Repeated challenging experiences make us vulnerable to losing connection with ourselves, others and the world. This disconnection can be repaired, healed and transformed by taking the time to go within, and begin to peel apart the stories and beliefs we carry. Where did they come from, are they even true, and do they really allow us to live the life we want?
When working with clients an integral part of the work I do is to make sure they re-establish this connection by working through the following:
We have many parts and being in harmony, balance and regulation is our true nature. With long term stress, trauma, and challenging life circumstances this can put us into dysregulation and disrupt our natural rhythms. Coming back to coherence means having a regulated and resilient nervous system.
When hearing repeated messages about ourselves from others and the world at large, we take on shame for our choices, circumstances and who we are at our core. This takes us away from loving and accepting ourselves and affects our behaviours, beliefs and the adaptive strategies we use.
When we can return to fully accepting ourselves and taking on challenges to grow and change from a place of compassion, we can heal the shame within us and finally shine.
Having very little choice as children it’s easy to hide who we are, especially if we grow up in homes where we can’t express our emotions and true selves safely. This type of environment affects the development of the child’s brain and certain parts do not communicate clearly to one another (I’ll talk more about this in a future blog). Helping build these connections is possible and very important when it comes to connecting to an emotion and then using the other part of our brain to process that emotion. Doing this with care means we can then connect with ourselves, others and the world in a healthy way.
Our voices and choices are quite small when we are young. If you grew up in a controlling environment then this pattern will likely continue to squash your ability to speak up and choose what’s best for you.
Reclaiming your voice and power of choice is a process like any other part of healing and growing. It is taking one small step at a time to speak up, set boundaries, and make choices that serve your wellbeing.
Being creative is probably the most authentic way we can express ourselves. This gets lost in our busy lives and challenging pasts that cause us to disconnect from ourselves. When we are in survival mode our creativity is blocked. If this pattern consists long term we lose that inner curious spirit and the ability to express our feelings, ideas creatively.
How Trauma Shows up in our Homes
Ever wonder why some people have clean homes but seem to be uptight and struggle with being flexible or able to change? They come across as perfectionists and get stuck in doing things a certain way only. If you open up their cupboards they are super packed and there is a legit reason to keep everything. This is no judgement on a person’s state of being, it’s more about understanding where they are in their nervous system and stage of processing their behaviours and/or their trauma.
Another example are people who have homes that look like a tornado just passed though and they have no routines, set chores, and they most likely don’t integrate meal prep or self care in their day to day lives. Everything is last minute, on the fly and there is always some sort of emergency. They often blame others for things being this way and that they can never keep up.
In both cases there is always an external explanation as to why things are not manageable. Some of the more common ones I hear are: Others are not doing their part, there being a need to always help others first, no one can do it properly but me, not having enough time, “I’m busy.” These are mostly external factors that prevent them from keeping up with life. When really it’s about internal mechanisms that were developed at a younger age in order to cope, feel safe and survive in particularly traumatic situations. It’s also behaviours that were learned from parents or strategies that we didn’t learn, that remain unquestioned. Are they helpful or harmful? This was our normal and unless we are exposed to something different and healthier, we will continue similar ways of living and coping.
Start by asking yourself these questions. They can help you see if your challenges are simply lack of practical knowledge or if there is a deeper connection to your past experiences that caused you to develop protective behaviours and beliefs.
Am I keeping items out of fear? (ie. fear of not being able to replace the item, fear of regretting letting it go or needing it in the future even if you haven’t used it in years)
What beliefs hold me back from letting go?
Why do I buy things when I don’t need them?
Does shame come up for me around being organised? What does it look/feel like?
How Trauma Shows up in the Ways we spend our Time
Do you or know anyone who takes a number of days to recuperate from a personal situation?. Does this happen to you? There seems to be a stuckness in the emotions that came up in the initial interaction. Often being stuck in a trigger also means being stuck in your time. Things start to pile up because you are not in any shape to deal with life, and instead need to tend to how you are feeling. This could be anything from self care, journaling to using coping mechanisms that keep you numb and avoiding the issue.
People feel a lot of shame about not being able to focus, keep up and be productive. Please let go of your shame because getting triggered, feeling strong emotions and having a hard time is part of being human. Take some time to reflect on how your emotional and mental states affect your time management is the first step to change.
Try asking yourself:
Are you disconnecting by watching TV, eating, or going online?
Do you isolate yourself?
Do you partake in drugs or alcohol to help cope with intense emotions or triggers?
Do you find yourself running around with your head cut off and always overwhelmed?
Do you get upset when things don’t go exactly the way you planned?
Remember when we are grounded in ourselves, feel safe and are thriving, we are better able to manage our time. It means being able to be in the rhythm of a routine but also go with the flow when things change.
How Trauma affects our Relationships
If we have had experiences in our lives where we were not seen, heard and accepted for who we are (this especially includes expressing our emotions and having them validated), we run the risk of becoming disconnected from ourselves out of our need to survive and be accepted by others.
The ongoing act of being someone we are not and feeling unsafe to be ourselves takes tremendous energy. It puts stress on our nervous system making it hard to regulate our emotions and think clearly. This pattern of dysregulation spills over into all areas of our lives; everything from decision making to our ability to self-care and self-soothe.
A stressed nervous system means you are more likely to be triggered and be reactionary. When looking at relationships this destructive and disproportionate blow-ups, gas lighting, blaming, criticising, ghosting, withdrawing, isolating, and misinterpreting others actions The list goes on. Observe yourself the next time you are stressed out and see if you can notice any of these. This also brings shame within us and makes it challenging to connect authentically with others.
Shame is connected and cannot be separated from trauma; they go hand in hand. Shame keeps us from connecting with others because it affects our desire, capacity and confidence. When people have no other example of what a loving and supportive relationship is they will seek out similar ones that caused harm to them in the first place. This pattern plus deep-rooted trust issues (either trusting fully or not at all) make it hard to develop healthy relationships. Often we replay unhealthy codependency, constant conflict, lack of repair and never get to true change of behaviours.
I see this in the work I do because everything is connected. When my clients struggle to keep up with their life responsibilities I see that they also struggle with maintaining and having healthy relationships.
What I am sharing here is only the tip of the iceberg and for now you might be asking yourself: What can I do? The first step is acknowledging and becoming aware of how your past has affected you in your present day. Be prepared to take full responsibility. Where do you struggle the most? And what’s one area you want to focus on first? It could be shame, self-abandonment, getting to know the real you or even start a morning self care routine. Most of all, ask for help! Nobody can go it alone, so get support from a counsellor or trauma coach to help you on your journey.