Desperation is a familiar feeling for those of us with complex trauma. Our goals can feel impossible and completely out of our control. That feeling of powerlessness has been around a long time and it didn’t disappear in adulthood. But that desperation is telling us something. It is a clue we can use to make life better. It can be used to explore the self on a deeper level and make changes for the better. Desperation is a clue because it is telling us about our dissonance. It is telling us we disagree with ourselves. And when we work out this disagreement with self, life changes for the better.
The problem with this dissonance is the unconscious nature of it. We are not aware of it. That’s why we need to pay attention to the way we are feeling and acting to figure it out. This is where desperation can become a good thing, believe it or not. When we are desperate for something we want, our unconscious holds two sides (at the very least). We have parts who want this thing. And we have parts who believe we can’t have this thing. They may believe we can’t have it because we aren’t good enough. They may believe we can’t have it because we will be thwarted by others, or even the universe. They may believe we can’t have it because we can’t possibly figure out how to get it done without help (and help is dangerous). There are endless reasons. But we are standing in our own way.
There is some great news about this realization though. It means we can take control of the situation and get out of our own way. We are not reliant on some savior to make it happen for us. We don’t have to accept it as impossible. But that also means we have to accept our power. And that is scary. My favorite Marianne Williamson quote sums it up beautifully. “Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I have seen this fear show up in my own life as I have made changes to how I manifest. As the world opens up to me, I get scared that I won’t know how to use this power, that I will fail. Of course I will fail. But failure isn’t “life or death” like it was in childhood.
You may be reading this and thinking, “I want to be powerful but I don’t know how to get out of my own way.” So let me give you some examples of how this has manifested in my own life and what I did (or am still doing) about it.
The Desperate Love Seeker. Desperation shows up often in our lives. But there is no place it shows up more than with our love seekers. We are desperate for love. We want love so much, we are prepared to do anything for it. We are willing to lose our authenticity to get it. In my own life, when desperation for attention, approval or love shows up, I know exactly which part I am working with. My love seeker is active and she is going to find love. But the desperate feeling is not grounded. That means it is not likely to be authentic or healthy love. The love seeker is trying to recreate old patterns. And that is always a bad idea. But more importantly, the desperation is indicating how I am blocking my desire for love, real love. I have several parts blocking love. I have a mean kid who thinks all people suck. If someone implies they feel genuine love for me, she dismisses them as liars. She wants “nothin from nobody” and will yell someone right out of the room if they hurt my inner children. I have several freedom fighters (maybe all of them) who believe that people are trying to control me. My freedom fighters will stop at nothing to free themselves from the control of others. And my controller will only put up with love in non-chaotic form. If people create chaos (which they almost always do), they will be controlled or dismissed. It is necessary for me to take all relationships very slowly so I can connect in with my parts when I feel the drive to react without authenticity or to build my walls. I write from both sides and work to make a balanced decision. I set boundaries instead of building walls. And I stay authentic and address the fear of abandonment that always arises.
The Desperate Freedom Fighter. The desperate need to escape is highly prevalent in the life of a trauma survivor. We are running. We are running from ourselves, from others and the world. It can feel like a very intense drive at times. But when acted upon, it can leave us with regret. In my own life, I have often felt that desire to run. If my freedom fighters had their way, I would live out of a suitcase. Even my job now gives me physical location flexibility. But I have children. I am not about to traumatize them with my need to run. So I need to react to my desperation for escape with balance and compromise. My controller wants to stay put to avoid the financial and safety risks of travel. But that feels like torture to my freedom fighters. So I write from both sides and I add a little more travel into our lives in non-dysfunctional ways.
If you are feeling desperation for something, try writing from the resistance to what you want. It might seem like it will take you in the wrong direction, but when you bring the unconscious into the conscious, you remove your inner obstacles. And then you can be powerful beyond measure.
Here are some prompts for you to try.
If you are desperate for love and approval, try writing from:
“I must find love at all costs. I am willing to do anything for it.”
“Nobody will ever love me. I am not good enough.”
“I can’t trust anyone who says they love me or care.”
“People are going to tell me what to do and I am tired of being controlled.”
If you are desperate to escape, try writing from:
“I am trapped. I must escape now.”
“I have no control in my life. I am powerless.”
“I can’t do whatever I want. I don’t get to live that kind of life.”
“It is irresponsible to live life for me.”
If you like working with writing prompts, sign up for my new free challenge starting January 2nd. Through a Facebook group, you will receive 30 daily writing prompts to help you start your inner conversation and break through your obstacles.
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At first I didn’t understand parts, but now I get it because I do have different parts that have worked at odds with each other. I’ll tell myself I want something but then turn it down. I defiantly have thwarted myself before. These blogs are helping me realize that.
Elisabeth, I hope you and your children have a good holiday time – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Thank you so much Diane. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.
Much gratitude Elisabeth! Can you give us an opener for initiating the conversation when using the prompts?
“People are going to tell me what to do and I am tired of being controlled.”
This may resonate but now what? How do I keep the conversation going?
I think I have a block.
Wishing you and your children a happy holiday season!
If you can’t keep going, there is probably a block to that part. Try to write from the block. Blocks will sound like:
“Don’t go there. It is dangerous.” (Controller)
“There’s no point in doing this. It won’t go anywhere.” (Many defenders)
“I hate this stupid work and that we have to do it.” (Mean kid)
“We will be punished if we do this.” (Karma Kid)
I felt the same way. I know that I am unconsciously saying all these things to myself but I can’t seem to keep the conversation going either…
I seem to be able to keep the conversation going when I practice, but when something unexpectedly comes up- all the practice goes out the door and I can’t keep the conversation going until maybe later, after regret.. lol. I suppose for those who have a hard time responding to their part, try responding from your older self or your spiritual guidance- you think Elizabeth? That has seemed to work for me; I just have a hard time generalizing this practice when something new comes up. Happy holidays to all! I’ve heard it said that the healing journey is not for the faint of heart – so you are ALL simply amazing.
That’s definitely true Michelle. Responding from the part who is grounded is helpful in these situations. It is the most difficult to reach our inner parts when we are triggered, so what you say makes sense. Our defenses come up and stop our inner conversation when we feel unsafe.
“As the world opens up to me, I get scared that I won’t know how to use this power, that I will fail. Of course I will fail. But failure isn’t “life or death” like it was in childhood.” Got me good.
And I can learn and try again.
Thank you again so much for your great work.
Merry Christmas to you and yours
Thank you Mette. Merry Christmas to you.
Excellent writing Elisabeth!! Thank you. I’m sending this post to several clients.
Thank you Marie!
Wow! Finally someone who gets where I’m coming from. I’m a 58 year old successful mom, wife and grandma. My nuclear family is happy and healthy. I was disowned by my family of origin 25 years ago for voicing memories of abuse, (by the way – even before there was any discussion of it being true, they turned on my like angry wolves). I’ve done so much work – SO much and it seems that no matter how successful or happy I am, I get hit with the feelings you discussed above. I just wrote in a journal that I’m done with feeling terrible when my life is amazing. Then I went online to find a book or blog post that would help and here I am. THANK YOU!
Thank you Kathy for your kind words. I am so sorry you have been through this experience. It is truly horrible to go through trauma and then invalidation by family.