Trauma and Pattern Matching

I’m feeling a little unsure of how to start this. You see I had planned this yoga and mental health blog about how yoga has helped me, but recently the yoga studio I have been working at full time for four years, closed forever. So I didn’t really feel ready for a long time to write this post. My relationship with yoga has shifted so many times throughout my life, as well as my relationship with teaching yoga. I suppose that’s normal, one of the only constants is change. But this one hurt, there was lots of grief and other processing to do. So for now, this blog post about yoga and mental health is postponed, I’m going to write it next week because I also have an announcement to make along with it! Today we are going to talk about trauma, pattern matching, and recovering from abuse and trauma.

When I was a kid I had to be constantly aware of every single detail of my abusers mood, for now we will say the word parent, though this applies to 2-3 people. So I would have to be hyper-tuned into every small sign that my parent might be in a bad mood, how they moved, their mannerisms, tones, speech, how they set things down like every single detail. The reason I had to do this was because when my parent was in a bad mood, often it would be taken out on me, I’d be the stress ball and though there was never physical abuse, to me it didn’t feel that far from it, I felt like if I pushed too far it might become physical. They would speak very meanly to me, gaslight, emotionally and verbally abuse me more when they were in a bad mood. I mean I’m not here to talk about what emotional abuse is right now, but if you have questions let me know. Essentially that is why I ended up becoming very very good at noticing every detail, and this kind of turned into this finely practiced intuition and being able to tell other people’s emotions sometimes before they do. Often what would happen with my parent is I would ask if they were okay, they would say something to brush me off but I could tell they weren’t okay, sometimes it would be okay, but sometimes they would explode with anger and yell and scream and say things to me that stung like a physical pain and it really did feel so close to being physically hurt it terrified me. When I noticed my parent was upset I would do everything I could to try and cheer them up, sacrificing my happiness, boundaries, personal info or whatever I had along the way. It was imposed on me that this was my job, to fix their pain. I was just a kid, just a fucking kid. This isn’t to say that you can’t have feelings around your kids, but don’t make it their problem, you know, let them know you’re having some feelings but you’re taking care of yourself or whatever, I’m not the parent, but don’t take out your feelings on your kids. Because you see what makes it cross the line is that I was made to feel alone when this happened, completely alone as a kid, made to feel like her love for me and therefore my safety in existing was at risk. She would blame me for her feelings when I couldn’t fix it, she would treat me so fucking badly and put the blame on me. She was probably projecting, she had her own shit, but its not an excuse and doesn’t make her being a shit parent okay.

So in terms of pattern matching, this is something we do all the time. If this term is unfamiliar to you I really implore you to look it up or speak with your therapist about it because it is a game changer, and also I’m not an expert so can’t really explain it well. Its essentially that your brain is always looking for patterns from your previous experience as this energy saver. I’ll use the above as an example. Someone I know and am very close to is having an emotion come up, I can tell and ask if they’re okay. They brush it off, say they are fine because they are going to handle this on their own. But the only things they say out loud are “I’m fine”. I ask if they’re sure, and they say ‘yeah’. This matches my experiences with my parent, right, in terms of the current events. That exact exchange happened with my parent hundreds and hundreds of times. I had a huge emotional reaction come up and I wasn’t just feeling things from what just currently happened, it was reminding me or triggering me of all of those times that happened with my parent. I feel the pain of each and every time my safety and love was at risk or threatened, every time abuse came after, or bad shit happened. I spoke with my therapist about this, and he explained that we pattern match unconsciously, its not a choice we make, but when it happens and we have a reaction again, its not a choice. What we can do instead is try and break the pattern. So me and this close person spoke about the incident and I asked them to next time please say “you’re right, I’m not feeling well right now, I’m having feelings come up. You haven’t done anything wrong, we are okay. I am going to take care of this feeling myself, I’ve got this” or something like it. That way we are stopping the pattern. My unconscious traumatized brain can relearn to hold space for other people’s reactions better when they want to do it on their own. It also is reminding me that I’m still loved, and I am safe. It may seem small, or silly to those who never experienced the abuse I did, but its such a massive deal to me.

What I’m saying is check in sometimes with your feelings when they happen. My therapist often asks me “who is this reminding you of?” or “where else have you felt like this?” because this is stuff our brain is doing all the time, and if we don’t notice it we can’t change or heal it. Talk to your people, your loved ones about it if it feels safe. Talk to your therapist about it. But also recognize that when this happens it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you, its a completely natural and not chosen response.

During COVID my part-time job closed, my roommate moved out, my full-time career/second home closed, they upped my rent. I work part-time at a pet food store, which is full of very nice people and I get to see dogs at work, which if you know me is THE BEST. I was kind of left in this grieving place, but also this place of…umm how am I going to pay rent? I did a lot of reflection and ended up starting a business, so I guess I’m my own boss now. It has been so busy, this huge whirlwind of figuring out insurance, schedule, all the details. I absolutely love it, I am teaching yoga virtually, and I am planning something super cool soon, so I’ll let you know next time what that is. If you are interested in knowing more go here: I’m really sorry that I haven’t been posting as much, the above chaos of COVID is why, I’ve just been trying to make it through the waves of change, pain and chaos. I will be posting more regularly, and I have started to do a weekly check in over on my instagram, I do that each Sunday.

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Thanks for reading, talk soon.