“We can all make powerful choices. You can take control of your outcome by taking back the power. It’s within our ability to cause everything to change. Rather than letting past hurtful experiences sap our energy and sabotage our success, we can use them to fuel positive, constructive change.” ~Darren Hardy
As my eyes were puffy, I started walking towards the mall from my car. My therapist had just finished a session and I was at a crossroads. Both of us came to the realization that self-punishment is a way I approach almost everything in my life.
As I was crossing the parking lot, all I could think of was: “How could I not see it? What is the point of being so ignorant to my inner dialog and to my actions to punish myself? Do I have a secret masochist mentality? I should do better than this!”
Considering that I used self-sabotage as one of my survival behaviors, coming down on myself for not doing better wasn’t the healthiest next step I could take. It was this time that I realized it, and made a profound realization about the impact of my trauma on my life. It was terrifying, but also liberating.
When we grow up believing that we don’t deserve a lot, or at least not a lot of good stuff, we will subconsciously sabotage anything that creates a vision of a brighter future. Our subconscious can be programmed to reinforce any negative beliefs about ourselves without our awareness. This is how self-sabotage thrives.
For the longest time, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. My brain’s logic knew what I needed. I chose to go down the self-destructive path of drama, self-judgment and complaining. Victimization was my only option.
It would be healthy, for example to leave a relationship that is mentally draining. However, I stayed in a toxic partnership for as long as I could bear until I got so numb that I couldn’t feel anything. Since self-love was a concept I wasn’t familiar with, I found my significance in being disrespected, controlled, and emotionally abused.
Although my logic advised me to run, my survival instinct kept me inside. I could feel the pain and was uncomfortable, but I knew what it was. It was the place of self-hate and constant self-sabotage that I had experienced.
To the outside world, it didn’t make sense. To the left hemisphere of my brain, it didn’t make sense either. However, to my trauma wiring it felt like home. It contained everything I had known and was always available.
Domestic violence can cause us to develop self-destructive thoughts about ourselves and others. We feel unworthiness, shame and guilt and so keep things the same.
Although I kept tolerating situations I didn’t like far more than I felt comfortable admitting, I couldn’t let one question go: “Why do so many of us want to change, but no matter what we do, always end up in the same place with the same drama and same people? Why isn’t logic enough, and what defines true transformation?”
The mission became a quest and I began to research everything that could be done about domestic violence and how it affects children. I knew that my childhood wasn’t the best foundation for a happy and healthy life, but this time I decided to go deeper and get to the root of the problem.
I learned that seeing my mum covered in bruises created feelings of fear, that struggling with her alcohol abuse brought feelings of unworthiness, and that the rough side of my father with his overly disciplined attitude, that lacked empathy, made me believe I wasn’t enough to be loved by him.
Children interpret experiences in a different way than adults. Adults can usually look at their behavior from a distance and decide if the behaviour is related to them. Unfortunately, children don’t have this ability since their brains aren’t fully developed to understand it. They internalize the experiences, believing they’re not loved enough or safe. Then they begin to search for love.
Since I grew up with these beliefs and didn’t address them for most of my life, I subconsciously sabotaged things I wanted because I didn’t believe I deserved them.
Although I had a desire to be an entrepreneur and coach on the outside I felt that it was impossible for me to succeed inside. I could end up in toxic, unhealthy relationships that are full of drama and toxicity. Since I didn’t believe that I was good enough for anything healthy and loving, I would stick around to validate my limiting beliefs of unworthiness. I lived a life of self-sabotage.
After I began to understand the importance of our brain’s wiring in everything we do and how traumatic experiences define our lives if we let them, I knew that only thinking and understanding wouldn’t cut it. If I was to end my self-destructive behavior and transform my life, I needed to be serious.
If you grew up in a household with domestic violence, you’ve experienced trauma of some sort that impacts the healthy development of your brain. Sometimes you may be in constant conflict between what is best for your brain and what is not.
Although the trauma’s impact on our well-being is inevitable, so is the healing that takes place if we commit to it and work through it. Here’s how I did just that.
1. Combine meditation with science to rewire your brain
For a time, I had been familiar with Dr. Joe Dispenza’s work. The power and importance that rewiring your brain has become apparent to me after I had read his first book, You Are The Placebo.
Meditation can help you become more present and lower your brainwaves. When our minds are almost asleep and we have relaxed enough, visualization can be used to activate emotions like love and compassion. This promotes healing. We can also visualize the desired outcomes and feel the joy and excitement that come with achieving them.
Meditating allows you to access your subconscious mind deeper, which can allow us to change our neuropathways or form new habits.
Meditation has been shown to improve our sleep and reduce stress levels. It can also help us self-regulate which can be especially helpful when dealing with trauma.
I started practicing Joe Dispenza’s meditations and set a goal: Every day for the next thirty days, I must do a forty-minute meditation. No excuses, no procrastination. It was game on and I realized that this was a process I needed to fully commit to.
It’s been eight months since I started, and I haven’t stopped my meditations since. Sometimes I miss a few days, but I remember the purpose of my meditations and remind myself how vital it is to heal. It’s not a secret that self-discipline is the highest form of self-love.
2. A therapist is recommended.
A therapist helped me understand my self-sabotage and I was able to accept it. To change, I had to confront my past.
We focused from the very beginning on the issue of sexual assault that I had experienced. My therapy highlighted the realization that my subconsciously punished myself, and I live in shame and guilt. It was the first time I learned about my self-destructive tendencies, and how to end them.
Therapy was my favourite part. I loved learning techniques to soothe myself. My favorite therapy is when I am able to wrap myself in a blanket and take deep breaths while sipping peppermint.
Many of us who have experienced domestic violence or other forms of trauma and abuse don’t know what love or compassion is. Self-soothing was a new concept for many of us who have lived in a world that is constantly chasing survival. We saw ourselves as not worthy and unworthy. While it may feel strange at first, you will soon find that it is a natural part of how you look after yourself.
3. Self-awareness is key to my success.
I signed up for a three-day self-development program that my friends raved about a few months ago. I didn’t expect any significant transformation until the second day of the workshop, when everything started to shift.
The stories I created about my parents and myself made me aware of how I view myself. It also revealed how much I was victimized and unauthentic.
My father and mother were both victims of domestic violence growing up. I was ready to end the curse of the generations and fully own my traumas, insecurities and desperation that resulted. I couldn’t play the victim card anymore since the only person I was playing was myself.
4. My shadows: How to address them
Befriending parts of my personality that I despised was probably the biggest challenge, and frankly, it’s still in the making. However, I found the courage to look at my self-sabotaging behaviors—how I dislike disrespect and abuse but willingly go for more, and how I manipulate people or fear connections. That’s when I began to defeat the monster of self-sabotage and recognized the opportunity of healing.
Our desire to see the light makes us forget the part of ourselves that holds us back. Our resilience to confront the truth can be diminished at times so we try to move on and forget everything that was traumatic. We can learn to be open to the shameful, hurtful things we have experienced and to love those who were affected by trauma and abuse to help us become the warrior that we always dreamed of becoming.
After two years of intense healing and personal growth, I concluded that the only thing that can save us and truly heal us is to learn how to love ourselves, not in spite of what we’ve been through or who we are but because of it.
Today I understand that the resilience I had as a child who faced horrific or traumatic experiences is the same resilience that’s available to me now to help me heal and thrive in life. Every day I learn more about what it means for me to live in the now. I have discovered that the strength and power I once looked at from outside is within me.
About Silvia Turonova
Silvia Turonova, a mindset coach, helps women to build self-confidence and confidence. She hosts a podcast Courage Within You and is passionate about teaching others how to coach themselves. Get her free self-coaching worksheet here.
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Tiny Buddha’s post How I Overcame Childhood Trauma and Stopped Staining My Happiness originally appeared on Tiny Buddha.