Just like a book has themes, so does your life — good and bad.
If you feel stuck or bored, if you want to find your purpose, if you want to be less anxious, if you struggle with boundaries, if you wonder why you can’t finish a project, much less one of your goals (lose weight, start a business, change the world), if nothing you do ever seems good enough, then I may have some answers for you.
The process is simple, but not easy. If you want to be a happier and healthier, then you must …
Heal your emotional trauma.
What Your What?
The first time I heard that, I thought, Oh, I don’t have trauma. My parents didn’t beat me.
Most people think of ‘trauma’ as a one-time event, like a car crash or rape.
Both examples are true, but there’s so much more to it than that. You can hurt someone without ever raising a finger to them.
Beneath your perfectionism and procrastination, there’s trauma.
Beneath your chronic pain, or unexplained illnesses, there’s trauma.
Beneath your inability to hold onto cash, a job, or a relationship, there’s trauma.
Beneath your anxiety and depression, there’s trauma.
You could feel loved as a child, yet still have trauma.
Depending on the degree and the frequency, there can be issues from your past to resolve. If your parents were always physically there, but not always emotionally present, that can leave scars.
If you were expected to be ‘seen and not heard’, if you weren’t allowed to voice your needs, those create unconscious patterns you carry into adulthood.
If there was emotional, physical or sexual abuse anywhere in your past, that is 100% trauma.
This isn’t woo-woo, new-agey stuff either. It’s behavioral science. How you attached to your parents or caregivers is how you expect life to treat you.
It’s Not the Blame Game
Let me be clear. We’re all adults and shouldn’t blame our current behavior on Mom or Dad, but we’re gathering data. Looking for the patterns in your life that are subconsciously showing up today and stopping you from living your life to the fullest.
No two people’s lives are alike. A set of twins can have very different childhoods under the same roof that leads one to being super successful, while the other struggles.
It Affects You Physically
Unhealed trauma drains your energy. It can be the stiffness in your neck, or why you have such horrendous cramps. Unhealed trauma might explain the strange health problems that doctors cannot seem to diagnose. Or, you’ve got a diagnosis all right, but the symptoms might improve or disappear if you dealt with the underlying issues. Research is showing more and more than the mindy and body are not two, separate entitities. It’s all one.
After our house fire in 2017, I was a mess, which is understanable since I was home alone when it happened. We’d lived there 17 years, then suddenly, never again. Still, as time went on, I knew something was still off for me. I was reacting much harder than the rest of my family.
Our fire turned out to be the biggest gift because it forced me to unpack my pain.
What this Process Showed Me
My parents told me every day of my life they loved me. They were affectionate and fun. I was told I could be anything I wanted to be. I’m a self-proclaimed Daddy’s Girl.
My father was larger-than-life. Literally. He stood 6′ 3″ and weighed almost 300 pounds. He had a big laugh and always had a crowd gathered around him everywhere we went. People loved his entertaining stories.
The darker side is my father also had BIG anger. He was moody, so my brother, sister and I learned to walk on eggshells 24/7. Mind you, I didn’t realize any of this as a kid, but that’s exactly where my hypervigilance originated.
I believe my dad thought he was Father of the Year because he didn’t beat us everyday. Apparently, my paternal grandfather was an abusive alcoholic to my dad and my grandmother (they were all estranged, so I’m not really sure. We didn’t talk about it).
In our family, I played the role of Susie Sunshine and it was my job to make my father happy. I subconsciously carried that people pleasing into adulthood from my boyfriends, to being a good little employee at all my jobs.
When I was 20, my father died of a heart attack while visiting me at college. He was alone in his hotel room when it happened. We’d just had the best evening together, when I left for a 9 pm study group, then home to my apartment for the night.
In 1987, my father died on my watch.
In 2017, we lost our home on my watch.
See the connection?
My struggles all led back to unhealed trauma.
What are Your Patterns?
What were your parents or caregivers before you were 10 years old? That’s when most of your patterns are set, but if you had a marvelous childhood, then your soccer coach molested you at 15, but nobody believed you, that’s HUGE.
Sometimes, it’s not just what happened, but what happened after what happened. Meaning, if something bad happened to you, big or small, did your parents hold space for your anger, fear or sadness? Or, did you have to act like everything was okay, stuff your feelings, or pretend it never happened.
WHO did you have to be to gain your parents’ approval? Was it even possible? Did they criticize you?
Most parents are not horrible people. They had good intentions. However, in wanting you to excel, or protecting you from failure or disappointment, they inadvertanly caused you pain. Taught you to play small, that nothing was good enough, or your voice didn’t matter.
Here’s What You Do
1. Search your early memories, for positive and negative moments.
Both are important. Your love for making mudpies as a child may be why you’re such a tremendous cook today.
The fact your mom was always drunk and often forgot to pick you up at school might explain why you feel you cannot count on anyone but yourself.
Write down anything and everything that comes to mind, even if they seem unrelated. It can be a small moment like your dad screaming at you. Or, a pivotal event like a death in the family. All these moments imprint us.
3. Which parent did you struggle with most? Who did you have to be to earn their approval?
This is where the real clues are to your blind spots and patterns. How your parents treated you is how you subconsciously expect others to treat you, how you connect to money, how you feel deep down about your hopes and dreams.
If those early bonds were inconsistent, or difficult, you’ve got some mental rewiring to do. Or, you can be strong in some areas, but struggle with others.
4. Look for patterns and start connecting the dots.
You used to love photography, but you haven’t picked up a camera in years. Go take some pictures.
Your mom was just trying to protect you when she said you wouldn’t win that contest. Instead, it made you always play small. Not risking failure, also meant foregoing many successes.
Are you anxious?
Are you a doormat with your grown kids?
Are you disastrous with money?
Do you keep picking the wrong boyfriend?
Have you gained and lost that weight countless time?
Do you sense you’re capabale of MORE, but do nothing to try?
Do you start and stop projects all the time?
Are you bored and your life has no purpose?
5. Remember, this is a process.
You probably won’t discover all your answers immediately. It took me months, maybe even a full year, when I really focused on this. I’m still unraveling other issues.
If something from the past scares you in remembering, do your best to lean into the fear and keep searching because that’s where your blind spots and patterns are. That’s where your solutions are.
You may have a three-year old managing your finances. You might be a rebellious teenager in your marriage, but an anxious nine-year old with clients.
If you have a trusted friend or family member, talk to them. Somtimes an outisder’s viewpoint like a psychologist or a life coach. And, don’t be afraid to go to therapy. It may be the best gift you can give yourself. You can’t see your own blindspots. They’re subconscious and hidden. You get triggered without even knowing it.
Be sure to talk to someone who’s qualified, and not your critical cousin who always makes you feel awful.
Want to Learn More About This?
I’m so grateful to those who read my stories. I also love the life-coach work I do because it lets me connects with other people, and makes me a better writer. The extrovert in me feels more satisfied, so I can happily go off alone and write my books.
I realize talking about ‘trauma’ is intense and not everyone wants to hear about it, so I’m not going to discuss those issues in a new forum. I’ve started a new email list to talk more about personal development and creating your ideal life.
If this speaks to you, sign up here to receive a free copy of Overcoming Wonder Woman Syndrome (if you’re a guy, just roll with it).
Be gentle with yourself, and know whatever you’ve experienced in the past, you survived it. Keep going. Keep growing.
What’s one change you liked to make in your life today? How do you think it connects to your past? Please leave a comment.
Pick up your FREE pdf of Overcoming Wonder Woman Syndrome. Read, enjoy and share with your friends.