This past week I was invited back to be a keynote speaker at one of the children's advocacy centers in Oregon. I can still reflect on the speech I gave 3 years ago. I had just moved with my family to Oregon and was honored to participate in such an important fundraiser.
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...
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...
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....
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...
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,...