I talk with survivors of complex trauma all day. While we all have a past, those of us with complex trauma have a haunting past. It is like living our worst day over and over again despite what is actually happening in the present moment. And that worst day is bad. We feel stuck in the past. We feel stuck in traumatic experiences. But even on the good days, there is a feeling of “stuck”. It is one of the most common feelings we have. It seems that life is not moving forward. It seems that we will never get where we are going. We don’t really even know where that is. But when we bring awareness to what is happening, we can begin to make movements forward. If you are a survivor of complex trauma, here are seven reasons you may feel stuck.
- Your emotions are flashbacks. Unless you are going through a traumatic event in your current life, your emotional state is likely a flashback. Traumatic emotions don’t need dramatic triggers to come to the surface. Often you don’t see the patterns and events that cause them to rise up. You can spend your days in an emotional state stemming from an unresolved past and you don’t realize it. This will cause you to repeat the patterns that started in childhood. And you can struggle to get out of the patterns because your emotional state manifests them.
- You unconsciously believe you need to repeat the past to resolve it. I am not suggesting you are walking through life with a conscious desire to repeat the past. Nobody wants that. But you likely have a very active unconscious world. It is often full of unwarranted self-blame. And you have at least one inner child who wants to figure out what they did wrong. So you will unconsciously choose situations that repeat the past in an attempt to figure out what went wrong. This never works because you didn’t do anything wrong. The abusers from your past were never going to give you what you needed. And the abusers in the current moment aren’t either.
- You think that numb is better than feeling. If you experienced trauma in childhood, the emotions would have overwhelmed you. As a young child, you could not have resolved that trauma and expressed those emotions as you needed. So you numbed out. Now you have defenses that tell you those emotions are dangerous. In reality, they are not. The defenses are much more dangerous to your quality of life. But that’s hard to believe at this point in your journey. Without expressing the emotions of the past, you cannot stop it from dictating the current moment. Those emotions might even be affecting how you feel physically which will definitely make you stuck.
- You are distracted by perfectionism and the need for approval. When your inner world is tumultuous, you may have moved your focus to the external world. You may believe you can resolve the pain of past losses by gaining approval from the outside world. You may build up a perfect mask with a perfect life, but it always feels like a fight. You are fighting against the inner turmoil from an unresolved past while trying to show the world that you are fine, maybe better than fine. But you exhaust yourself with external things instead of exploring and healing your inner world.
- You believe you are not worthy of more in life. A lack of worthiness is one of the most common blocks to a good and purposeful life. It is shrouded in futility and it tells you not to bother. If you don’t deserve it, there is no point in trying. You stop yourself before you even try. While you may power through this feeling with perfectionism, it is always there blocking those daring steps you know you want to take.
- You feel powerless. The futility of powerlessness is an incredibly common reaction to a childhood of trauma. And it is there for all of us to some degree. If you believe you don’t have the power to manifest what you want, you won’t start. But this powerlessness comes from childhood when you really didn’t have power. It is an emotional flashback that doesn’t apply to today. You will only become unstuck when you take time to question the powerless thoughts that come up when you try to take a powerful step.
- You don’t remember what happened to you. Trauma leads to dissociation. Dissociation is not only for those with severe trauma. Dissociation lives in all of us to some degree. It runs on a continuum. It can be as simple as leaving the keys in the fridge or distracting yourself with thoughts and lists all the way to work. But it is likely that something from childhood is not living in your conscious mind. It sits beneath the surface creating patterns. And when this happens, you are left scratching your head. “Why does this keep happening to me?”
One of the most powerful steps you can take in life is to pay attention. What is happening beneath the surface of your conscious mind? How are you distracting yourself with external things? How are you stopping yourself before you take that courageous step? If you slow down and take some time to get to know yourself on a deeper level, you can start unraveling what keeps you stuck and moving forward with the life you want.
3 Steps to Overcoming the Awareness Challenge
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