Self Soothing Through a Trigger

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Reacting to a trigger can lead to trouble. If you react in rage you could end up in a fight. If you react with flight you could end up somewhere worse, slip into depression, or a narcissist’s control. Freeze up and you are again poised to become a victim. Turn into the fawning people pleaser and you are everyone’s doormat. First, let’s recap. Trauma responses come in four types that we know of, Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn. I’m a freeze fawn meaning if I can’t make you happy with my massive people pleasing abilities I will freeze up and not be able to protect myself if you decide to hurt me. How helpful is being a freeze fawn? Not helpful at all. So how do we stop these reactions?

First you have to notice that you are triggered. If you can get to a quiet safe space this is the time. Then you have to identify what has triggered you. Look at the last five minutes. Was the trigger activated by a scent, a color, a voice, a touch, a noise, a taste, a memory, or a though? When you’ve identified the trigger look at the thoughts that surround it. What are your thoughts telling you? Now listen to your body. What is your body telling you? Now comfort your body and talk quietly to yourself in a soothing voice. Comfort yourself as you would a small child. Take deep belly breaths and keep looking around to remind yourself that the trigger you feared is not here. Remind yourself that it’s a past event that is influencing the moment. You are safe now. Tell yourself that you are safe. (Now if you actually just saw your violent ex, hightail it to an exit. Do not stay were an abuser is. Even if they can’t hurt you now, their presence is detrimental to your nervous system and you need to get to a safe place.)

Here is an old example of me reacting to a trigger in the mall. I smell my mom’s perfume. I feel afraid and my legs are’t working right. I look around for her. I walk to a discrete location where I feel hidden. I straighten my clothes, and glance in a mirror while my inner voice says, ‘You really need to loose another forty pounds. She’s not going to recognize you now that you look so old. She always wanted to botox your forehead, even when you were a child. Your worry lines are out of control. Why can’t you just relax. Why are you so emotional. Stop being sensitive. Ok, you look crazy standing behind this sign thinking about dieting and wrinkles. Just buy something so the clerk will stop staring. Why the hell are you so weird? Just shut the fuck up and pull yourself together you dumb bitch.’ Often our inner voice yells at us using our abuser’s voice.

This is me after learning self compassion from Dr. Kristen Neff’s, Self Compassion Workbook. I smell my mother’s perfume, I keep walking and focus on my breathing. I practice common humanity by reminding myself that lots of people wear that perfume. I sit on a bench and scan my body, allowing my eyes to search the mall while I continually remind myself that I’m safe. I realize that my stomach is in knots so I wrap my arms around my stomach and focus on taking deep belly breaths while I repeat under my breath, ‘you’re safe, you’re loved, I’ve got you, God is with us, no one will hurt you.’ When my stomach relaxes enough I place my hand on it and gently rub the area until the muscles relax. I continue focusing on my breath until I’m able to get up and finish my shopping. If the trigger is big enough I might be too tired to keep shopping. Then I tell myself, ‘It’s ok, you have a right to rest. That was scary. I love you.’ No one needs to hear you talk to yourself. You can do it all in your mind. Just being present with yourself will help your nervous system calm down enough to begin recovery.

Listen to who’s talking in your head. When a voice isn’t yours it’s probably someone who hurt you. Your loving inner voice will sound like you. You can trust it. Get a qualified trauma therapist if you have been diagnosed with CPTSD. You are not alone in this. Many of us are struggling in silence.

I love you. You can live fully in the love you deserve. Your inner voice has the capacity to be kind.

I Haven’t Forgiven You, I’ve Just Moved On.

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Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Anger only holds you captive when you stay in the story with it. Anger only has you by the throat for as long as you keep replaying the record of WHY! I call my recollections of all my past antipathies the memory loop. When I’m caught in the memory loop I am six years old again being told it’s safe to tell my dad what we got him for Christmas unaware that my mother is listening and I’m about to get one hell of a beating. The memory loop reminds me of how my father just sat there as my mother hauled me into the air by one arm and began her savagery. 

The memory loop creates hell on earth. It’s insane and it wants you for company. It will take you into every memory of your life where you are either victim or villain and it will make you relive each scene, moment by moment, until your body is tense, your stomach hurts, and you’ve stopped breathing comfortably because your chest is too tight. The memory loop is working overtime to remind you that life isn’t safe, that you can’t trust, that nothing is fare, and that you are always in danger. Stepping out of the memory loop is hard, it takes constant awareness and time.

I have written before about living in the traveling now. There’s a blog by that name on this site if you’re interested. What living in the now does is it takes you out of the memory loop and brings you into this moment and it’s only in this moment that you are alive and capable of really living. The past is dead, the future does not exist, but right now you are alive, passionate, grateful, breathing, feeling, and real.

There are a hundred people I have tried to forgive. I have sat through classes and seminars on the power of forgiveness and they all say that forgiveness isn’t for the person who hurt you it’s for you and you alone. I agree with that and I find that forgiveness comes and goes with mood, threat load, and exhaustion. I have also read Pete Walker’s book, CPTSD, From Surviving to Thriving, where he talks about crying it out of your body with the deep shaking sobs that release trapped emotion. This is also important. 

What I like best is just being present. When I can stay in the traveling now in love with my life and with myself then the cruelty of my past remains forgiven, healed and locked in the past while I remain where I am right now. I will not be defined by my trauma. I define my life, I live my life, my life does not live me. 

I have done the work. I have cried, prayed, forgiven, surrendered, and let go. I have walked a thousand meditative miles and sat in silence listening to myself breath while my mind healed and I became less attached to the constant screaming of the memory loop. I have freed myself and the last phase of remaining free is remaining present here and now. Give yourself the gift of the now. However healing comes to you, embrace it and enter the now. You can only forgive so many times before it’s time to move on and get down to the joyful business of living.

We were molded in fire but now it’s time to take form.

The Trauma Bond; Abuse that Feels Just Like Cocaine and Terror

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In describing a trauma bond to you I have decided to use a puppy and two genderless people instead of a man and a woman because people suck and puppies are relatable. You’ll empathize more with the puppy thus making the concept of a trauma bond sink in deeper. That, and you stable types tend to judge abuse victims who choose to stay in abusive relationships. SHAME ON YOU!!! Doesn’t it suck to be judged?

The Little Puppy

The little puppy loved its mother but its mother had too many puppies and would often not let the little puppy nurse when it needed to. The mother would get up and wander off, acting as if the little puppy didn’t exist. The other puppies were bigger and mother noticed them and licked them and let them nurse but when the little puppy finally fought its way to the milk the mother didn’t seem to see it. One day the little puppy was fortunate enough to get to the milk first and its mother licked it and cleaned it and it nursed until its belly was full and it felt milk drunk and happy. The happy the little puppy felt was a release of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. These are the love and feel-good hormones that hit the same part of the brain as Cocaine. The little puppy was stoned on love. It slept very well and was at peace.

At the next feeding the mother ignored the puppy and did not let it nurse. The mother did not lick it, or see it, or hear its whines for love. The puppy felt a flood of grief. Its brain was washed with cortisol, a stress hormone, and then adrenaline, a panic hormone when it saw its mother get up and realized it would not eat or be loved that day. So, the little puppy learned to please the mother, to beat its siblings to nurse, and to fight for its right to be with mother. Mother liked this and would alternately reward the puppy with love and punish the puppy with total withdrawal of all affection. The puppy was now conditioned to do everything it could for its mother’s approval but its everything was never enough. Worse still it was addicted to the cocaine like drugs it felt when its mother noticed it, and equally tortured by the withdrawals followed by worry and panic it felt when its mother ignored it.

One day people came to pick out puppies and take them home. The little puppy was terrified. It had an anxious attachment to its mother and wanted nothing to do with anyone but her. When people reached in to pick it up it shook and whined and peed itself. No one wanted the shy little puppy with no confidence. A person who smelled like the old wool sweater it wore came in and looked at the little puppy. It noticed the way it shook, cowered, and peed whenever anyone went near it. Preconditioned, fragile, low self-esteem, traumatized, bullied, and no sense of identity. Perfect,’ thought the person we will now call Wool.

Wool took the little puppy, shoved it into a box and went home. The puppy shook terribly. Its world was shattered. It couldn’t see anything and worse still, it couldn’t smell its mother. Once inside its new home the puppy was pushed into a metal cage and left alone for hours. Then Wool remembered puppy and pulled puppy out of the cage. Wool pet puppy and gave it treats, and gave it kisses, and called it good. Puppy felt the same flood of drugs pour through its brain and immediately fell in love. This love was not real love, it was drug love, the euphoria an addict feels when it gets high. Puppy would do anything for Wool. It felt the same way about Wool as it did about mother. In fact, Wool had replaced mother in every way. When Wool was unhappy with puppy, Wool would withhold all love and touch causing puppy to go into drug withdrawals from the happy hormones which were replaced with the fear and panic drugs, cortisol and adrenaline. Puppy wanted to prove its love to Wool so much that it would do anything to please Wool. It would fetch, play dead, fawn, lick, make puppy eyes and even attack on command. Once, when Wool was mad at a person, puppy bit them. For protecting Wool, puppy was rewarded with treats and petting, and such love that puppy became so stone on happy drugs that it peed on the carpet. It just couldn’t help it. Wool beat puppy until puppy couldn’t stand. Puppy was so ashamed of itself that just the idea of peeing on the carpet made it shake. Puppy became more careful than ever to be perfect and wonderful and loving for Wool.

But Wool had grown tired of puppy. Watching the puppy fawn and beg had been fun and Wool had even enjoyed beating puppy and watching puppy cower but Wool had decided that puppy was too much trouble and besides Wool really wanted a bigger, more aggressive dog. So, puppy was locked outside and forgotten about. Puppy wandered the streets, hackles up, sniffing for Wool, afraid of everything including its own shadow. Puppy felt nothing but fear and exhaustion and the cold. One day a kind person saw puppy and offered it a hamburger. Puppy was afraid of the person but it was so hungry it accepted the hamburger. When the person picked puppy up, puppy cowered, and shook, and peed a little. The new person who smelled like hamburger took puppy home and gave puppy unconditional love, a thing puppy didn’t know could exist. Puppy was never in trouble and no matter what happened puppy was not beaten or ignored. Once when puppy was very old, he peed on the carpet on accident. Hamburger sat down with puppy, who was shaking with remorse and held puppy in their arms until the shaking passed. “You’re ok puppy,” Hamburger said. “I love you and it’s ok to make mistakes.” Puppy rested its head on Hamburger’s shoulder and closed its eyes and felt real love, the kind of love that comes with trust and safety.

Everything that happened to puppy in this story happens to millions of people stuck in narcissistic relationships all over the world. Victims don’t stay because they want to, they stay because they don’t see any other way out and they’re addicted to their abusers. A victim can be a man or a woman. They can look strong and independent. Inside, they’re broken, codependent, and addicted to a very dangerous person. If you feel like puppy, talk to a safe person and get out. You cannot fix a narcissist and they do not love you. In fact, they do not love.

I love you. Unconditional love is real. If you see something, say something. You’re not alone.

Bring your Darkness to the light

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“If you bring forth what is within you,

what you bring forth will save you,

If you do not bring for what is within you,

what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

-The Gnostic Christ- Dead sea scrolls

Healing your stored trauma can be a scary undertaking. You have glimpses of what lays beneath the surface of your everyday life, but reaching down into the depths and grasping onto your painful past may be too much to bear. Healing is not for the weak. That’s why there are choices. You can stay in your disturbed normal, constantly triggered, depressed, plagued by nightmares and memories. You can smile through the pain and keep your nose to the grind stone. Or you can act out, making your pain everyone else’s pain, screaming in unwary people’s faces because they dare to wear the same kind of coat the man who raped you wore, or do their hair the way your violent mother did. Lastly, you can choose to dive deep and grasp onto your trauma and raise it into the light.

If you choose this last path, you are choosing healing, a release from pain and a path to self-discovery more beautiful than anything you could ever imagine. I have grasped this last path and I swear to you it is worth it. Your greatest hardship will probably be finding a good trauma therapist. I have yet to find one but have found that through meditation, talking to friends with trauma, and working with the 13 therapists I have gone through, I have gained an insight into what it is to drag your past into the light.

Begin with a trigger, sit down with the trigger and meditate on it. If you don’t know how to meditate learn on YouTube. Once you are able to sit with the trigger try to feel where it sits in the body. If this is too much, STOP! Some trauma cannot be processed alone. If you are managing to maintain self-mastery continue. Sit with the place where the trigger rests in the body and ask, how old was I when this happened, who was there, what happened, and finally, how can I release this. If it is a childhood trauma, comfort your little child, take the child away and take them to a safe place. I have a sacred place where my children recover until they are ready to reintegrate with me. This sacred place is a Disneyland of wonder watched over by angels.

We release trauma by crying and shaking it out, by coughing it up, by sobbing, by screaming into pillows, by journaling page after page as we feel and see what happened and offer it up to the light. Then share it in group, with your therapist, or if your lucky to have trauma informed friends, share it with them. What is done in the dark will come to the light-Genesis:4. And what you bring forth will save you- Gnostic Christ-Dead Sea Scrolls.

Healing takes time but the parts of you that will return are incredibly beautiful: Self-worth, creativity, righteous anger, adventure, emotional regulation, and so much more. If fear is what is standing in the way, remind yourself that fear is only the absence of faith. Faith in your creator to always have your back will unravel fear. Fear is not real. It only exists in the ego mind. You don’t need it. Choose faith and you will conquer fear, become fearless, step outside the power of the fearmongers, and become truly and completely you. YOU are the person you were meant to be. YOU are the person you have been waiting for. Dare greatly, live boldly, surrender your burdens to divinity, and reclaim your place on the world stage.

You are needed, you are wanted, you are deserving. Go forth and be great.

I love you.

Normalizing Trauma

Trauma is a very human experience. You can’t live on planet earth and not experience trauma at some point in your life. And the longer your life is the more likely it is that you will experience trauma. There’s different levels of trauma. There is a trauma that is emblazoned on your mind and triggers feelings of panic and depression. And then there are types of lesser traumas that trigger grief sadness or a mild sense of melancholy. These lesser traumas will not leave you in bed for weeks at a time or contemplating suicide like PTSD level trauma. Lesser traumas are the blues, they are the times when you remember something or sometime that hurt you.

As we go through life we either seek help and healing or we push down our traumas deeper and deeper into ourselves until they morph into an illness we didn’t see coming or become a state of permanent melancholy diagnosed as depression and treated with a pill. The important thing about trauma is to recognize it. In all it’s forms it must be recognized, it must be spoken about, it must be brought into the light, and it must be healed. According to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk MD, in his book The Body Keeps the Score, trauma is stored in the body. Only by releasing it from the body are we able to find healing.

The other interesting thing about diving into your trauma work is the reality that your family lineage also holds ancestral trauma, trauma from wars, traumas from sudden deaths, traumas from loss so terrible that they have left a ripple of pain running through your family that shows itself as alcoholism, domestic violence, drug abuse, isolation, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, and even the total avoidance of love, of feeling or interaction with others. Not being seen and not being heard is one of the cruelest forms of child abuse and yet millions of children suffer at the hands of parents completely incapable of feeling.

When we recognize the trauma that we are holding, when we honor it, we subsequently normalize it so it is no longer the skeleton in the closet ready to jump out and disrupt our lives. When we realize that nobody on this planet is playing the victim, and that hurt people hurt people, then we can open our hearts and extend love to even those individuals who seem so bent on trying to create pain. Find forgiveness for yourself and all people, practice self compassion, find a good trauma therapist who will help you uncover your pain and heal it. And honor your path. It wasn’t easy to get where you are but good or bad, you made it.

We are all humans having a human experience in a world that is very difficult to traverse. Let’s normalize mental health issues, let’s really talk about how we’re doing instead of always playing at “JUST FINE .” Let’s normalize the beauty and pain of living. Let’s do this hard thing together.

All my love goes to you as you walk this world. I am your sister in this moment and every other,

E. E. Orme