I’m starting to learn about IFS – Internal Family Systems. In looking at my childhood trauma through an IFS lens I’m realizing that many parts are dealing with the same burdens:
- There is too much to do
- There is too much to decide
- There is too much to *be*
By the last bullet I mean that I grew up not feeling loved unconditionally, not fully accepted for who I am – didn’t feel accepted for being me. This resulted in questioning myself – who am I, every day, where do I belong, why can’t I fit in, and with this came a lot of self judgement and self-condemnation. I didn’t know how to simply BE, didn’t know what that felt like. Or maybe that I was just Too Much?
Now…these limiting beliefs – where they more than beliefs? Was I truly being treated this way or was it the shame stemming from childhood that led me to think I was being judged?
Well…..from what I see, from some in what used to be a close circle, there is an unwillingness or an ignorance on how to develop empathy muscles. There is a claiming of understanding but the actions don’t align with the words. This has become more evident after I disclosed about the sexual abuse. Therefore, I’m seeing pain and shame from others’ childhood experiences being projected onto me. The shame that I picked up from the sexual abuse plus this caused a volleying back and forth of the unwarranted shame within the family dynamic. It’s been exhausting.
I will no longer play the shame-volleying game. Shame doesn’t look good on me. It’s not my burden. 😊 Not my circus, not my monkeys.
I recall years ago we had people over for a backyard BBQ and a guest said: “Your family doesn’t appreciate who you are, do they?” I’m sure you can imagine how it felt to be truly seen in that moment. My whole body sighed. I felt so moved by this awareness, by this unsolicited comment.
During my trauma recovery journey, I have stopped the FAWNING. I got tired of contorting myself into being what I felt and thought others wanted. Now, the only approval that matters is God’s, with a healthy balanced sense of self-acceptance, self-approval, self-love and self-appreciation that follows. After so much self-loathing this last sentence sometimes appears and feels a bit self-centered to me. Sigh.
Every child deserves to see their parents’ eyes light up when they enter a room. Every child needs to feel fully welcomed and cherished – feel in their core that their existence matters. They need to feel their parents’ arms around them hugging them and protecting them. They need to feel nurtured and protected. I give the little ones inside me this kind of unconditional love. As their hearts become filled with goodness my outlook becomes less rigid and more loving and gentle. Healthy self-worth helps me to live connected to who I am and how I want to show up in life – who I choose to be. A load has been lifted. Shift happens.
Humility and humanity remind us we all hurt others unknowingly at times. Still, for civility, for connection, for peace and for healing we need to own what we’ve done. In life, it is not a matter of if we will hurt or offend others, it’s a matter of when. So what will we do when that happens – when someone shares that what we’ve said or done is hurtful? What is the healthful and loving way to respond? What will make way for relationship repair?
How many do you know who willingly admit their mistakes? How do you feel when you see someone be humble like this? It can draw you, right?
An unwillingness to listen says a lot about a person. Often a refusal to own and apologize comes from feelings of toxic shame and the fear of being swallowed up by such if there is an admittance. The individual would then be forced to face the unhealthy toxic shame and the self-condemnation that exists within so avoidance becomes a way of life. Being curious, asking questions is a great way to open the door to healing. It’s a way to kick the shame monster down to size – for all parties involved.
Unhealthy communication is a choice.
Avoidance is a choice.
Ignorance is a choice.
Feeling emotions is a choice.
Many don’t understand that childhood trauma survivors can’t have it both ways. Either the body is allowed to experience emotions – all emotions – or it is not. Period. There is no cherry picking of what the body can do re: emotions. The body cannot distinguish between pleasant and unpleasant emotions. To the body and nervous system all emotions are sensations, energy. It doesn’t label any as good or bad. So, when an individual forces self to stop feeling *unpleasant* emotions, the body has to dissociate, to disconnect from ALL emotions. As a result, the body cannot feel the *pleasant* emotions either.
It’s really that simple and that complicated.
Therefore, nearly all childhood trauma survivors have fears and challenges connecting to their feelings and emotions. Doing this work is scary and triggering. The words UNSAFE flash before the eyes like huge neon signs. With the right support these ones can learn to feel emotions little by little – gently dipping the toe in. I have memories of being made fun of because of my feelings and other times my feelings were used against me – to manipulate me, to dominate me, to gaslight me. It wasn’t safe.
Yes, trauma recovery requires safety. “Safety is defined by feeling safe and not simply removal of threat.” – Stephen Porges.
The question is – is it safe for me to be in my own power? Is it safe for you to be in your own power? Is it safe to be around you, around me? Is it safe to simply BE?
Where I stand today, May 18, 2022, the answer is a resounded loud YES!!! It feels good to experience autonomy, to experience and live in my own free will. I do not need others’ approval to live fully. I accept me as I am, I love me as I am and I am convinced that God loves me as I am. 😊 I am happy to be me.
I also accept others for the way they are too. If needed, I can love certain ones from afar to maintain my own sense of inner safety, without guilt. This is self-regulation for me.
As a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach I am in my own journey of healing. I am also trained to support others in theirs. It is my passion to support childhood trauma survivors transform their travesty into triumph.
You are not alone. 😊
Sending love and acceptance to you all.