The environment I grew up in didn’t feel warm and loving. It seemed that more energy was put into punishing a mistake than teaching how to do things better or think through a problem to make wise decisions. I thought that punishment was discipline, but, this is an untruth. Discipline involves teaching, educating, explaining, and conversations that include the mind and heart. Punishment is intending to make the other “feel” bad (shame) for making a mistake so hopefully they’ll “learn” to be better – all without being shown or taught how. No one thrives in constant criticism.

This mindset was very common in society during the area of my formative years. And now, decades later, sociologists and behaviorists see how damaging a shame-based upbringing is.

When there is a type of shame-based upbringing, blended with an emotionally vacant environment, the outcome is dysfunction at its best. At worst, it becomes a foundation for building narcissists, mental health and social disorders, addictions and other maladaptive coping strategies. Why? Because we are created for connection. Treatment as described above does not endear one to another; it separates and isolates instead. Shame makes one withdraw, hide. The feelings of abandonment, unworthiness, pain, frustration, powerlessness, etc., are too great for any child to manage so numbing out is usually the coping strategy of choice. Life must carry on, right?

As I continue my trauma recovery journey, insights like the above add clarity as to why I am the way I am, or rather, why I was the way I was. This, in turn, supports the growth of self-worth and self-acceptance. Growing up never feeling loved, accepted, and wanted does a number on a person’s self-worth. It is a relief to grasp that all these limiting beliefs are temporary because new neural pathways are being made and new healthy beliefs are being established and becoming entrenched.

I look back with a twinge of sadness – how sad it is to live with a critical mindset — how much joy and connections people miss out on because of unhealthy mindsets.

When healing happens, there are glimmers of hope, freedom from the shackles of abuse, and sacred periods of time that are full of authenticity and joy. All the painful work needed to heal, makes it completely worthwhile.

My wish for you is to experience these good feelings of joy, connection, and authenticity. And that they increase in duration to where these become your “normal.”

Lisa Hilton, CTRC-A, founder of Hilton Coaching & Consulting. I am a trauma coach; I educate, consult, and am a published author. I work with adult survivors of Childhood Trauma and those suffering from Complex PTSD so they can Transform their Travesty into Triumph, one step at a time.

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