The disempowerment, disconnection, and shame that are constants for those of us who’ve suffered complex trauma are palpable. In fact, for some of us that’s all we feel. And where well-meaning others try to tell us that fear is in the way of our success…the reality is that shame is our obstacle.
I’ve just come up with a new phrase: the trauma trifecta. That’s how I’m going to refer to the disempowerment, disconnection, and shame that mark our lives as those who’ve experienced repeated wounding in relationships.
I’m going to leave the science to the experts, like neuroscientists and other researches. Let’s talk about the trauma trifecta experience instead.
First we’ve got disempowerment. UGH. It’s like a kick in the gut. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to move forward. Can’t make things happen in the world. Can’t advocate for yourself. Can’t assert your individuality or your independence. And it doesn’t make sense. In some areas of your life, you’re totally capable, even masterful. In other areas of your life, you’re experiencing “failure to launch.” It sucks, literally. Feeling powerless is one of the most defeating feelings I know. It’s like, “Oh I have all this stuff inside of me but I can't figure out how to get it out.” BRICK WALL. BLAH!!!
Second we’ve got disconnection. We’re talking - can’t feel ourselves. Can’t seem to get on the same page with loved ones. Can’t seem to be in relationships that don’t hurt. Feeling isolated and alone, even when the person you love is in bed with you—if you have a significant other. Giving up what you want (if you even know what that is) to make peace. Feeling like you’re not valued, seen, or heard. I’m sure you could add your own bullet points to this list. The bottom line of all this is that we just feel like we’re floating around in the world without any ongoing sense of roots or connection.
Third, and least helpful of all, is our old “friend” shame. I refer to shame as our friend because it’s been with us for a LONG time. Feeling badly about who you are? Shame. Feeling badly about wanting more? Shame. Feeling badly about sharing your truth? Shame. I mean, wherever I turn, that old “buddy” is there, waiting for me to just try to do something I want to do (like have fun) … and reminding me that there’s something wrong with me for every move I make and every word I speak and every thought I think. I mean, I’m fortunate that it isn’t that bad for me anymore, but I know how it used to be. . . And I used to hurt all the time. I was “too much” for some, “too little” for others, and “just right” for shame. It was an incredibly hard way to live. I suffered a lot.
So what do we do with the trauma trifecta?
Some of us have worked our whole lives to put together our broken pieces after our relationships left us tattered and torn from the inside out. Here are three things I can offer to you as invitations to consider:
If it feels right for you, if you’re curious about it and want to do this… Begin to focus on your breath. Maybe you notice the pace of your breath. Maybe you notice the depth of your breath. If there is something else that you’d prefer to notice, please choose what works for you.
Wherever you are, maybe seated, maybe standing… see if you can become aware of the surface beneath you. Possibly tune into the sensations that you may be experiencing. You may be experiencing no sensation at all. Your experience is valid, and whatever it is, it’s just right for you.
If you’re ready, ask your body what he or she needs right now. You may hear a clear answer. You might hear something that doesn’t make any sense to you at all. You may near nothing. Simply become aware of your experience … and from there you may choose to take action or not to take action.
Healing from complex trauma is possible. I believe that our deepest wounds happen in relationship and our greatest healing also happens in relationship. But when it’s hard to trust yourself, almost impossible to believe that you can have what you want, and other people tell you that you need to do X, Y, or Z…which just feels traumatic in and of itself…where do you turn? Where are the safe people? Where are the healthy relationships?
If you’re interested, stay tuned…I’ll share in my next post how to discern safe people.