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How to Stop Resisting Healthy Change

Why do we resist healthy change? Why does resistance rear its stubborn head every time we decide to do something good for ourselves? It makes no sense!

 Or does it?

The purpose of resistance is to protect you. It is a biological occurrence, it happens without your say once you have experienced trauma because it is your brain’s job to keep you safe. That’s one of its many skills. And the brains attempt to keep you safe involves minimizing change, because change comes with mystery, risk, and uncertainty. After a traumatic event, the brain comes up with a way to survive it. It comes up with an answer to why it happened. It comes up with a way to deal with the pain, which is usually by burying it when one is too young to deal with the complexity of it. The brain then makes you hyper aware of future situations that are similar to the previous one, to do anything to prevent it from happening again. And once that trauma, especially recurring trauma, has occurred, your...

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Trauma Makes Us Believe Change Is Impossible. It Isn't.

The biggest reason why we don't change and why we find ourselves stuck is because we simply don't know how to change. For so many years, I thought there was something wrong with me and that everyone else was moving along in their lives, reaching their goals and sorting out their challenges, and that I was the one who was missing something to be able to do that. This was the logic of my trauma brain, my overwhelmed, fight/flight exhausted mind and body thinking and collapsing into thinking there is no hope and certainly not for me.

I got tired of reading books about how broken I was, the terrible impact of child abuse and trauma. The broken relationships, the addiction, lack of self worth, the mental health challenges, the sick bodies that we are left with after our coping strategies fail because our body simply cannot continue with decades worth of toxic stress lodged into our nervous systems, our hearts, and beliefs. I was learning about all the negative impacts but still...

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How Survivors Can Safely Feel and Accept Negative Emotions

All survivors of child abuse and trauma are afraid to feel, accept, trust, and appreciate their uncomfortable or negative emotions. And there is a reason.

We fear and avoid these emotions because we never had a positive role model to teach us how to express sadness, grief, overwhelm, anger, pain, and anxiety in a healthy way.  Instead, we got hurt when the adults in our life felt these challenging emotions. So we have no reason to believe that there is a safe to feel them.

However, developing the ability to feel, accept, trust, and appreciate all your emotions (the good, the bad, and the ugly) is a vital step on the healing journey. It’s impossible to heal if you skip over feeling the bad ones. You can't selectively numb feelings. When you numb the bad, you are numbing your ability to feel the good too.

So where do you start?

Feeling begins with awareness. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it's not for survivors. The human brain is programmed to avoid pain at all costs....

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Why Starting Each Day With Love and Gratitude is So Important

No matter how bad it gets or how dark you feel, you can always find something to be grateful for. Hey, you’re still alive, right? You’re able to take one breath after another. That may be all you have to be grateful for in this moment, but it’s enough to get you through to the next moment.

That is how I got through some of the hardest parts of this journey. And now I've gotten even better at practicing gratitude and I begin each day by focusing my thoughts on what I am thankful for, focusing on who I am TODAY, and accepting myself without judgment.

Because I have experienced what you are going through, because I have faced my fears and accepted my broken parts in these dark places, I can now look anyone in the eye and tell them, "I see you, I know who you are, and I know what you are. You are just like me, learning how to accept yourself. I will never judge you."

So if you’re struggling right now, be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself.  Put...

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Life is Constantly Trying to Teach You, You Just Need to Listen

Life will constantly present you with situations in which there is a lesson to be learned, a feeling to be acknowledged, a truth to be set free. These situations come in many different forms, like a bad relationship, a bump in your career, a triggering memory, even just a casual conversation with someone that brings up an issue for you.
 
It might feel like there are no breaks from these situations, it might seem like you are constantly battling these tough moments. And you might be exhausted from them, feeling frustrated and annoyed that these things aren't going your way and it makes you dread the future, having to deal with more and more.
 
But the truth is, with each challenge you face, you are developing an important strength. You are developing resilience, something we can't develop without real life experiences to practice, grow, and gain wisdom. These bumps in the road are completely necessary for your healing, for gaining life experience, for...
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The Secret to Pushing Through the Discomfort of Change

Life is all about change yet we struggle with it and resist it for most of our lives. Change is especially hard for adult survivors of CSA because we need to feel safe and part of feeling safe is having control and knowing what to expect. 

As we go through the stages of change, there is one stage that we especially need lots of encouragement and support with. 
The stage I am referring to is the stage when you become aware of something new about yourself, something that you did not know before. For example, when I finally realized how big the impact of being abused as a child was, I also realized that I filtered everything about myself through the belief "I am bad" or "I am not worth it." I became aware that I had learned to be this way and that now, I could learn to be different and learn to feel better about myself. But what kept me stuck in the stage of change, (by stuck I mean aware of the new information but not able to process it and turn it into action yet,) was shame,...

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Your Negative Self-Image is Holding You Back

Once I started to work on myself and recognized how my body was responding to trauma, how the tension in my body was feeding my need to defend and protect myself, I realized how that fed into my beliefs that there was something wrong with me.
 
There was something wrong but there was nothing wrong with me. What was wrong was that I had carried a negative self image for such a long time that I did not see how it made me feel about myself. It had become the lens through which I saw the world.
 
As I worked to help my body let go of chronic tension and find balance, the defensive side of me would flare up, showing up in how I approached my relationships, expecting the worst and defaulting to self-sabotage. But as my body began to finally feel safe, a new awareness of myself emerged. 
 
As I learned to be present in my body and connected to the present moment, I started to hear my own thoughts. It was a bit shocking in the beginning. All this time, I thought others...
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The Only Way to Get Rid of Shame

This past week in the online group we have been talking about shame. It is always a challenging topic but it is crucial for victims of abuse to understand in order to feel free from shame. 
 
The feeling most people avoid feeling is shame. I love Brené Brown's work around shame and her research, books, and Ted talks shed a light onto what she calls the master feeling because when we have internalized shame, it becomes the lens for how we view the world and ourselves in it. And it isn't until we understand how it impacts us, that we can consider the possibility that there is another way to see and feel about ourselves. 
 
Survivors of child abuse develop toxic shame because of the lack of support they get from caregivers and family to process what was done to them. Trauma becomes internalized without support soon after the abuse happened. The child feels and experiences abandonment and extreme confusion when they are hurt by someone they know and love,...
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Why Self-Acceptance is Necessary for Healing

Self-acceptance is a process. 
 
Do you find yourself in the category of almost healed, but not quite? Let me start by telling you, you are not alone. So many survivors of child abuse or trauma find themselves stuck in this very frustrating place and they don't understand why. 
 
Most of the people that I work with and the survivors that I know were abused for a long time. The longer we suffer in silence, without telling our stories, the harder it becomes to start. The hardest part will always be in the beginning of any change. You have lived with the past for so long that you know how it feels, you can manage and deal with it. But with something new, it is scary because you don't know what to expect. But chances are at this point, you are just tired of it all and really want some change and are ready to do what ever it takes. 
 
There is a way out of the "almost but not quite healed" phase. It takes time, it takes commitment, and it takes...
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Why Mindfulness Is So Important

I just got home from a beautiful retreat on trauma and compassion in Nashville, TN. It was very well organized by the hosts and a very diverse group of people attended. We heard from researchers in the field of trauma and compassion and then spent 2 days immersed in learning about and experiencing compassion through meditation, sharing, and journaling. 

I came away from this experience feeling very moved. I even found myself in tears more than once on the plane ride home as I reflected on the experience, the learning, and the deep authentic sharing that I experienced in the room, both from the presenters and participants. Nothing makes my heart sing like hearing people speaking courageously from their hearts. 

What struck me over and over again, during the many breathing and meditation exercises, was how profound the human experience is in feeling and expressing pain and sadness, even joy and beauty, and what I kept hearing and seeing throughout the weekend was the hope,...

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