibly scary process. We left the body a long time ago because it wasn’t a safe place to live. Maybe we left because we were experiencing physical and sexual abuse we could not escape. Maybe we left because we were experiencing painful emotions and we could not cope any longer with our reality. So we made a choice. We chose to leave the reality in the body and create a new story in our head. And that is where we took up residence. And honestly, we were expecting to be there forever.
But we get some bad news in recovery. We have to go back from whence we came. Recovery doesn’t just happen in the head, no matter how much we whine about it (or maybe it’s just me whining). There’s a problem though. We don’t know anything about the body. We may even hate the body. Our trauma has probably created extensive issues with the body. We might experience chronic illness and pain. We may not know how to take care of it. Maybe we are so dissociated, we don’t remember to eat or go to the bathroom. I used to be able to go all day without eating and then wonder why I was “hangry”. I would get to a very uncomfortable level of bladder holding before I had to run for it. I just wasn’t paying attention. And recovery is about paying attention. It is about awareness.
Getting in to the body sends many messages to the universe and our parts. First, it lets the universe know that we are ready to prioritize the self (at least a little). It sends a message to our inner parts that we are ready to hear from them. And it scares our defenders, who have spent an entire lifetime pushing away reality. In other words, our first attempts to access the wisdom of the body will often be met with inner chaos. That chaos can sometimes be interpreted as a “visiting the body is a bad decision”. But I urge you to persevere because the long-term effects are remarkable. read more…
While most of my blogs stay gender-neutral, this writing might have a strong slant toward a female audience. Sexual abuse affects both genders and needs to be addressed for all children. That said, it does seem to be more prevalent for little girls. And the impact it has on girls as a population is devastating. It shows in the body as chronic illness and pain caused by unexpressed emotions of shame, fear and grief. It shows in relationship through all forms of domestic violence and codependence. It shows through wage gaps and unfulfilled purposes and careers. There is no aspect of life that is not permeated by the effects of sexual abuse.
But why? So many of us leave abusive homes and believe we have escaped our trauma. I remember leaving for college, and although I didn’t remember my abuse, I was hopeful that things would be different, that I could finally live a happy, undisturbed life. But as most of you already know, that didn’t happen. It wasn’t going to happen. And it doesn’t happen for any of us after a childhood of sexual abuse. And it doesn’t make sense. We do everything it takes to stop the cycle. We work hard. We do our best to avoid people like our abusers. We try to make people happy. We exhaust ourselves trying to make life better.
But nothing changes. We go from one bad relationship to another. We get mistreated by people constantly. It seems like the entire universe is against us. With all our efforts to make our external life the best possible life, we have missed one very critical affect of our abuse. The very thing that saved us in childhood is now destroying our adult lives. What is that one thing? Dissociation. It hides the truth from us as well as everyone else. It takes the impacts of abuse and pushes them deep inside, so we can cover all the trauma with a bright-colored mask that looks just like the world wants us to look. Over time, we forget it’s there. We stop hearing it. And if we do hear it, we ignore it.
And one of the most devastating aspects of dissociation is the unconscious belief system we hold. We have “learned” things about how the world works through our traumatic experiences. And no matter what we say to the outside world, those unconscious beliefs manifest. Let’s talk about the beliefs I have discovered in myself and others on this healing journey. read more…
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.
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