I think there is an unfortunate misconception that has come up for us in modern culture where we think that uncomfortable feelings are bad. We think that feeling anxious or depressed or confused or overwhelmed means there is something wrong. Or, means that we are wrong.
Specifically, in healing communities and modalities we have reached this place of prioritizing safety which is a good thing. I am not against safety and environments that promote healing. This is really the foundation of the polyvagal theory and other modalities like somatic experiencing that seek to bring a measure of regulation online to the body and brain through creating safe experiences of connection. And these modalities work.
However, there is a fine line here. And, I am noticing a real fear of triggers in the air.
We fear things that bring up reminders of bad feelings or bad memories, or feeling as though we are at the mercy of what other people do and what other people say, and other people’s...
I absolutely love the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). My husband got me into it - we even got engaged at a UFC Event in Toronto (Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis to be exact. for those of you who are fans). When we first started dating, he would have the fights on in the background and I dismissed it for a couple weeks.
But, as I watched these fighters tell their stories of adversity and triumph, and saw their athletic commitment and dedication - I fell in love with the sport - the vulnerability of standing barefoot in the octagon, bleeding and pressing forward. The preparation, the skill, the power, the willingness to lose - the emotional triumph of a win. It hooked me. Some of them had lost children, grew up in poverty, were working full-time jobs and still fighting.
Athletics in general are an amazing metaphor for overcoming adversity and trauma.
They show us that against all odds - we can win. And, if we lose, we can still say we put it all on the line....
Narcissistic Shame Off-Loading
Growing up with a narcissistic parent is a scary, difficult experience. Narcissists suffer from a deep wound of shame. Some say the narcissistic wound is the DEEPEST wound. The shame is so severe that the system creates a construct to protect the individual from collapsing under the weight of this toxic shame. This construct includes ego-protection and delusion, it also includes projection. Projection is the off-loading of a negative affect (emotion) onto another individual.
An example of this is the narcissist who is irresponsible, selfish and unable to connect with their child. This individual cannot attach and be there for the child because their narcissism prevents them from SEEING someone else. The narcissist is dissociated from their own body and self. And thus, is unable to form a connection with their baby. On deep, dissociated levels, the truth is known. However, this truth cannot be negotiated with or faced by the narcissist’s...
I’d like for you to know
That you are not merely your thoughts
But deep red blood
Flows through your veins
Heart is beating
Eyes are tearing
You are human animal and primal soul
You are alive with the worlds within and without
You are at once many systems inside you
If you stop in this second and in this moment in time
You might notice a universe within your viscera
Pulsing, beating, breathing, expanding, moving, digesting, and flowing
It is as much you as any thought and more
The thought is only something which you do
But your breath – your beating heart is a wildfire
Alive without your command
Without your intention
A creature you are
Your cubicle may make you forget it
The green grass reminds you
I’d like for you
All that you are – below the head
Beyond the mind
The body whose origins were in your mother’s belly
Who grew into the creature which now reads these words
Your voice comes from your guts
And the sound...
Trauma Healing is the courage to move through pain. This is pain that feels unbearable, it stretches you. It scares the hell out of you. It cuts you down the middle and purges your soul. It challenges you spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The crushing sense of loneliness, fear and shame is a heavy, heavy burden to bear. I once said to a therapist of mine: “I feel as though I want to throw up my childhood, I feel that it needs to be exorcised from me.” I have spent many nights screaming out, crying, shaking. If that’s where you are now: I see you.
Part of the reason for the intensity recovery pain is that we have not had a proper framework for dealing with emotions. In toxic/abusive families, our parents shamed us or abused us for having feelings. Or, we were in so much pain that we didn’t even know we had feelings at all. This kind of dissociation is a hallmark of complex PTSD, a condition that can be caused by chronic...
When our bodies are balanced and we feel safe and happy, we are in a state of “regulation”. In this place, we are not too stressed, nor are we too excited or exhausted. We are calm. We are clear. We have focus. We are creative. We are able to communicate rationally and clearly and openly.
BUT, when we experience trauma this sense of safety and balance is completely ripped away from us. It’s almost as though our soul is taken from us and what is left is only a shell.
This trauma is deeper when you’ve lived your whole life being abused and neglected by your primary caregivers. You may feel completely devoid of a sense of self – your brain has developed under chronic stress which causes your body to look out only for your survival.
Our bodies have two distinct reactions to traumatic experiences. We can be be maxed out – unglued emotionally and physically – this looks like panic, toxic stress, anxiety and physical...
Panic, sweating, racing thoughts, exhaustion, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, ruminating thoughts. Some of the painful, and exhausting symptoms of anxiety.
In many cases, anxiety is accompanied by a strong inner-critic which places pressure on us to be perfect. It can also be accompanied by paranoia, depression and many other symptoms. If any of this rings a bell for you, I have to say first that I truly empathize with you. The pain and pressure of anxiety causes many symptoms that get in the way of our daily functioning such as sleeping, relationships. You are carrying a heavy and painful burden and I empathize with you. I see you.
The emerging research around anxiety increasingly supports the fact that it does not develop out of nowhere. When our sense of self is fractured (or non-existent), we lack the ability to regulate ourselves. Our brains and bodies are in perpetual states of hyper-vigilance, reactivity, sensitivity, and exhaustion. Our systems are on...
Since the past isn’t here now, how is it that I am keeping it alive?
The past is powerful.
For those who cannot think of the past without remembering the pain of trauma, it can be all encompassing.
Are we drowning in fear?
Is the inner critic causing crippling anxiety?
Are we weighed down by the heavy blanket of depression?
If so, how can we breathe into the present? How can we begin the process of shedding the weights of the past?
In my own life, trauma has been a defining force. I spent years trying to encase my pain in guarded walls. This encasement caused depression, rage, anxiety, toxic shame, lack of focus, and difficulties connecting with others. I carried my wounds from my past into my daily life without even knowing it. I kept my past alive through the lies I told myself about why the past happened. “If I only I was a smarter child,” “If only I was skinnier,” “If only I...
Change is hard. It’s f*king hard. It hurts. Kicking all your rocks uphill. Breaking the cement of your hard-wired broken brain. We don’t particularly like to think about changing either. We want to be accepted for who we are. We want to be loved as we are. And there’s something very important about that, about being content with yourself at your essence.
But, as with everything in life, things are not so black and white. The eternal paradox exists in the background. In the ying and yang of it all, we notice that we can and must love ourselves at our essence. And, yet still we can be longing for continued growth. After all, we evolved through forward motion. And, naturally, we desire forward motion in our own inner-worlds as well.
Even the most broken of us. The most self-sabotaging among us still long, deep inside for change. Still strive for it, even if many futile attempts have failed.
So, what makes it so gut-wrenchingly and painfully hard to change?