There is nothing more emotionally devastating than the weight shame has on our lives. The desperation of hiding our shame fuels most of our controller’s behaviors keeping us from our rest and inner peace. Shame drives much of our futility which keeps us stuck and spinning on our most purposeful goals. Shame encourages our worst fears to spin around in our minds repeatedly as we wait for bad things to happen, things we unconsciously believe we deserve. Shame has a devastating impact on our lives, but when we start to dig deep to the source of the shame, we can make the realization that it holds no credibility. Shame is simply a bunch of lies. Through our traumatic experiences, it has gained a tremendous hold on our lives despite our deep desire to shine. In our healing journey, our goal is to break that hold by understanding where the shame started.
Projection. The most prominent reason shame exists is projection. The same lies have been told through generations within our families to squelch our gifts and dampen our dreams. These shame messages were developed to protect us from the rejection, exile and even death associated with a lack of acceptance in society. As a family, shaming ourselves became the lesser of the evils in our attempts to stay alive. These messages were ingrained in our unconscious and used to internally suppress purposeful potential, but the unconscious messages were also projected onto the next generation. If the shame messages were suppressing our inner children, those same messages would suppress our external children too. We would have been told anything to stop us from exploring who we are. “Our talents are unnecessary. Our gifts are dangerous. Our emotional expression causes problems. Our goals are unrealistic. Our plans are ridiculous. Something is inherently wrong with us.” There was never anything wrong with us though. It is a bunch of lies created to avoid rejection many years (or even centuries) ago. Shame projection from one generation to the next is a major reason we struggle to move forward in the world. We are all stuck conforming to old threats, rules and laws which no longer apply.
The Evidence. Once we believe the shame, we start collecting the evidence. At first, it is the messages from the family on repeat. Soon, we start to look for that evidence in our other relationships with teachers, bosses, friends and partners. Once we believe the shame, our actions will reflect those beliefs so we can recreate what we believe to be true. If we have an experience which does not support the shamed beliefs, we will reject it as a fluke or a lie. Why do we stick to our shame beliefs so closely? If we don’t, we will have to grieve. We will have to grieve the time lost in those beliefs. We will have to grieve the false stories about how we were treated. We will have to face the reality that we didn’t have the control we thought we had. Believe it or not, in childhood, the shame kept us from falling into total despair. If we believed it was our fault, we could believe there was something we could do about it. Recognizing how we were not in control means facing the reality. Facing the reality means grief.
Contracts. Most of our beliefs come from contracts with our abusers. I am not suggesting that contracts are signed pieces of paper (although they can be). They are more like deals we make with others. As children in traumatic households, those deals are never fair. At the foundational level, they will attack our ability to be authentic. There will be contracts about speaking our truth, expressing how we feel, exploring our gifts, even how successful we are allowed to be. These contracts will be held in place with shame. We will be blamed for something we didn’t do so it can be held against us. We will be to be “saved” by someone so we feel like we owe them forever. We will be forced to do something awful so it can be used against us too. These shame-based contracts are highly effective. It can take years of healing work to realize how our inner parts are holding on to the shame-based lies and the futility of those contracts. It can be done though, and it will positively impact generations to come.
Fear of Punishment. Our shame-based contracts also trigger a deep fear of punishment. If we are inherently bad, the universe and its people are not on our side. This is often proven to us during a difficult childhood as we are collecting our evidence. Our inner parts, especially the karma kid who holds the contracts, will be deeply afraid of the punishment of breaking through the lies and the contracts they support. They will correlate unrelated and unfortunate events to our attempts to be more authentic. They might see a flat tire or a bad grade as a punishment for who we are. If someone rejects us, it is a punishment. If we struggle financially, it is a punishment. This belief creates a strong reaction to life’s difficulties. This keeps us stuck in the half-life our unconscious trauma encourages.
How do we break free of these lies of shame? I promise it is possible. We must see how our systems have been brainwashed. When we see ourselves stopping short of what we want, these are the gateway moments to our shame lies. The most important thing we can do is shine a light on what lives in the unconscious. Talk about it with others. Write down the lies in first person. I call this resistance writing. Repeating this writing helps us release the lies and move forward. Prepare for the backlash whenever you break a pattern or cycle or set a boundary. The backlash comes from the fear of punishment. Inner defenders are terrified of what you will face if you keep empowering yourself. When it comes, write from the backlash. If we expect it, it doesn’t take us down in the same way. Keep reminding yourself that our most important steps in life will come with resistance. Contrary to mainstream beliefs, our purpose is not easy. It is where we will face the most inner resistance. Keep going and surround yourself with people who do not believe the lies either (not likely to be family). You can change your patterns for good. The truth will in fact, set you free.
When I started my blog, I was excited to have my voice heard. I felt like I had found my platform to say what I needed to say. I had finally found a way to get past the obstacles to put my story out there. At the same time, I was nervous. After I posted my first blog, I was paranoid about the fallout. I was sure someone was going to come and take me out. I spent weeks in fear about the consequences of my actions. I felt it was only a matter of time before they would stop me permanently. My abusers had always threatened a swift and violent response to any of my attempts to speak the truth. My silence was my only guarantee of survival. My inner defenders were sure of it.
In the end, that didn’t happen. My abusers ran for the hills. They sent a few disguised emails from phony people. They tried to attack me on Facebook with fake profiles. I knew it was them. I think we always know it’s them. It just sounds too familiar. I clapped back and started to gain some confidence in my fight against them. Confidence is the one thing they never wanted me to have. It is the ultimate rebellion to be confident. I loved writing my blogs. It came naturally to me. I am not saying I am the best writer to come around, but I realized I wasn’t terrible at putting down 750 to 1000 words which fit together into a somewhat cohesive and helpful message. I had a friend ask me how I did that. I didn’t understand the question. I just write and then I finish writing. That’s when it occurred to me this was probably a gift. It didn’t come naturally to others.
For these reasons, I stayed committed to my blog even as it became a part of a bigger purpose. As my coaching business developed, I created other programs from workshops to Survivor’s Guide, but the blog was like my favorite child (other than the twins of course). It always felt like such a relief to get those words out on the internet. I knew more people could access the blog than anything else I offered, and I loved that. To be honest, it healed me too. You will not be surprised to hear that I believe written words are healing. Even my controller started to jump on board but with a business focus of course. “I will stay consistent. The key is consistency. I won’t let them down. I will never fail to deliver.” It was a bit like the postal service slogan running through my head every Wednesday. With that level of propaganda coming from the controller, I should have known what was to come, but the unconscious is funny like that. We don’t see it until we see it, and that’s usually after it has knocked us down.
Two years ago, I moved. Honestly, I never thought there would be a big impact to my business. I work from home. I can work from anywhere. I thought the biggest obstacle would be finding my kids’ school. I was wrong. There was a bigger problem. I moved into a beautiful house on a stunning lake with the most amazing wildlife. I bought décor items I liked for the first time. I found the best school for my kids. Not to mention, I was now many states away from my mother. You might be thinking this doesn’t sound like a problem. I thought so too. To my unconscious inner parts, this was a huge problem. I broke 15 contracts at one time. I had done everything my mother warned me not to do. I had taken my life back on such a massive scale and that meant only one thing. My inner backlash would be just as massive.
For two years, I have dealt with intense inner turmoil regarding these inner contracts. I had broken them and they would be released, but the process was incredibly difficult. My karma kids, my contract-abiding parts, went on a full attack. The futility, fear and shame were intense. I heard the shame, and I expressed it as often as I could. “I was not deserving of this house. I was not deserving of the inner quiet and calm it could provide. I was not deserving of the amazing school my kids had been accepted to. I was not deserving of this new life I had created.” It had been something I had dreamed of since I was a little girl. It had consumed me at times, but it was not allowed.
Futility is a defensive emotion, but it is also a protective emotion. It tells us there is no point, but it has a very good reason for it. The karma kid believes breaking the contracts is far worse than ruining a life. They will choose the later every single time. I had done the unthinkable. I had attempted to “have it all”. Now, the fall had to be massive. I had to experience a collapse of everything I just built or I would not survive. The contract had to hold. Total sabotage was the only way. Paralysis was the only way. Taking the productivity to minimal levels and making a bunch of questionable financial decisions should have been enough. In many cases, it would have worked, but I was watching the karma kid. I saw it coming and I was ready. The crash didn’t come, but I had to use tons of duct tape to hold things together this last two years.
The fear is a core emotion, and it can devastate us on so many levels. It says, “Don’t put yourself out there.” It says we better hide away and avoid visibility. It says we are in too much trouble to continue to embrace life. You might not be surprised to hear this isn’t good for an entrepreneurial endeavor. Visibility is key. While some visible offerings remained intact (and I still don’t fully understand why), others were burned to the ground as the fear blocked my efforts to the contrary. Consistency went out the window. I became the unreliable blogger my controller had always judged in others. In case you were wondering, that is the point of this blog. There are thousands of coaches and trainers out there talking about the power of our will. I don’t doubt this power one bit. It is always a player in the success of our ventures, but there is something far more important when it comes to our growth as humans.
I could have stayed enmeshed with my controller and pushed my consistent blog. That would have meant staying in Virginia. My controller didn’t see the point in moving. They are too practical. It would have meant staying within a stone’s throw of my horrific mother. While distance from abusers doesn’t solve everything, it does allow for more awareness. I could not see the way she was still involved in my life until I left. So many chains would have remained if I had stayed, but I would have been free enough to write a pretty good blog probably. I would have remained driven by will because I would not have challenged those contracts and released the backlash of emotions. I would have continued to shove all the trauma beneath the surface in the unconscious. I would have been able to move forward to a point. Willpower is a controller job, and it works to a point. After that point, we must step into the emotional blocks. If we don’t, we may have some successes. To others, they might even look like big successes, but they are limited by what we don’t process. We might remain consistent for a while, but the emotions show up in some way eventually.
I have learned that the emotional, grounded, non-controller journey is not always a consistent journey. It is unpredictable and takes patience I didn’t think I had. I have been sitting here staring at my pile of ideas for two years now, and I’ve been angry about it. Sometimes, I’ve been a bit of a toddler about it, but whatever. I also knew from previous experience that it would shift at some point. That’s the only thing that kept me going through the muck of these emotions and the memories driving them: hundreds of traumatic memories. I can now see a crack in the wall, a part in the clouds. I am writing again on a huge scale for me. I am writing better than I have in the past. I am more connected to my creativity. All that said, I won’t promise you consistency on my blog. I can promise you I’ll never give up. That is a promise I am willing to make.
Thank you for standing by me all this time. Maybe I’m back.
As people grow cautiously optimistic about returning to some semblance of social interaction, many of us may be more concerned than we are divulging. We may be feeling a bit more comfortable with our aloneness. We may have grown accustomed to a slower pace. We may have even liked the idea that we had an automatic boundary when it came to the toxic people that never seem to go away. Opening our lives back up to others might be feeling a bit ominous. How long before we are losing ourselves to the preferences of others? How much time will it take to be totally burned out from requests we can’t turn down? How do we make sure the simple and quiet still have a place in our lives?
If you are feeling like that, you are not alone. You are likely sensing an inner part I refer to as the isolator. We all have the isolator. This inner part develops from experiences of relational trauma. We may have experienced betrayal, manipulation, abandonment or rejection. But it would have left us with an isolator who is sick and tired of the pain caused by other people. The isolator is most interested in living an authentic life. As a part of their ungrounded survival skills, they have learned that other people are generally not conducive to our most authentic life. To some degree, this is true. With others come opinions, pressure, boundary-invasions and even more abuse. These things will trigger our other survival skills which push us toward erasing self. Let’s talk about some of the reasons the isolator loves to keep a distance from others and why they might be a bit nervous right now.
Childhood taught us we had no control over our lives. We learned in childhood that our attempts to stand up for ourselves would be met with horrific results. Asserting our needs and desires could have invited insults, invalidation, humiliation or even violence. We put our needs on the back burner in an attempt to keep the peace and find the approval we needed for survival. But in the process, we completely lost ourselves. Our controller, karma kid and love seeker (the trifecta) came out and ruled our decisions. All authentic parts of self were locked away. When we reached adulthood, we were lost. We were completely at the whim of everyone around us. If we wanted alone time, it depended on how many people asked for our time. If we wanted to rest, it depended on the needs of others around us. If we wanted to eat our favorite dinner, it depended on what others wanted to eat. We had no boundaries. After enough of this torture, the isolator steps forward so we can explore our own authentic selves. The isolation of this pandemic has provided opportunity for that. And the isolator isn’t so sure about letting that go.
Childhood taught us our family of origin would always control us. One of the biggest themes in our abusive family relationships is control. Abusive families rely on their ability to control their children, even after they have become adults. The forms of control can run the spectrum from extremely covert to obviously overt, but we are always taught to see them as normal or to blame ourselves. Once we reach adulthood, the control continues. While it doesn’t necessarily require physical access to us, proximity does help. The control can be almost anything. It can be financial control. It can be guilt. It can be threats. The family can even use our own adult partners to continue controlling us. There is also the possibility of access words, phrases or codes. I know that may sound like something out of a Marvel movie, but I promise you, this is far more common than we want to believe (and pretty easy to set up in children). The isolator is aware of all of these tactics and loves the time away from controlling people. The pandemic has provided a breakaway opportunity and the isolator is afraid to lose all that gained ground.
Childhood taught us we needed others for protection. Abusers want us to internalize the message that we need others. In childhood, this is true. We do need others to make sure we are fed, clothed and housed. But the message doesn’t stop there. The message might become about our ineptitude at living in the world, our inability to survive financially or our need to be physically protected by others. Unfortunately, this doesn’t bring the best people into our space. If we are connecting with others because we need security, there is an issue with the power dynamic. The other person might not be safe for us. The isolator knows these beliefs aren’t true and deeply wants us to find our own way in the world. The pandemic has made it harder for us to seek these people out for protection and safety. And the isolator is fine with that.
Use this time of transition as an opportunity to take a step back. Was this isolated time all bad? Or did you learn a little bit along the way about who you are and what you want? If you did, look for ways you can protect those authentic finds. Don’t let the crowded world around you come in and erase all the gains of your isolation. Yes. Isolation periods always have gains. You deserve to keep your connection with self. You deserve to make choices for you. You deserve boundaries. And you deserve safety. Take your time in diving back in. That doesn’t make you weird or unusual even if others say it. You are simply protecting yourself in a sea of self-interests. The world needs the real you.
I’ve had some good things happening in my life lately. I’ve been taking some big chances and it’s been working out. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? I agree it sounds nice. But I’ll be honest. My system is in chaos. My anxiety has been unusually high. I haven’t been sleeping well. My thoughts are racing. I am stressed out. I am more stressed out than when things are going wrong. It doesn’t make sense. But at the same time, it makes all the sense in the world. For my inner parts, it isn’t normal for things to go well. So when things start to look good, my inner parts come out expecting the absolute worst. When I get excited or happy, some inner parts become terrified. It would be easy to invalidate them about this. It would be easy to think that I am being crazy. But when I look at my past, this response is completely reasonable. So instead of arguing with myself, I need to give myself the compassion I have always deserved. I need to acknowledge the history creating this reaction. What are my parts saying?
It’s a setup. It seems good, but it is going to be bad. This was the story of my childhood in many ways. I was lured into many dangerous situations under the pretense that something good was happening. This was one of my mother’s favorite tricks. After a while, she knew I didn’t trust her, so she would use others. She would make my friends and boyfriends lure me into bad situations. Maybe they knew they were doing something mean. Maybe they didn’t. But it made it impossible for me to trust anyone. I never knew if they were “working” for my mother. The flying monkeys were everywhere. So nobody and no experience was safe. Not surprisingly, I isolated more and more as I got older. But there was still that desire for connection. And it never failed to get me in trouble. Now when I connect with even the most random person, I can sense that mistrust coming in. Are they working for her? Are they going to try to harm me? Are they setting me up? I know it sounds like paranoia (and it is), but it is based on valid reasons from an extremely traumatic past. It is not to be discounted.
It will never work out. Something will go wrong as soon as I get excited about it. The messages were clear in childhood. I was not allowed to have what I wanted. If I was too happy, something would be done to reduce my happiness. Joy was dangerous because it might bring confidence or hope. Those things were not allowed in my family. I had to be oppressed at all costs. My mother put so much effort into thwarting the things I loved, it was mind-boggling. How could one person use so much energy to destroy another? I often wonder how much good she could have done in the world if she had focused all her energy on something positive. But she didn’t. So my parts are always waiting for the inevitable destruction of my happiness. They see it as an absolute given. NOTHING good will ever last. In the end, I’ll get excited only to be decimated by something awful. I am NEVER supposed to get my hopes up. This makes embracing great things incredibly difficult. But it is clear why I feel that way.
I am fooling everyone. My mother was devoted to ensuring I internalized all the shame and self-blame when bad things happened to me. I learned that bad things happened to me and others because I was a problem. I was cursed. I was wrong. I was bad. I was evil. I was a witch. I should have never been born. I was an imposter. I needed to hide my true self. My innate characteristics were everything the world despised. I had to shrink, hide, avoid others and never let anyone know enough find out the truth. If I get too involved in something I love, if I connect with people too much, they will figure out how bad I really am. And then, I will lose it all. Everything I love will be lost. They will take it from me because I am undeserving of all that is good. So I must avoid connection with people who could figure out who I really am. That means I must avoid connection with people. And while it is completely unrealistic, it is completely understandable that my inner parts would feel this way.
Indeed, there is a setup. In my childhood, I was set up to believe these things. And there was no way I could have avoided these beliefs. My life was orchestrated to lead me to them. But that doesn’t mean I have to live with this pattern for good. I can recognize these beliefs. I can hear them out. I can feel the terror underneath the surface. And I can continue to make choices to change those patterns. I can choose to ground into another truth that empowers me. I can consider how things could be different. I can help my parts heal and see the world in a new way. Will this happen overnight? No. It is quite a process. But when I stick with it, I have seen it work. I have seen it change. The patterns do shift, but it won’t happen if I don’t believe myself. I have to listen to the terror to find my happiness.
I don’t watch much television. But I have a habit of watching “This Is Us”. I watch it every Tuesday night when there’s a new episode. My controller tries to shut down any potential emotion, but for some reason, I always seem to manage to move my schedule around for an episode of This Is Us. This episode was full of emotional moments (as they are), but I was caught off guard by the last scene of this episode. I had not realized how much I could still be moved by the idea of family support. I had not realized that there was still a part within me who still considered the idea of community. A long time ago, I wrote it off. I shut the entire idea down.
Don’t get me wrong. I have two children. Together, the three of us make the best family in my opinion. There is plenty of squabbling and middle school ridiculousness (from all three of us). But it has definitely been the best family I have ever had (I know that bar is low). And there have been the occasional “family” members who have been a part of our lives (not necessarily blood-related). But the Thanksgiving/Christmas Hallmark family concept has not been a part of my thoughts for a long time. I have known better than to hang my hopes on any such possibilities. At least, I believed that to be the case.
I do everything alone. I have raised my children alone. I have dealt with every major problem with my children alone. I have taken one of my children to hospital 6 times … alone. I have dealt with financial difficulties while starting my own business … alone. I have faced crises as school … alone. I have moved 3 times … alone. I have dealt with the death of a pet five times … alone. I haven’t had that partner or family member to call and say, “What do I do now?” And that’s how it is for survivors of trauma. We make a choice. We choose between our families and our safety. And even in the worst-case complex trauma scenarios, it is hard to make that choice. We aren’t taught to go it alone. Society doesn’t recommend it. And yet, so many of us are doing just that.
And I never feel more alone than when something is going wrong. With two kids and three cats, something is going wrong often, but sometimes it feels worse than others. It would be nice to have someone around to tell me I haven’t screwed up my kids forever or that my decisions don’t suck. It would be nice to have someone eat a meal I made and not suggest that take-out would be better. It would be nice to connect with someone who had mildly similar interests (not Pokemon or Youtubers). It would be nice to have someone to share all the shitty responsibilities with (like contacting call centers or going to the DMV or vet).
So when Madison realized she was going to go through the birth of twins by herself, I could relate. When she mentioned to the doctor that she wasn’t close to her mother, I could relate. And when Randall called her to say she was family, I lost it. In some ways, I have always hoped that there might be some other family waiting to adopt me. I have always wondered if I could find a family who would let me know I wasn’t so alone. I don’t need any blood relationships. I just want to know there is someone around. There’s an emergency contact. There’s a person who I can call when things are just too difficult. And God forbid, there’s someone who can help me a little bit. I can hear my parts saying I don’t deserve that. I can hear it, but I know it isn’t true. Those are the old messages from the past. But I have been waiting a while. And the folks in the TV shows seem to find these things so much easier than me.
I have learned this journey is always asking me to step that next level into the heartbreak. No matter how many times my controller tries to tell me I have healed enough, there is another layer of the onion to peel back. There is another step towards the vulnerable humanness I have tried to avoid. The messages that “I am fine alone” come from my survival strategies. No matter how much I want them to be true, they aren’t. No matter how helpful my isolation has been in my healing journey, it is not an permanent state for me to live with. But there is a fine line to walk. Looking to others to meet my needs does not heal me. And isolating to feel safe does not heal me either. We heal in balance. We heal when we allow relationships to be vulnerable and meaningful. We heal when we sit with the painful feelings in isolation instead of running to external things. We heal when we allow others to earn trust instead of assuming they don’t deserve it. So listen to the yearning for something more. Don’t write it off. Take another small step into the heartbreak. We all deserve a bit less loneliness in our lives.
Complex trauma teaches us how to survive in the most difficult circumstances. It teaches us how to stay alive when the odds are against us for extended periods of time. We learn to make survival our most important priority. We learn that nothing else in life really matters at all. We learn which parts of self are most likely to keep us alive and we give them priority. And we learn which parts of self are dangerous and we shut them down. We lock them away for good (or at least that is the plan). Complex trauma turns us into machines with no consideration for our humanness. Our humanity is not acceptable because it is “weak” and certainly doesn’t help us survive. We come out of childhood ready to fight each day for our own survival. And truthfully, we are amazing at it for a while.
There is one inner part who leads the battle for survival each day. This is the inner part I refer to as the controller. Some spiritual texts call this part the ego-self. Some texts refer to the false self (which is the mask the controller creates). But in those of us with complex trauma, the controller is strong. Their beliefs become the priority. They are detail-oriented. They push hard for what they want. They are unemotional. They rely heavily on the logical thinking mind. They are extremely unyielding in their opinions leading to defensiveness. And they will look down upon anyone who has other ideas about how to exist in the world.
But controllers can be hard to see. They can take on many different masks. Sometimes we can have multiple masks in one system. They can be extremely success-oriented, clawing their way to the top of organizations. They can focus on spiritual bypass with a heavy emphasis on replacing all traumatic emotions with positivity. They can refuse to make any decisions or take any actions to avoid ridicule. In this case, they might focus their efforts on finding a savior who will take care of them (and make the love seeker happy). These controller masks are going to depend on factors like personal characteristics, beliefs we grew up with and culture. So we have to put on our detective hats to find our controller masks.
Another reason our controllers are hard to see is the enmeshment. When our controllers speak, we think they are self. Don’t get me wrong, they are self. But they are a part of self. They aren’t all of self. They aren’t core self or true self. They aren’t grounded adult self. They are an inner part who is not fully an adult and they are full of terror about this life. But when we hear them, they make sense to us. They seem logical. Why? We have experienced the life that developed the controller. So of course, we agree with them. Our entire lives have proven them right. Stepping out of enmeshment with the controller is one of the most involved, complex and difficult parts of recovery. It is also one of the most rewarding. Living from the controller is exhausting and overwhelming. So stepping out of the controller and their survival mode is incredibly relieving.
So how do we see the controller? How do we build awareness about them? It can help to know what we are looking for. Here are some key concepts that controllers use in their attempts to survive.
There is nothing good that comes from recovery. Recovery represents everything the controller fears. They have learned to live in denial of their true story. They hide their truth because they have been threatened constantly. They see recovery as a choice that can lead to death.
Risks will always fail. You may not remember taking risks as a child, but you did. And it didn’t turn out well. A complex trauma environment is set up to squelch a child and all their dreams. The controller knows better than to venture toward something in adulthood. They have learned it isn’t worth their time.
Emotion is crazy. The controller tries to be as robotic as possible. They learned that emotions were dangerous. They learned that emotions come with horrible consequences and awful labels. They believe it is best to shove all emotion down into the body and try to ignore it. But the consequences of that are far worse.
There isn’t enough. The controller learned that everything in life is scarce. There was never enough of anything. That might mean money, food, clothes, shelter or love. They learned that anything they wanted would only come through competition. They had to power through without any care for others so they could stay alive.
There is no place in this life for fun. The controller is trying to stay alive and they are using all their energy for that one priority. If there is energy to be spent on something that isn’t useful for survival, they are not likely to prioritize it. They aren’t interested in enjoying life. They even believe that to be dangerous.
Finding these beliefs in our unconscious can lead to huge changes in our quality of life. Making decisions that are not centered on terror will give us so much more to live for. And believe it or not, we can even find moments of inner peace when we detach from the controller and allow ourselves to connect with our other inner parts. But stepping out of the controller is a difficult process. It is a long-term investment in effort and time. In February, we will be exploring how to leave survival-mode behind and find a better way of living. Come join us in Survivor’s Guide for Life.
This might sound like an ominous title for a blog. But I promise it has a happier ending than it seems. One of the most common statements from my clients is that they want to be who they were in their twenties. They had so much energy. They got so much done. They felt so good. They just want to go back to that place where they can get all the things done. I get it. I was the same way in that third decade of life. My trauma was bubbling underneath the surface, but my controller was strong. They were super-strong. They would push through the futility and the flashbacks to get things done. They were competitive with all the others, but they knew how to survive in a traumatic world. That meant, they could survive almost anywhere. It was like a reality survival show, but in real life. I was exhausted, but I was staying one step ahead of the past.
But then something changed. The constant running started to catch up with me. It became harder and harder to push through. The body started to show signs of abuse with chronic pain and illness. The anxiety ramped up as the controller started to lose control. Depression became more common as the futility seeped through the holes in the controller’s wall. The old me was disappearing. And that’s when the big trigger happened. It is different for everyone. Some don’t have a big trigger. It starts to shift anyway. But some do. They get too sick to keep going. They have children. They experience an abusive relationship (or a pattern of them). Their addiction gets too big to hide. They lose their job. The trigger can set off a strong depression. That futility tells us there is no point. There is no way to hold all this trauma back for good. We made an attempt at life. We tried. But we just can’t do it. We can’t hang with the rest of the people. Something is wrong with us.
For me, the big trigger was the birth of my children. It set something off in me that I never expected. I think my controller just figured they would control their way through parenting the way they did everything else. But these little boogers weren’t so controllable. (All the parents are nodding.) I started to hear the messages from my futile parts. I suck at this. I am trapped. I can’t do this because something is wrong with me. I am being punished. These kids are going to blow my cover. They are going to show the world who I really am. And I have to keep that quiet. Depression and anxiety took over like never before. My controller longed to go back to the old me. The old me was unstoppable (or so I thought). The old me was exactly what society wanted me to be. The old me was safe. Maybe that’s the most important thing. I couldn’t keep myself safe this way. But this change was not the catastrophe my controller was making it. As a matter of a fact, this was a gigantic step forward to where I am today. Here are a few of the reasons I am telling you that “not being who you were” is a good thing.
You were much more miserable than you remember. The controller loves to tell us that things were perfect when we could run ourselves into the ground. But that’s not the truth. Living from the mind is a constant race against self. We wake up in the morning and start making lists. We can’t sit still for five minutes. We can’t slow down. We might not even be able to sleep. We wake up each morning wondering how we will have the strength to make it through the day. It is a form of torture. It is self-abuse. And it is not okay.
Your body will not last long if you keep living that way. You might be thinking that you don’t care. I know I have spent time feeling like there is no point in staying on this planet much longer. It doesn’t seem to be a very nice place. This is especially true for those of us with abusive relationships. We can’t find the good people and isolation sucks. So why stay? But for whatever length of time you are here, it is better spent without physical pain. And constant self-punishment will always bring pain. Avoiding our traumatic emotions is not worth the physical pain it causes.
Living for safety will get you nowhere. The controller makes decisions to keep us safe. But these decisions are not how we want to live. They are not coming from an authentic place. We will make the decisions that bring us the most money or get us the most powerful friends. But those decisions mean we sell out our true interests and even put ourselves in harm’s way if our powerful friends use that power against us. Fear often has a way of manifesting itself. Our decisions need to come from a different place. We can live for a while in that inauthentic place. But we are going to keep coming back to what we really want out of life.
So don’t believe it when the controller tells you that the current you is not as good as the old you. Allowing emotions does not make you weak or crazy. Taking care of your body does not make you lazy. And your age does not make your life over. The best decisions aren’t going to come from a safety-obsessed mind. They will come from a grounded, emotional, connected self. And that self can only be found when you leave behind the old you and remove the mask you have been living from. A new life can start when we aren’t who we were.
We live in a world of controllers. Everyone around us is controller-enmeshed. What does that mean? The part who operates in survival-mode and makes their decisions from fear is running the show. That’s why this recovery is revolutionary. We are not just changing our own beliefs. We are changing our beliefs from the way the rest of the world thinks too. The controller is so enmeshed in our world that even many of our recovery programs are operating from the controller. “Just change your behavior.” “Just strengthen your mask.” “Just stop feeling bad.” “You don’t have to remember to heal.” It is all meant to avoid the deeper pain we are all feeling. And it doesn’t work. There is no relief from this kind of work. Quick fixes provide short-term solutions. That’s what a controller-enmeshed world has created. It’s a bunch of band-aids on a gaping wound. It just doesn’t work.
So how do we unplug from the Matrix for good? How do we wake up from the zombie apocalypse? This is the question people have been trying to figure out for years. There are lots of books about disconnecting from the ego self. And yet, it is the hardest thing to do. Even when we start to wake up, the fear of the controller (and other defenders) can put us right back to sleep. I’ve seen it happen too many times. Waking up is terrifying. Acknowledging the truth of our story is terrifying. Thinking differently from the rest of the world is terrifying. But it is time to do this. It is time to take this seriously. The only way we will wake up as a human race is if enough of us wake up. Does that mean more than half of us? No. Living outside of the fear is incredibly powerful. Each person can have a massive impact on this world. But we have to dedicate ourselves to stepping out of the fearful mind-based world we have been living in. Here are some strategies we can employ for moving in this direction.
Recognize invalidation for what it is. People are going to invalidate your choices when you are not operating from fear. They will give you lots of logical reasons why you are not doing the right thing. But invalidation is coming from their own fear. It is a projection. It might be their fear of doing exactly what you are doing. If you do it, they will lose the ability to tell themselves a story about why they can’t. Or it might be the jealousy coming from their own inner parts who want to do the same thing. Either way, it is not what it seems. Recognizing this can be so helpful to keep us on track.
See the fear and what it creates. It is time to get real about what fear creates in our world. It is really ugly. It has created a world of billionaires and people without enough to eat. It encourages hoarders of money and things. It builds selfishness. It creates war and extreme acts of violence because people are convinced someone else is going to harm them. It makes us hide to avoid visibility. It keeps us stuck in patterns from childhood, making it impossible for us to live out the dreams we have always wanted to achieve. Worst of all, it keeps us connected to abusive people who retraumatize us at every turn. When we see the fear, we can see what it is doing in the world and our own lives.
Stop believing emotions are crazy. The controller-enmeshed world believes that human emotions are a weakness. If the emotions are too intense, they will even be labeled as crazy. In reality, the human experience must involve emotions. Emotions are supposed to be a part of our everyday experience. There is not going to come a day where you will suddenly be healed and feel nothing. The goal is to re-learn how to tolerate emotion as a part of our existence. When people (or your own controller) tell you that you are not handling things well because you are feeling something, you are not the crazy one in that conversation. It is critically important that we reframe our understanding of emotion if we want to wake up.
Start believing the real stories. As controller-enmeshed humans, we are programmed to believe the lies instead of the truth. Why? The lies are much more convenient. They make the world look less harsh. They make horrible abuses disappear. They make the powerful look like good people. They give us a false sense of security too. But under the surface, they don’t reduce our fear. They increase it. Deep down, we know the truth. And we know the blinders we are wearing can cause us more harm than good. So we need to stop believing the lies because it feels better on the surface. We need to start believing the stuff that is hard to hear. We need to start believing the real truth from ourselves and others. We have to start believing the victims of horrible crimes and abuses. They are not hallucinating. They are not in need of meds. They are not lacking credibility. They are being extremely brave. And choosing to ignore or invalidate them is retraumatizing to them and the human race. The truth has to come out.
It is time for change. It is time to stop protecting the wrong people by participating in a controller-enmeshed society. It is time to question the fear-based choices of everyone around us. We have been given everything we need to break out of this prison. And it’s time to use our tools. Whenever you feel that fear stepping in, whenever you start questioning your truth and invalidating your emotional responses, step back and ground. Bring your awareness to the controller and how they are influencing you. Your internal oppression device is active. It’s not the controller’s fault. They were programmed by abusers. But they can’t be in charge anymore. The grounded adult self is ready to guide you to a new life without the fear.
I’ve spent my life on defense. Every decision I have made was to avoid some bad thing. I’ve rarely made decisions for a better, fun or authentic life. That was a luxury I didn’t feel I had. I chose the safest route. I chose the approach that avoided risk. Why? I was wired for survival after my traumatic childhood. My primary survival skills were devoted to staying alive. There was no room for risk-taking. There was no room for fun. I just had to get from one day to the next and that was it. My traumatic childhood had given me one priority and I had to make it happen.
There are thousands of beliefs that made up these choices. But one is coming forward for me right now: my assumption that I am not as powerful as others. I have to choose the least risky path because if I end up in a power struggle, I am going to lose. When I look at this with my logical adult mind, I know it isn’t true, but I have some strong defenders who say it is. And they bring lots of fear to the forefront. It is paralyzing. It is sleep-depriving. It is anxiety-provoking. And I am tired of it. But that’s not how to release it. I must accept it and hear it out. So I do. I listen to the very real threats my parts endured. There were many, many threats against my life. I wish I could say that I can count them on one hand. But I cannot. I must hear out my defenders until they have shared what they need to share.
But I can see things starting to shift. I can see my interests in living a different kind of life starting to build. I can see my inner parts starting to consider another alternative. With every memory recovered, I see my adult perspective getting stronger. What does that perspective say? They are not stronger than me. I am stronger than them. When they bully me with their threats and nasty behavior, they are terrified. I am the one who is more grounded. I have learned my emotions and how to work with them. And I can make decisions from an adult place without my traumatic responses hijacking my actions. I am powerful in this life today. And I can take the offensive now. I have the power now. The abusers have disadvantages against me. And as I explore this new perspective, my adult self is telling me why.
I remember. I do believe that many abusers act from varying degrees of dissociation. In the case of my mother, I don’t think she remembers much. When she denies what she did, I think she consciously believes her denial. That keeps her from having to face what she has done and what was done to her. But it doesn’t help her in many other ways. I am the one with all the information. As my memories come back, I know everything. I know what she did. I know every abusive step she took. I know every abusive thing she said. I know every person who was involved. And she doesn’t. That gives me an advantage. I know the truth.
I am grounded. I will not attempt to claim that I am grounded all the time. As I write this, I can sense my controller trying to dissociate me because this blog post feels scary to some inner parts. But I am much more grounded than my abusers. That means I am far more connected to my intuitive wisdom. Intuition is superior to the mind. This is especially true when the mind is inundated with fear. But it’s true all the time. The mind copies what it has already done. It is based on limited information, most of which comes from a traumatic life. So I have the ability to be more creative. I can be more patient and wait for the right moments. I can take more subtle cues from my environment. And I can adjust to changes. These things are not available to my abusers.
I am an adult. When I am grounded, I am operating from an adult mind which can balance multiple perspectives and find a middle ground. My abusers are operating from their inner parts almost all the time. That means they are carrying varying degrees of fear which will often show up as extreme views. The decisions they make from these places are not good. They will do foolish things. They will sabotage themselves. They will use fear to guide their decisions. They will hate themselves. And I won’t.
My body is stronger. The trauma stored in the body will take its toll. It can slow people down. It can cause chronic pain. It can cause disease and eventually even lead to illness and death. As I have healed my emotions and traumatic memories, my body is stronger. While it might seem that only helps me in a brawl, it isn’t true. They will be dealing with their own health issues and that will impact their ability to have power over me. I won’t be consumed by issues with my physical health.
It is time to redefine power. It isn’t about money. It isn’t about age. It isn’t about who you know. It is about healing, emotional maturity and groundedness. The stronger we can stand in who we are, the more power we have. Abusive people are weak. They do not stand a chance against our grounded truth. They cannot use their fear against our strength. In all honesty, we terrify them. And that is okay with me. I look forward to taking my new place in my power. I look forward to taking the steps against the bullies who think they can scare me off with their threats. They don’t stand a chance against me. None of them stand a chance.