What If The Trauma You Experienced Has Given You Some Amazing Strengths?

So many people who have experienced trauma in life live with the sense of terrible brokenness.

There is the sense that “I am defective”. And so much in your life has told you that.

There is a terrible sense of shame that these things have been done to you.

The Untrue Messages That Dominate Your Life

But those messages and the other negative ones you received are not true. They are the words of the people who traumatised you. If they were dysfunctional enough to traumatise you, then they were too dysfunctional to give you accurate information about yourself.

For many of you, you may be aware of this but are unable to turn off the negative messages in your head.

People Rise Above Childhood Trauma Better Than You Think

Over my life I have read and heard so many people’s stories. Many of them speak of surviving trauma to arrive at the point in their lives where they could share their story.

One thing that emerges from the story is the way they survived.

Some people are fully aware they have achieved a lot and want to share that heartening news.

Do You See Your Strengths Or Your Failings?

Other people are not aware. They may come into my room feeling such a failure, when they have achieved amazing things to just get to my door.

Maybe you are one of those people who sees only the negative and defective and can’t see the truth, that despite the horrible things that have happened to you in life, you are an amazing and unique individual.

Maybe you think that seems insincere. You don’t want to be told by me that you are amazing and unique.

Looking At Your Trauma From A Different Perspective

But what if, instead of seeing the awful things that have happened in your life you saw instead how they have contributed to you being an amazing unique individual.

What if you could see the way you have survived as being a triumph and instead of seeing the defective you see the triumphant you.

The Reality Of You, Here, Now

The reality is you are still here and you are living your life. You might not live it as well as you want to. You might not feel totally in control of your reactions. Those are things you can work on. But the fact that you are here and functioning is testimony to the way you had strengths and abilities that allowed you to function despite the things that have happened to you in the past. And just maybe those things that happened have given you strengths and abilities other people don’t have.

What Might Those Abilities Be?

There is the obvious one about your brain developing more in some areas that often means you are better at reading non-verbal communication than others and are better at spotting danger.

But there are other areas too.

Maybe you are more understanding of others.

Maybe you are more compassionate.

Maybe you have a drive to seek justice for others.

Maybe you believe in honouring your word so that you are reliable and admired for that.

Maybe you have tenacity in difficult situations that allows you to keep going when others give up.

Maybe You Need Help To Heal And See Your Strengths And Abilities

Maybe you can see these things but then that belief in yourself is blown away by all the negative messages in your head.

Sometimes you need assistance to heal. You need assistance to see the real you.

This is where a trauma qualified counsellor can assist you.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your healing and identification of your amazing strengths, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

What Is Family Enmeshment? Is My Family Enmeshed?

The definition of family enmeshment is that family members are excessively involved in each other’s lives and find it hard, even impossible, to set boundaries. There is a strong desire to maintain close relationships, which in itself is not bad, but it has negative impacts.

It is like several lengths of wool, each representing a family member. The wool strands become tangled into masses of knots. With an enmeshed family each person in the family becomes entangled and the needs and identities of each individual get lost.

Enmeshed Families And Close Families Are Different.

This doesn’t mean that families can’t be close and healthy. There are families where family members are close. These families have strong bonds. The members of the family care for each other.

The difference between a close family and an enmeshed family is that in the close knit family there is respect of each individual and their personal space and independence. Individuals within a close family are encouraged to grow and make their own choices. There is no pressure for people to do things they don’t want to.

In the enmeshed family there is a blurring of the boundaries between individuals within the family. It becomes difficult for a member of such a family to make a decision or even have their own thoughts and feelings. Members of enmeshed families feel unable to make choices that the family won’t approve of, even when they really want to do something.

Are Enmeshed Families Codependent?

It is often believed that enmeshed families are in codependent relationship with each other. Certainly co-dependency and enmeshment are related and can happen in family relationships as well as other relationships but there is a difference.

Enmeshment is when two or more people become so involved in each other’s lives, relationships and decision making that they are unable to act autonomously. This has a negative effect on the mental health of the enmeshed people.

Codependent relationships are where two people, such as those in a romantic relationship, friends, parent and child rely on the other for emotional support, acceptance or identity.

Co-dependency may exist in an enmeshed family but then again it may not.

Cultural Impact Of Enmeshment.

In different cultures families can act differently. If the culture is one of autonomy and independence (individualistic) a healthy family will have well defined boundaries between family members. If the culture is one where being part of the group and more dependent on others is normal (collectivist culture), then a family that meets the definition of enmeshed is more likely to exist. In this setting, such a family is considered to be normal and healthy.

If the culture the family exists in is collectivist, family members will not suffer negative mental health impacts. However, if the family has emigrated to a country with a more individualistic culture, the family members may be more torn between the culture of their family and that of the society in which they are now living. This is particularly so with children.

When deciding if a family is enmeshed or not it is important to consider the culture of the family and the impact that enmeshment is having on the mental health of the family members.

In Enmeshed Families Roles Are Rigid.

Another thing seen in an enmeshed family is that family members will often have rigid roles within the family. Every family has roles for family members, but in a healthy family the roles can change over time.

Enmeshed families are often very intrusive. There is little privacy and interfering with another family member’s private thoughts and concerns is considered normal. This is because of the lack of boundaries between family members.

How To Spot Lack Of Boundaries

In such a family other signs of lack of boundaries can include:

• Over protective adults who control what children do and prevent them from anything that challenges them and allows them to grow. The adults may believe they are protecting the child but the motivation is often their own fears of something like that happening to them.

• Adults in the family system will micromanage their children and make decisions for them without any consultation.

• Manipulation is used to coerce the children to do what the adult wants. Guilt and Shame are often used to achieve this.

• Not respecting the privacy of children, often seen by going through their belongings, reading private writings, monitoring their activities and keeping tabs on what they are doing.

• Use the children for emotional support and validation.

• Set out to be the child’s “best friend” even when the child doesn’t want it.

• Not perceive the children as individuals who are growing up and striving for independence.

• Enforce family unity and prevent anything that threatens that such as something an individual may wish to do or outside relationships individuals may wish to have.

• Keep a strict cap on any conflict within the family. Individuals within an enmeshed family learn that keeping the peace is essential and there are negative consequences for disobeying that rule.

What Impact Does An Enmeshed Family Have On A Child?

Children in an enmeshed family are:

• Often very alert to their parent’s needs and emotions.

• Have trouble making decisions.

• Struggle to become independent as adults.

• If asked what their interests and values are they will always cite the family interests and values.

• Believe they must keep the family happy.

• Often are loners and don’t make friends because their emotional needs are met within the family.

• Find it hard to voice their own needs, again due to a need to maintain peace within the family.

• Become more emotional then is normal when there are family conflicts or crises

• As they grow older they often become financially and emotionally responsible for the care of their parents.

Why Does Enmeshment Occur In Some Families?

A lot of enmeshment happens because of parents being raised in enmeshed families. This is the only family structure one or both parents know. Parenting is usually based on what was learned during childhood. Unless the parent is aware their childhood family was enmeshed and was able to learn about other family models as well as learn how to set healthy boundaries, the pattern the parent will use in their family will be an enmeshed one.

Another cause could be if there were difficulties in the relationship a child had with their caregivers that resulted in what is known as an anxious attachment style. That style of attachment involves a need for excessive closeness and validation from others. If the childhood wounds are not resolved and the attachment style healed then it can result in the behaviours present in an enmeshed family.

Research has suggested that a parent who has poor mental health and is raising their children alone without healthy adult friendships is more likely to establish enmeshed relationships with her children. People in that situation often experienced their own trauma as children and consequently have a poor sense of self and have difficult regulating their emotions.

Crises in the environment, such as natural disasters and wars will increase the likelihood that the family members with look to each other for support and security. If the crisis is long term or resulted in traumatic impacts that are not healed then enmeshment can develop.

Is Enmeshment Bad?

Yes and no. members of enmeshed family value loyalty, belonging and emotionally supporting others. They also have deep interpersonal connections with other family members.

The negative is that family members, especially children raised in such a family, find it hard to set boundaries with others. They can find it hard to make decisions. They will also struggle being able to express their own needs and desires and set healthy boundaries around their needs and desires.

Another negative is that it can be difficult developing healthy relationships with others outside the family.

For adults in an enmeshed family there can be high levels of stress as they remain constantly vigilant maintaining control and closeness. Adults are also likely to struggle to maintain their own identity which impacts on their own mental health. It also impacts on their relationships with others both within and outside the family.

Conflict is another difficulty for enmeshed families. It may often lead to conflict being buried and these unresolved conflicts result in tension within the family that can become destructive. Family members, especially children, will struggle to learn healthy conflict resolution skills. This impacts mental health as well as impacting on the ability to learn healthy communication skills.

Does Enmeshment Cause Trauma?

Yes it can.

In heavily enmeshed families each family member is very involved in the emotional life of each other family member. This is difficult for children with their developing brains and developing emotional regulation skills. Being overloaded and overwhelmed by adult emotions without anyone to help the child understand what is being experienced, as well as emotionally regulate, impacts the child’s mental well being, both in childhood and later in adulthood.

Not knowing where you end and other family members start is also damaging. This impacts on the ability to form a sense of self. It impacts on the ability to set boundaries.

In a family where everyone’s business and feelings is everyone else’s it is very difficult to learn boundaries and to learn to say no or yes.

If a child doesn’t learn to set boundaries then it is very difficult to do so in adulthood.

Research shows that adults who grew up in enmeshed families and were traumatised by this, struggle with their mental health in adulthood. They may suffer depression and anxiety. They may also find it hard to form healthy, respectful relationships. They are more vulnerable to codependent relationships. They also struggle to separate their emotions and needs from those of others.

The Good News.

As with all trauma, it is possible to heal. It is not easy and it will take a long time for your brain to grow new, healthy connections, but it is possible.

The first step is recognising the enmeshment and what behaviours within the family are enmeshed behaviours and which are not problem behaviours.

• It is possible to learn who you are and learn where your boundaries are.

• It is possible to learn to assert those boundaries in a calm and healthy way.

• You can even learn to say no without feeling guilty!

• It is even possible to learn to set boundaries with your family. It may not always be possible to set boundaries without cutting off contact with your family, that will depend on how mentally healthy individual members are, but you can learn to set limits on contact so that it is healthy and you learn how to heal from this.

• You can learn what is normal family and relationship behaviour and be able to set healthy boundaries around future relationships as well as existing ones. You can also learn to recognise unhealthy relationships that may need to end.

What Other Things Can You Do To Learn Who You Are And Heal?

A competent counsellor who is trained in mindfulness can teach you mindfulness and how to use this to understand the feelings and emotions you experience.

• With this skill you can be taught how to regulate your emotions.

• With mindfulness you can start exploring the things that matter to you, what your values are, what you believe in.

• You can get to know yourself and what you are passionate about. You can recognise the things that really interest you.

• You can learn how to be curious and how to try new things.

• You can learn to connect with others in a healthy way and “find your tribe” who understand you and support you.

• You can learn to be kind to yourself.

Getting Help.

When you have been raised in the difficult environment of an enmeshed family it can be hard to learn what is normal and what is dysfunctional.

It can also be difficult to know how to learn more healthy behaviours.

This is where seeing a counsellor who is skilled in those areas can be helpful.

Can I Help?

I am trained in mindfulness and in trauma counselling. I use mindfulness always in my work with people. If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your family enmeshment, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

5 Ways To Navigate Christmas When Life Seems Far From Ideal

Traditionally Christmas is a time when people get together with their family. That is great if you have a family you are happy to get together with. But not everyone is in that position

Maybe your Christmas is marred by memories of someone you used to spend Christmas with but don’t anymore. Maybe it is because they have died, or you are estranged, or they have moved away.

Or maybe Christmas is a time of having to visit family when there are difficulties in relationships. When you feel you have to endure contact with people you are frightened of, or may have hurt you, or are downright unpleasant.

Or Christmas may be a reminder of past traumas.

The Cultural Importance of Christmas

Whether you like it or not, Christmas is important culturally for many people. There are those who believe in Jesus and see this time as a celebration of Jesus’ birth, often with family. There are also people who see Christmas as a time to have fun and catch up with family and friends.

If you watch the myriad Christmas movies that exist, you will see a constant message of people having a lovely, perfect time. Suddenly everyone is friendly and old rifts are healed. People are included. There is fun and laughter and all good things.

The reality frequently fails to meet the expectations of the movies.

Christmas Has Significance In Many Lives As A Time To Be With Others

The significance of Christmas as an occasion in our lives means that it takes on a significance that is hard to ignore. Few people report being happy to spend Christmas alone. Many experience stress at what to do for Christmas. Many are alone, and not happy about it.

Christmas can be a joyous time if you have people to celebrate with. But it can be a sad time if you have lost someone. It can be a stressful time if you have traumatic memories of past Christmases that were horrifying. It can also be a stressful time if catching up with some family members is far from pleasant.

An Experience of a Christmas With Gratitude

I recently had a conversation with a man who was facing yet another Christmas alone. He was estranged from his family after the death of his brother, and had experienced many lonely Christmases. He was looking for something different to do for Christmas and decided in the end to plan his own special Christmas camping somewhere he loved.

His choice for Christmas is not everyone’s idea of a fun Christmas. But his attitude may be helpful. He had decided last year he was going to stop fighting the fact that he was alone at Christmas and instead be grateful and seek gratitude in the season. His plans for this year were the result of that decision.

These are his tips for a joyous solo Christmas.

One. You Belong.

It is easy when on your own to think Christmas is not something for you. After all, the images we see everywhere of Christmas are of people in groups. But being on your own doesn’t mean you don’t belong.

You do belong.

He worked out a few years ago that looking for things in his life to be grateful for reminded him that he was loved and worthy even though he was alone. He saw Christmas as a time to have fun. To relax. To eat all the foods he felt he couldn’t eat at other times of the year. To indulge in special foods.

He listed all his friends and the way they showed throughout the year how much he mattered. So many of them had family Christmases and caught up with him at other times near to Christmas. Even though they couldn’t invite him to their family Christmas, often a long way away, he still belonged.

He decided to see Christmas as a time he may be alone, but not lonely. He decided to be grateful for the friends he had and the richness they brought to his life all year around.

He chose to see his life as a gift to himself and to others and decided to plan a Christmas that honoured this. In his case, it was to go camping in a favourite spot and spend a few days doing what he loved to do, knowing he belonged even if he was alone.

Two. Give Yourself Permission to be Real

He found that as a result of practicing gratitude he was able to accept his life exactly as it was. He didn’t try to deny the reality of his life. He accepted it for all its wonder and all its warts.

He was happy to realise he had given himself permission to see his life as it was and be okay with that.

He allowed himself time to feel the pain of the family estrangement. He allowed himself to be honoured by acknowledging this pain. What he found was that honouring that pain and giving it space did not make him miserable. It actually allowed him to accept what was and find joy in the things he decided to do at Christmas.

Life is full of hurts and absences. Fighting those things only makes it more painful. When you accept what is, you are able to find a way to move forward in life and find joy.

Three. Stop. Look. Go.

As he was researching gratitude he came across this practice of grateful living. The practice is to stop. To pause. To not rush into decisions, action, reactions, but to pause.

Once you stop, look around and within. What are you feeling? What opportunities can you see around you? What does your heart tell you?

Once you have given yourself time to examine your future direction and you are comfortable with what you have discovered, then proceed.

As you proceed keep stopping, looking and then going. You may need to try different approaches to see how they fit. You may have an idea and find you can’t proceed with it. You may start doing something and not be happy with it. Be ready to adapt what you are doing and to go on when you feel ready.

Four. Be Open to Opportunities

Last year, he discovered an elderly neighbour who was alone at Christmas, having just lost her husband. He decided to share his Christmas meal with her and give her a simple present at Christmas. The day turned out to be a special one for both of them, especially as the elderly neighbour died during the year.

He saw an opportunity and acted on it.

His planned camping holiday was another opportunity that arose for this year and he has decided to take it.

Being alert to opportunities is a way to honour your life for all it has to give and for all you are able to receive.

Five. Say Yes to Joy

This last point was one he was delighted to learn.

He felt to be happy, to experience joy, would be a betrayal of his brother.

Instead he found that his happiness and joy was there alongside his sadness at his brother’s death and his family estrangement.

He saw the reality of the advice he had read that joy can be present alongside sadness. That joy is an affirmation of life continuing. He also realised the courage it takes to hold the past in the present and experience joy alongside sadness.

He realised he wanted to enjoy Christmas and he chose to live it doing something he enjoyed. Yes it was going to have its sad moments, but it was also going to be a wonderful day.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about the things happening in your life, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Trauma Impacts Your Adult Life, Even When You Don’t Think It Has

“Few of us have escaped experiencing trauma in our human life. I define trauma as a difficult life event that was too overwhelming to emotionally process when it happened. When you become emotionally overwhelmed, trauma is stored in your body, waiting for another time in the future to be digested, resolved and healed.” ~ Shelley Klammer

Many of the difficult feelings that are experienced in life are never dealt with. Maybe at the time there was too much going on to be able to process what had happened. Maybe there wasn’t support available to help you process what had happened. Often these traumatic experiences occur in childhood.

Frequently other people don’t understand how traumatic seemingly (to them) unimportant events can be to a child. If others don’t comprehend the impact the event had on you, then they can’t help you process it.

Sadly, not all children have adults in their lives who are attuned to them or have the skills to help them process the difficult things that happen in life.

So You Think Your Childhood Trauma Didn’t Impact You?

I have witnessed so many people who claim they were never impacted by the difficult things that happened in their lives, but the way they react to things and the difficulties they face in life tell another story.

So often individuals are unaware of the impacts because they have covered them up for so long, at first as a matter of survival and later because they have covered them up so successfully they can no longer see them as existing.

My Journey Of Discovery

I know. I did the same thing. As I grew older, and learned more, I started to try to understand what was happening for me.

My mother dying helped, as her hold over me was broken. It was like waking up and seeing the things she did to me and hearing what other people had observed but I hadn’t been ready to hear until she was dead.

When I studied counselling I discovered a lot of places where trauma had impacted me. I was able to see that shadow side. The trauma side.

Along the way I sought my own counselling to help heal the trauma impacts.

Shame

I was also able to acknowledge the shame I felt at being abused as a child.

Shame is a major part of childhood abuse. The child is often told the adult’s bad behaviour is the child’s fault. Even if the child is not told that, the child concludes they are bad and shameful because it is the only way they can make sense of what is happening to them.

Trauma Healing Is Active And Lifelong

I continue to discover places where trauma has impacted me. I suspect I will continue finding these impacts until I die. They are not major now, but they are still there.

Seeing Trauma Impacts As Different Parts Of You

I have learned to be able to see those impacts as a child of the age when the trauma occurred. That helps to be more objective about the impacts.

It helps to have compassion for the child, rather than judging her. It helps me to understand better how hard I had to work as a child and how well I have done to be fairly normal as an adult.

Mindfulness, reflection and compassion are my tools for exploring all those hurt places.

You can learn this too. On your journey you will find it hard to be able to do this alone. This is where a trauma trained counsellor is helpful.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma impacts, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

“Few of us have escaped experiencing trauma in our human life. I define trauma as a difficult life event that was too overwhelming to emotionally process when it happened. When you become emotionally overwhelmed, trauma is stored in your body, waiting for another time in the future to be digested, resolved and healed.” ~ Shelley Klammer

Many of the difficult feelings that are experienced in life are never dealt with. Maybe at the time there was too much going on to be able to process what had happened. Maybe there wasn’t support available to help you process what had happened. Often these traumatic experiences occur in childhood.

Frequently other people don’t understand how traumatic seemingly (to them) unimportant events can be to a child. If others don’t comprehend the impact the event had on you, then they can’t help you process it.

Sadly, not all children have adults in their lives who are attuned to them or have the skills to help them process the difficult things that happen in life.

Subheading So You Think Your Childhood Trauma Didn’t Impact You?

I have witnessed so many people who claim they were never impacted by the difficult things that happened in their lives, but the way they react to things and the difficulties they face in life tell another story.

So often individuals are unaware of the impacts because they have covered them up for so long, at first as a matter of survival and later because they have covered them up so successfully they can no longer see them as existing.

Subheading My Journey Of Discovery

I know. I did the same thing. As I grew older, and learned more, I started to try to understand what was happening for me.

My mother dying helped, as her hold over me was broken. It was like waking up and seeing the things she did to me and hearing what other people had observed but I hadn’t been ready to hear until she was dead.

When I studied counselling I discovered a lot of places where trauma had impacted me. I was able to see that shadow side. The trauma side.

Along the way I sought my own counselling to help heal the trauma impacts.

Subheading Shame

I was also able to acknowledge the shame I felt at being abused as a child.

Shame is a major part of childhood abuse. The child is often told the adult’s bad behaviour is the child’s fault. Even if the child is not told that, the child concludes they are bad and shameful because it is the only way they can make sense of what is happening to them.

Subheading Trauma Healing Is Active And Lifelong

I continue to discover places where trauma has impacted me. I suspect I will continue finding these impacts until I die. They are not major now, but they are still there.

Subheading Seeing Trauma Impacts As Different Parts Of You

I have learned to be able to see those impacts as a child of the age when the trauma occurred. That helps to be more objective about the impacts.

It helps to have compassion for the child, rather than judging her. It helps me to understand better how hard I had to work as a child and how well I have done to be fairly normal as an adult.

Mindfulness, reflection and compassion are my tools for exploring all those hurt places.

You can learn this too. On your journey you will find it hard to be able to do this alone. This is where a trauma trained counsellor is helpful.

Sub heading Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma impacts, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

When Shame Blocks You Grieving Properly

Grief is a natural part of life. Ever since humankind was capable of feeling love, we have grieved for the loss of that love.

It is natural for us to cry and reach out to others for comfort. That is considered the way grief has happened for millennia. Part of grief is to allow the putting into the past of our grief.

Shame is a big emotion that causes other emotions, mainly sad ones, to be stuck. When Shame complicates grief you are unable to put grief in the past and it just keeps on in the present.

Grief and Shame Often Appear Together

When I work with people who are grieving I have noticed that grief is often experienced alongside shame.

Grief is designed to help us loosen, release and reach out. Shame has the opposite effect. It causes us to freeze and isolate from others.

Shame leads to endless loops of worry and rehashing the shameful episode. This keeps it in the present instead of the past where you fervently wish it would go.

Grief involves crying and grieving for what has happened and putting that grief in the past.

Grief needs to be worked with in a different way to shame.

Complicated Emotions

Complicated emotions are difficult. They require different approaches and sometimes need to be separated in order to work through them.

This complication is probably why most people dislike complex emotions in themselves or in others.

Interestingly, children have no difficulty managing complicated emotions. It is as if that maturing, and learning to identify our emotions, stops us from being able to work with the different emotions we are likely to feel at any time.

Accepting Complicated Emotions

One of the best approaches to working with complicated emotions is to accept they are there. To accept that they just are.

Shame is one of the emotions we fear the most. One of those reasons is that when shame is present, we can’t process our emotions as we are supposed to. Instead of being processed and moved on quickly, they remain stuck by shame. Emotions are manageable when they are processed quickly, but when they remain unresolved, they become difficult to manage.

Shame does have a purpose. Its purpose is to keep us safe by lowering the intensity of other emotions. This allows us to curb our reactions to emotions such as anger. That is fine if we then later attend to these emotions. But what happens more often is that shame binds with those emotions and they remain.

All those bound emotions makes for one crowded mind. And a mind that struggles to process emotions. And shame creates an endless loop of being trapped in emotions.

Working Through Grief and Shame

Most people who come to see me about their grief have shame caught up in the grief as well. When I work with you, it is important to identify all the emotions you are working through and then separate them all out to deal with them.

If I don’t attend to your shame and help you work through it you will be stuck in your grief. Usually that stuckness is what brings you to me.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief and shame, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Learning To Feel What Seems Unfeelable

I often write about the importance of learning to feel into your body. It is in your body that the keys to unlock the things that hold you back can be found.

I always write this knowing that it is possible to learn to do this, as I have done. But I am also aware it is not easy to reach there. It is virtually impossible without the assistance of a trauma trained counsellor.

I was reminded of this recently when I read a blog by a trauma yoga teacher.

She wrote about leading a yoga and meditation class in the mental health ward of a hospital. Her clients were people with dissociative disorders.

Feeling Into Your Body Is Something You Have To Learn To Do

Having learned, as I have, to be able to feel into her body in safety, she realised she had to allow for the difficulty these people experienced feeling into their bodies. When you have unresolved trauma from the past it is very hard to feel into your body where all those unprocessed and very scary memories are stored.

This experience forced the teacher to explore how to bring attention inside without being so frightened that you dissociate. She explored how to bring attention inside without feeling like you are floating, disconnected from your internal and external environment.

Being In The External World Is Easy, But Go Into Your Internal World And It Becomes Very Hard

We find it so easy to get angry or irritated by people in our external world, why is it so hard to turn out attention internally to situations in our past that hurt us?

Why is it that we can be courageous in the world around us, but when we come to look in side ourselves and allow us to feel what we find there, we are terrified?

Every Child Needs An Adult Who Loves Them And Can Teach Them How To Self Regulate

If you never had an adult in your childhood who was able to attune to you. Able to teach you how to make sense of what was going on in your body. Able to help you learn how to regulate your emotions so that your internal world is not terrifying. Then how could you learn?

When you lacked someone to guide and teach you then how do you navigate your internal environment?

Trauma Trained Counsellors Learn How To Do This

This is what a trauma trained counsellor knows to do. I have learned how to connect those broken pieces inside. How to piece your body, mind and heart together so that you can feel safe to look inside yourself.

I know these techniques work because I used them myself to learn.

All those trapped memories need to be processed. Until you learn the skills and have someone skilled to walk beside you and help you, you will not be able to process this trauma. And it will cripple your life.

Childhood Memories Of Trauma Are Frightening

Those memories are frightening. They hurt. They are full of a child trying to understand a very frightening world. There is a deep sense of shame, of being wrong. Of thinking that what happened was your fault and because there was something wrong with you.

There is despair at never seeming to get any better. There is rage at the unfair things being done to you. There is hurt that someone who should care for you can do this. There is disappointment that no matter what you try, nothing gets better.

All these terrifying memories are the reason you become numb. Feeling them is terrifying so blanketing them, freezing them, dulling them is the only way to survive. And because they are still there your body reacts to them in the only way it can.

How Your Body Reacts To The Pain

You get terrible fear and pain from these memories.

You get anxious, depressed, you do whatever you can to shut down the memories.

You take pills, you drink too much alcohol, you try an array of drugs, you go on spending sprees, you do any behaviour that is repetitive to drown out those horrible memories and feelings of deep shame and unworthiness.

What You Need

What you need is someone to teach you how to manage those emotions. How to release the feelings of unworthiness, exclusion and shame. How to release these harmful feelings.

You need to take it slowly. To only visit those memories when you have the skills to calm yourself.

Yes you can reach a point where you can make the choice to be who you want to be. A place where you know how to respond to calm yourself. Where you know how to respond to not put yourself in a fight/flight/freeze state. And I can help you with that learning.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

The Real Impact of Trauma

It is one thing to process memories of trauma, but it is an entirely different matter to confront the inner void – the holes in the soul that result from not having been wanted, not having been seen, and not having been allowed to speak the truth. If your parents’ faces never lit up when they looked at you, it’s hard to know what it feels like to be loved and cherished. If you come from an incomprehensible world filled with secrecy and fear, its almost impossible to find the words to express what you have endured. If you grew up unwanted and ignored, it is a major challenge to develop a visceral sense of agency and self worth.” ~ Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score

This quote from the book The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel van der Kolk has always hit home for me.

It is such a powerful summary of the impact of abuse, neglect, lack of attunement, poor attachment, emotionally unavailable parents, narcissistic parents and more that include the range of wounds that comprise childhood trauma.

It is horrible to not be wanted. It is devastating to not be seen. The wounds left by never been greeted by your parents with love and lit up faces are immense.
When all those things happen the child feels like they don’t exist. They feel unsafe. The feel they have to fight for their survival. They learn to people please and fawn to be given the tiny bit of attention needed to survive. They do things that make them feel ashamed and cripple them in adulthood with shame. They learn to feel like a nothing. To have no way to express their fear, sorrow, anger and more.

My Own Experience

I understand this because that was my childhood. I was never wanted and was told that often. I was deliberately ignored. There were never any proud parents watching my achievements as a child. There were never words of congratulation around the dinner table at night.

I never knew what it was like to be greeted by someone whose face lit up when they saw me, that is until I met my husband. The things my parents did to me were never discussed.

In adulthood when I tried to discuss them with my parents and my siblings there was a wall of silence. My mother constructed a narrative to dismiss my recollections as me being neurotic, or over exaggerating, or making a mountain out of a tiny molehill.

I have had to fight very hard to heal from that. To learn that I am worthy, that I do have a sense of agency, that I matter. I have learned to feel safe, to learn to trust others, to fearlessly speak my truth.

Because I have done that, I know you can too. It is scary. It is hard to trust. Progress can seem so agonisingly slow. But you will get there. You can heal.

As well as my own lived experience, I have studied extensively the latest research on trauma and the best practice approaches to heal trauma. I have helped countless people heal from their trauma, and I can help you too.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood pain and trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Trauma Blocking Behaviour

I often write about the impacts of trauma in childhood. I also write about the way our society teaches us to avoid uncomfortable feelings.

Today I want to talk about some behaviours people engage in that are designed to cover up deeply upsetting feelings.

These are:
Excessive use of social media and compulsive mindless scrolling.

    I am not referring to people looking on social media to catch up on what friends have posted. I am referring to people who search and search social media pretty much all the time, even when there is nothing to read. I know we can all do that to a certain extent, but when it becomes every day, all day, then it is a problem and most likely to be a trauma blocking behaviour.

Drinking alcohol to excess, including binge drinking.

    Taking drugs of any type, smoking, vaping are also trauma blocking behaviours. In fact experts in addiction agree that the addictions are caused by trauma.

Excessive and mindless eating, even when not hungry.

    Like alcohol, drugs and smoking this is a behaviour that helps to block trauma.

Compulsive exercising to reach an unattainable goal. Or just exercising compulsively.

    As with other addictions, this behaviour blocks uncomfortable feelings so it is compulsively adopted.

Being frightened of being alone so you stay in toxic relationships, even when you are unhappy or in danger.

    It is the idea of it being better to be in any relationship than none at all. But is it better to be in a terrifying and potentially deadly relationship?

Being frightened of being alone so you constantly surround yourself with people and activities to stop you ever being alone.

    This can also involve manipulative behaviours to ensure you have people around you. And when you are alone, you may well use alcohol, drugs or self harm to suppress the fear.

Feeling unsafe if you have nothing do you so you keep yourself busy with constant projects.

Compulsive shopping, especially online, for things you don’t need and going into debt

Being a workaholic with poor work boundaries so that you end up being available 24/7

I am sure you could add others to that list.

Do you find yourself adopting these behaviours?

If you do, you are not alone.

Do you want to stop using these behaviours, or others like them?

This is where a counsellor can help you learn how to face and heal deeply upsetting feelings.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma blocking behaviour, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Why Is Your Body So Important In Trauma Treatment?

For many years, it has been known amongst Trauma Practitioners that the body plays an important role in trauma.

For decades, the mind and emotions were focused on as the areas where trauma impacted. But research over the past decades has changed that.

Somatic Therapy

Somatic Therapy, as practiced by therapists such as Pat Ogden is one area of work in the way we hold our bodies as having an impact on our mood as well as holding uncompleted defensive actions from our past.

Peter Levine, with his breakthrough book “Waking the Tiger” works to release trauma from the body where it is trapped in incomplete movements.

Bessel van der Kolk, with his book “The Body Keeps the Score” is another who has presented the evidence that trauma is stored in the body.

The Impact Of Your Body Posture On Your Mood.

More recent research has shown that your posture and the way you hold your body has a major impact on how you feel and how shifts in posture can release stress.

Big expansive poses such as the so-called power poses are empowering and stress relieving. Power poses include standing with your arms outstretched or on your hips, or sitting with your arms outstretched and leaning back.

The opposite of these poses, ones that trap stress hormones in the body include any posture where you hold yourself as small as possible. These include hunching forward and crossing your arms and legs slumping with your shoulders hunched forward and your head hanging down.

Body Poses That Empower

Poses that open up your vulnerable front, such as the power poses empower you whereas poses that close up your vulnerable front, disempower you.

Bessel van der Kolk often mentions in his lectures the impact of taking a person who is sitting slumped in front of him and directing them to sit up and pull their shoulders back. He reports that the person’s mood immediately lifts.

It is worth remembering the importance of posture when you are feeling stressed, or nervous about meeting certain people. Stand up, pull your shoulders back, gaze ahead, don’t look down. You will find your ability to remain calm will increase and your mood will improve.

Trauma Stuck In The Body Needs To Be Released

As for trauma stored in your body. That trauma needs to be released. I mentioned earlier how Pat Ogden and Peter Levine work with completing uncompleted defensive actions from the past. This is very helpful. I use this approach often when working with people. Being able to complete defensive actions that were not able to be used when the original trauma happened is very powerful.

It is also helpful to adopt practices to help you release the trauma. There are many different practices, although the one most often used is Yoga, which is a particularly well-known approach and there are Yoga practitioners who work with releasing trauma. Movement therapy can also be helpful.

Mindfulness can be used to feel into parts of the body and work with the movements those parts need to complete as well as the trauma those parts need to release.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with releasing trauma from your body, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: https://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

People Pleasing, The Destructive Behaviour That Should Be Rejected

Most people are taught as children to have good manners, do as you are told and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Oh and if you can’t hurt anyone’s feelings then you have to accept that your feelings may get hurt, but that is okay because they don’t matter.

Wrong.

What is deemed good manners often involves other people invading your personal boundaries. And if you follow that code, you aren’t allowed to set boundaries. And that is wrong.

The Downside Of People Pleasing

When you people please, not only do you get hurt but you don’t get a chance to do what you want to do because someone else frequently steps over your boundaries and prevents you from being who you want to be.

Sometimes people learn to people please because of the family environment they grow up in. When there is trauma you learn to do whatever keeps you safe. So you people please.

Narcissistic parents cause a lot of harm by making you responsible for making them happy. So you constantly second guess what you need to do to make them happy.

Becoming Addicted To Being Liked Because Your Truth Says You Don’t Matter

People pleasers can also become addicted to being liked by others and may even learn manipulative behaviours as well as people pleasing.

Behind people pleasing is the message that you and your needs don’t matter. That the things you want to do and the person you want to be is unimportant.

People Pleasing And Healthy Boundaries Can’t Co-exist

One of the problems with people pleasing to everyone is that you set boundaries with people that are very small and people don’t necessarily know they are encroaching on your boundaries. Inevitably you reach a point where you explode with frustration and anger. The other person may be shocked and surprised, not having realised they had encroached on a boundary.

Remember, you set boundaries and you only have to gently ask a healthy person not to do that if you want to set a boundary. If you say nothing then you have given permission to that person to breach that boundary.

An Example Of When People Pleasing Became An Issue

A classic example I saw years ago was when I was working in an office. One of the other team members would walk past the desk of another team member and constantly take her pencils and pens to use. The team member said nothing.

Privately she would complain to the rest of us about it. When it was suggested to her that she ask the other person to stop borrowing her pencils and pens she replied she couldn’t possibly. That would mean she wasn’t being a good team member.

One day she needed to write something down and discovered she had no writing implements on her desk. She went to the other person and exploded in anger. The other person was shocked. She had no idea her borrowing of pens/pencils was a problem.

That is the risk of people pleasing.

The Risks of People Pleasing

The team member in my example stayed up at night running over in her mind the way she should have spoken to the other staff member.

She fantasised about telling this team member not to take her pens and pencils. She became irritable and short fused and often snapped at her family and fellow team members. But never to the one she was actually angry with.

Over time she became resentful of this other team member. Far from being a good team member she had become an ineffective team member because she wouldn’t set boundaries. Her hidden anger and resentment, coupled with her irritability, was causing problems in the team. This reflected badly on her, not the other team member.

Over a period of time, it resulted in an outburst at the most unpredictable moment. Her reaction was out of proportion to the issue at the time.

The Cost of Not Valuing Yourself Enough To Set Boundaries

Not valuing yourself will rob you of your self confidence and self worth. It will destroy your sense of who you are. It destroys your relationships with others because you are constantly looking over your shoulder, second guessing people and modifying your behaviour to keep others happy.

How Do I Change From People Pleasing To Setting Healthy Boundaries?

Learn to say no.

Learn it is acceptable to ask someone not to take something of yours, or rearrange your plans to suit themself, and to consider your needs when making a decision.

Learn to understand who you are. Learn your values, boundaries, and worth.

Learn to say no to what you don’t want to do and yes to what you do want to do.

If the fear of speaking up for yourself and setting a boundary becomes too great to overcome then seeking help from a counsellor can be helpful.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your people pleasing, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

I can guide you through the roots of your people pleasing and help you heal the pain there. Then I can help you learn your values, where you want your boundaries to be and to see yourself as worthwhile.

It takes a lot of courage and strength to learn that you are worthwhile, it is okay to love yourself, you are not responsible for other people’s disappointment and you can say no.

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz