Updated: Jul 11, 2022
You know your own childhood influenced the person you are now.
You know your insecurities.
My question is, what are you doing to move forward?
It’s pretty widespread the understanding that our own childhood affected who we are as adults. The good, the bad and the ugly.
How we were spoken to, how our caregivers responded to our needs, how we were validated or not in our emotions… and more… all contributed to how we feel about ourselves and how we perceive the world around us.
This isn’t to point fingers at our caregivers or to place blame - because once we are aware of this, it’s our responsibility to make changes to move forward, instead of staying stuck in the past and looking back.
But how do you start?
Conscious awareness is the starting point. What that means is, noticing how you react to people and situations. What are the stories that tend to run through your head in any given situation? Did you know that the thoughts you have are learnt? They aren’t actually yours. They don’t belong to you. They were created as a child to keep you safe or they were what you heard other people say to you.
Let me give you an example that I think many mothers will be able to relate to, but those who aren’t, will also see this show up in how they react to their partners and friends.
A coupe of years ago when I was in the thick of my mental health struggles I used to find it overwhelming to even get the children out of the door for groups. It would be a struggle to get them ready due to age appropriate resistance and them wanting to play. Something simple happening that affected the flow of my morning would completely send me into a spiral. I would always ensure I had plenty of time for the unexpected, but even when that unexpected happened it would take its toll.
It would be something like this: trying to get my eldest to get ready (5 and more than capable of getting himself dressed while I got the baby ready). I would come back to find him playing and still in his pyjamas - which can happen, they’re young and can be distracted. The pressure began building as I saw the time. The thoughts begin,
‘Why won’t he just get ready, he can do this.’
So I would help him by putting his clothes on for him. Trying to be calm because I know that getting angry or upset doesn’t help the situation. I would feel the tension begin to build in my chest and throat. New thoughts of, ‘He is more than capable of doing this, why won’t he help me?’
With each thought the tension in my body would rise. I would then find the baby has done a poo and he decides that today, he would rather roll around than get his nappy changed.
‘Why won’t he just stay still. It would be so much quicker for everyone if he did. I need to get everyone ready.’
I would be getting the lunch ready and notice that my husband had forgotten to put the lunch box in the dishwasher the night before. ‘Why is it always me that has to think about these things?’
By this time I was really trying to keep a lid on what I was feeling; anger, resentment, stress because of being late… The tension in my chest, the pulsating of my heartbeat so noticeable and a restriction around my throat as I tried to hold it all together. I would notice I would become jittery, moving around quickly and frantically.
‘Why can’t I cope?
Why is this so difficult?
Why can no one see that I’m struggling?
Why does no one help me?
Our bodies learn how to interpret the world from what our brain communicates to it and also to any danger that they perceive based on past experiences and also danger signals (which are varied and complex, for further reading on this The Polyvagal Theory is a good place to start).
So what was happening for me above? Part of my stories that I used to tell myself and believe, were that I was alone. That I wasn’t considered. That I expected people to know my needs without ever needing to communicate them. These stories had been created by what we can call ‘the ego’. A part of us created by the age of 7 which looks for patterns in the world to determine how we see our place in it. This pattern and predictability keeps us ‘safe’, in the sense that we know what to expect. Of course this can create a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. It can keep us trapped in patterns and behaviours that keep us stuck and not moving forward in life.
Being aware of what those stories are, writing them down and recognising them when they show up in any area of your life is what is meant by conscious awareness. Telling yourself, that you are safe, that this is an ego story can help with the next stage.
The next step is to notice what happens to your body. What sensations can you feel? Staying with those sensations and allowing them to move through your body rather than holding them in, helps to move the energy through.
Is there anyone you can talk to about what you are feeling and experiencing (ensuring they are only listening and not advising or giving their opinion)? Can you journal about it? Maybe speaking out loud all the experiences that are happening and soothing yourself that this will pass?
I found for me shaking and sounding helps release the energy. If I need to cry, honour that.
The important piece is to break the loop.
What’s the loop? Your nervous system will react to a perceived threat - which is whatever the thoughts and stories are running through your head. When the nervous system is activated, so is the limbic system (emotions), and then you get trapped in feelings of anger and frustration, the nervous system continues to respond, at which point you’re likely to do something you don’t want to like shout, say something hurtful or run away. Then comes the guilt and shame and because of this, the nervous system is continued to be activated and so the cycle continues.
So my invitation to you is…
Listen to yourself.
You have the wisdom to break the cycle.
You have the wisdom to take a break and pause.
You have the wisdom to listen to what’s going on in your body and respond how it needs you to.
You are your own best healer.
How about you?
What are the stories that run through your head?
What sensations can you feel when you begin to listen to those stories?
Have you learnt to just observe them?
Have you written them down and know that they are not you?
How do you soothe your nervous system once it becomes activated?
Let me know in the comments.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.