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.
I would say that one of the most common non-emotions I have heard my clients express is the feeling of being trapped. Of course, it is based on emotion. Hopelessness and powerlessness are beneath it. But that feeling of being trapped is triggered by our circumstances. And those circumstances can only be changed by us. So what can we do about it? Here are a few steps we can take when that trapped feeling comes to the forefront.
- Question your defenders. Most of the thoughts in our minds are not accurate. They are coming from defenders who learned their thought patterns from the abusive people we are trying to “escape”. We know defenders by their fear, their anger and their use of the word “should”. While it is important to write from these parts so you can build awareness of them and detach from your thought patterns, you aren’t required to do what they say.
- Examine how your past and current situation is the same. The thought patterns that repeat previous abusive language will often manifest similar life situations. You may marry someone who repeats your parents’ behavior or you may continue to take care of others without concern for self. When you become aware of these similarities, it becomes possible to make changes.
- Look for how it is different. The situation might be the same, but how are you different? You have choices you didn’t used to have. As a child, you could not walk away from your situation for obvious reasons. But now, you have options. I get that there are exceptions. You can’t walk out of an actual prison. But as an adult, you can walk away from any other adult in the world. You can live in any town in the world (as long as you can get a visa). And you can apply for any job in the world (I do get that there are job requirements). These may sound a bit far-fetched in some ways, but I want to be clear that you have options.
- Look for how you can change your current circumstances. Make a list of all the changes you could make right now. Don’t hold back. Don’t let your controller censor it with that “should” word. Just write down anything you could do. Now pick your first change and set your intention to make it happen. Start small so you don’t overwhelm your system and induce paralysis.
- Take action and express the inevitable resistance. I know from personal experience that taking action brings up fear. This fear is not meant to stop us. It is meant to be examined, expressed and released. This fear may be masked as guilt or anger or anxiety or hopelessness, but don’t be fooled. It is resistance and it needs to be expressed.
When we feel trapped, it is a message that something needs to change. But it is important we don’t hear this message as hopeless. We are capable of making change. Will it be easy? No. Will it come with difficult consequences? Possibly. But that trapped feeling is there for a reason. We are not meant to be where we are. We are meant to be more, feel more, love more and experience more. And it is our job to figure that out. It is our purpose to follow that feeling to something better. Take the step toward that change. Your trapped days are over.