Although post-traumatic stress is prevalent in us all, to varying degrees, you can reclaim your power and release your pain
Yes, we all have gone through traumatic stress. The reason I put (D) in parentheses is that although we have all gone through traumatic stress (see definition below), we don’t all have the full-blown disorder. If you believe you have not experienced traumatic stress, I invite you to come to my office and let me know how your life is.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious condition that results from surviving a life-threatening or extremely frightening event. Often those who suffer from PTSD have no idea that they have developed the condition. They try to re-immerse themselves back into life but seem to fail consistently.
I grew up in a few environments that were quite chaotic, and at times, dangerous. My sister and I adapted by being ‘perfectly good’ — think looking good at all costs and never, ever talking about how we really felt. We learned and knew that the secret to our own safety was to be completely cooperative in every way. I learned to be the leader of the two of us, always keeping us both in line by always doing the right thing. I think I came into this life with a finely tuned sense of intuition and a high degree of emotional intelligence (EQ). I used my intuition and EQ to be in tune with the adults around us. I did not use my gift of intuition and EQ to direct me on my path or to learn about my own gifts and dreams; I had to use my intuition to be in touch with everyone around me to discern how they were at that moment and what I needed to do to keep my sister and I safe.
One of the most important features of this adaptation was that I learned that I could not be in touch with my own pain and simultaneously keep my sister and me safe.
I had to put any awareness of how painful and how truly unsafe our environment was out of my consciousness in order to be aware of the emotional climate we were living in. Most of the time this adaptation did not keep us safe, but because it did sometimes, I never gave this up until much later in my life.
As we grew, my sister naturally began to separate from our own ‘survival-codependency’. Since I was the one who had the role of sensing what others needed and then being there for them, my sister took another role, that of rebel. In pictures of my sister and me when we really young, she was often crying, and I was smiling like a Cheshire cat, knowing the smile had to be there for survival and to counteract any anger that her crying might stimulate. Unfortunately, she never let go of her adapted role of rebel, and she died at the age of 45 from alcoholism.
Fortunately for me, I began noticing how exhausting it was to try to be there for multitudes of people, and so began therapy to see what was wrong with me. One aspect of my adaptation was not healed: being the HERO for people I was supposedly in a love relationship with. One flavor of my adaptation was to show up like a warrior for those I was in a love relationship with, and never, ever look to see if they were ‘using me’ for their own benefit. I was blind to this.
Remember, this was how I survived, so the deepest aspect of this was to not look at how those who supposedly loved me as child were really not present to me except for how I made them feel: LOVED. This did not heal until I had gone through five decades of being there ‘perfectly’ for those who supposedly loved me.
Unfortunately, the therapists I saw in my 20s, 30s and 40s saw how ‘high functioning’ I was, how aware and in-tune I was, and told me in various ways that I DID NOT HAVE A PROBLEM. So, being left to my own devices, I began my own healing journey.
I found a spiritual community that taught that the very presence of the Divine is within all of creation and that we can learn to live from this connection. The organization was Unity. I loved Unity and I took to heart their main teaching. I began listening to my intuition, and I began to heal many aspects of myself.
The deepest pain, though, of not being present to myself, and being used by those who were supposed to love me, was not healed.
I did not learn that I could say NO and walk away from those who were closest to me when they did harm.
Instead, I would talk, explain, go to counseling with them, find the latest and greatest workshop, using the finest forms of NVC (non-violent communication) and the Feedback Wheel, and also get very, very mad, and even verbally abusive at times. But I did not realize I could say to myself: “This is not a safe person, they are harming me and walk away”.
The journey back to myself meant I had to learn to be fully present to myself: FINALLY! I had to re-connect to my gifts of intuition and EQ and know that these are my soul gifts; they are given to me to help me be the ONE I have come here to be rather than some fake adaptation of who I am.
To aid you on your journey back to who you truly are, here are some signs that the one(s) you are hanging out with may be using you for their benefit, or that their adaptation causes them to think they are better than you:
- Sexual harassment (of course)
- Interrupting (chronic)
- Ignoring (chronic)
- Breaking of agreements (chronic)
- Making their needs more important
- Verbal abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Chronic teasing
- Inability to hear your feelings
- Inability to hear your needs
- Inability to hear your wants
- Flying into a rage when you are making a complaint about something they did
- Telling you what you want to hear to get what they want with no behavior change
- Making everyone’s needs more important than yours
If you are in the position of using the ones you supposedly love, know that this is also an adaptation you learned in childhood. If you are willing to see this and begin to connect with your own pain, you can heal. Many people may call you a narcissist and say you cannot heal, but if you want to heal, you can.
5 steps to take to return to your truest self:
- You must deal with the deepest pain of all: NOT BEING PRESENT TO YOURSELF.
- Be willing to connect with your authentic self, identify your gifts and your soul purpose, and make this the most important thing you do now and for the rest of your life.
- You must deal with the pain that some of those whom you thought loved you were only in it for how much they could get from you. When you stopped giving yourself and your gifts to them, they left.
- Your gifts have always been with you; much like the story of the Wizard of Ozand how the Wizard just helped the foursome realize they already had what they were searching for, they just needed to accept this.
- Remember how I said that because I was so high-functioning that even my therapists could not see any problem? If you find yourself in this situation, I have a teacher for you that will enable you to return to yourself. His name is Mark Nepo. He has written many books, but if you want to connect with him, I would first get his book, The Book of Awakening.
For now, I wish you the easiest return possible to the ONE you have come here to be. Though the journey is painful, it is worth it. And remember this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
>You may also enjoy reading Letting Everything In and Through: Explorations of the Human Experience, by Mark Nepo