So here’s the thing: our brains and bodies are really smart, and they learn to adapt to get what they need and function well. When we, as kids, don’t get what we need we have to adapt because it feels like our lives are at stake, and sometimes they are. We adapt our behaviours sometimes in order to survive, which is absolutely fantastic and amazing. These behaviours will continue after the danger is gone, or into the rest of our lives sometimes and there has to be a bit of relearning. But that is hard and often we can come at it from the wrong angle and see it as a flaw, or something that just is and is unchangeable. Imagine for a moment that our brains worked like they do in Inside Out. A bunch of little folx who take turns at the controls. With me? Okay, so now also imagine that when you had a really traumatizing thing happen as a kid a little copy of that kid was made and added to the group of brain controlling folx. This little you is there to help you survive and it will sometimes take over and those survival behaviours may come up: like…don’t get to close to this person its not safe. So this little you is still in there protecting you from dangers because it doesn’t know that the danger is over. (lets talk for the moment as if the danger is over, no more abuse, trauma is in the past. for sake of ease) Getting angry at ourselves isn’t going to help that little you stop protecting you, it will just add shame to the mix. Instead try and take a moment and reflect on how this behaviour may have helped you to survive your trauma, how did it help you in the past? Then try and thank that little you, that behaviour for helping you survive the past dangers, and get through impossible situations. You may also need to tell that part of you that you’re safe, that there is no more danger, like “hey little me, thank you for protecting me and keeping me safe while I was being abused. I love you, we are safe now, I can take over from here”. Let me give you a bit of an example.
I grew up in an emotionally/verbally/mentally abusive home, I never knew when things would be really rough, when I would be screamed at or when shit would get bad..to sum up. So my little kid brain just did what it had to do, I tried to become as small as possible, as quiet as possible to decrease the possibility of being made small or bad shit happening. I had to start noticing every little detail of my abusers body language, tone of voice and behaviours so that I would know when I should get going, when I should sacrifice my happiness for theirs, when shit would hit the fan. This means I became pretty sensitive to other peoples emotions, became overly empathetic and notice details of everything around me. These are just some of the things, in very little detail but you get the point, I adapted and learned to survive. As I got older those behaviours are what I thought were needed everywhere, because…again that’s what I was taught. I was taught I wouldn’t be loved if I was loud, made sound, stood up for myself, was assertive, was goofy or silly. Couldn’t dress how I wanted to dress even. I couldn’t be myself, I had to be the person they made me become to survive. As I got older some of these things all showed up in me being very people pleasing, of caring way too much what other people think, of not ever really knowing what my style was (and feeling like there’s no way I could wear that punk/edgy style I liked so much because it was too loud, brought too much attention to me, I didn’t look invisible in it). These behaviours meant I never stood up for myself, I let myself get walked all over, I never set boundaries, I never got loud and goofy, I never expressed anger or tried to make my own way. Because as a kid those things would have meant making me feel unsafe, not surviving. Some days these things come up and are triggered, but some days I look in the mirror and see a strong, assertive, goofy person who doesn’t give a fuck what others think and will proudly stand up for myself and things I believe in, I’ll make my own way of it, I’ll set boundaries and stand up for myself, even if the other person doesn’t like it. I’ve learned, if someone doesn’t like you setting a boundary, or doesn’t respond well when you stand up for yourself then they probably aren’t people you want in your life anyway. (I am still talking about being kind and compassionate in these conversations, not aggressive and rude).
So there ya go, that’d my tidbit for the day, I know its a bit of a different vibe from normal, and different format but whatevs.
I’ll likely continue on this next time, but it took me way longer to explain all of that than I had expected.
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