If you follow me online you know I teach that Childhood PTSD is, at it’s root, a brain injury, and that therefore, resilience begins with healing the brain. This comes as a HUGE relief to most people with Childhood PTSD. It explains so much. They feel understood for the first time, and give themselves over to the work of healing. And then… obstacles appear!
And mostly, they come from (of all places) within. It’s normal, but if we don’t build strengths to overcome inner obstacles, we get stuck again.
In this Resilience series I’m talking about eight common inner obstacles to healing, and how to overcome them. And the first and harshest obstacle is fear.
This is not some lecture where I tell you “Just don’t have fear” — that’s not how it works. This piece is about where fear comes from, what it really does to us (and it’s worse than you think) AND, what to actually DO to get free of of your fear.
No one tells you how to actually lose the fear– have you noticed? Lots and lots of celebrities and athletes and self-help gurus tell you not to have fear, and it sounds so appealing. But when you have Childhood PTSD? Normal person advice can’t even tough you. How many times have you felt like something was double wrong with you, because a) you’re falling apart and b) what works for everyone else doesn’t work at all for you.
What works for people who don’t have Childhood PTSD sounds right, but doesn’t work for me. When they said they found help in therapy I used to think they were lying. Their advice for me was like water running through my fingers. I couldn’t hold it. Nothing happened. It couldn’t even touch the problem inside.
And so if you’re like me, you have tried and tried to act like other people, to handle yourself with less anxiety and panic and more confidence to get out there and try things and meet people and enjoy yourself.
But you’re never 100% successful because PTSD is hard! Honestly, when my brain is dysregulated, people are so stressful to be around! That people-stress is overwhelming. It used to drive my whole life before I recovered. I don’t think people could see what a low-level freakout was always under the surface — but if they got to know me, they saw it soon enough.
I wanted to be around people, and I had a whole way of acting lighthearted to cover up my heavy-heartedness. I didn’t want to be a drag and I didn’t want to seem weak. I pretended to be tough — probably too tough. I tried to be funny — and I was funny , which was handy for fitting in and hiding my sensitivity. It also made me seem insensitive, but at least people saw me as confident.
I would just like to say that appearing confident is not the end-all be-all of being successful, by the way. The thing about convincing people that you have it all together is that they can’t see when you need help. You don’t get the support you need and if you try go without help and then hit your limit and start yelling and demanding that people help you NOW? That also doesn’t work all that well to get you the support you need either.
The worst thing about fear — and I don’t mean the useful kind of fear that gets you out of danger, or helps you to be realistic — I mean the kind of fear that keeps you trapped in your mind, thinking you’re not good enough, worried about random possibilities in the future, tripping about what people are thinking or about your or what they’re about to do — this kind of fear is essentially a fantasy. And living in fantasy means you’re not living in reality, and reality is where you’ve got to be if you want to actually love people and be loved and solve real problems feel good about yourself and serve the world.
Living in a scared fantasy that everything’s bad and people are doing this to you — means you’re not really here. If you feel like your life is passing you by, this could be why. This was definitely what was happening for me.
There was this one day — and my whole life is divided between the time before that day, and after that day — when this woman I knew asked if i wanted her to show me how to get rid of fear.
And it’s funny, I needed that so badly but I was defensive. I didn’t quite understand that fear was what was driving me almost 100% back then. I was walking around terrified all the time basically, that any moment, people were going to pull away from me for reasons I didn’t even know. Maybe I was inapproriate somehow, or hurt their feelings, or was too needy, or I don’t know! Maybe I was awful!!! Having my brain and emotions dysregulated all the time from Childhood PTSD made it hard for me to just know what was what or to be aware of my effect on others, or to act appropriately. . I could see it by the expression on other people’s faces — I’d be like, did I just say something wrong? And that’s one of the hardest things about the effect of early trauma — is you don’t know! You don’t have a normal sense of what’s weird and what’s OK.
So I have good news: You don’t have to live like this. You don’t have to make this your life story. And in fact, under all that fear, you have a real self inside that knows exactly who you are, and what you came into this life to do.
The abuse and neglect happened, but they ARE. NOT. YOU. You are not “depression” and you are not “addiction” and you are not “isolation.” You are not an “anger problem” and you’re not a “magnet” for narcissists, abusers or any other kind of hurtful person. You experienced trauma, but you are NOT your TRAUMA.
What happened to you is sad, and it’s real. Your story began long before the trauma happened, and it will go on a long time after you get free. And what will characterize your freedom is that your trauma will stop being who you are, and become instead what it is — a memory.
And believe me, memories are heavy enough with actually wearing them as who you are!
I promised I’d show you the techniques to start getting free. Happily, you’ll find they’re very gentle. They start working immediately and produce great change over time. They’re free, and you get to keep control over the process. You can even quit — I have many times.
Often, these techniques will give you a big burst of freedom from fear right then and there. Other times it’ll seem like you’re not getting very far. The healing happens quickly and slowly at the same time, and the result is that you get be right here where you belong, freer, stronger, and more your true self.
When you have less fear, your whole life opens up to good things. All that love inside you can be shared more; it’s not all bogged down with sadness and craving to get that unconditional love and care you never received as a kid. You might find you feel more self-contained and content, not so out of control. And if you continue using the techniques regularly, your natural talents and gifts will emerge and show themselves in new and wonderful ways. And that, my brothers and sisters, is where the joy begins.
Maybe you’ve tried it, or maybe you’ve just heard me talk about “the Daily Practice” — the writing and meditation technique I had the outrageous fortune to learn 25 years ago, which propelled me to where I am now. I teach the Daily Practice (how to do it, and how I learned it) in a free mini-course and you can access it in the links below.
Learn the techniques if you like, and then keep coming back to my blog and YouTube channel so you can see my posts and videos about more strengths you can use to overcome inner obstacles. On the other side of those obstacles is freedom — the freedom to try things, to make mistakes, and above all, to become your real self.
You can register here for my free online mini-course, The Daily Practice, here.
Register my FULL online course, Healing Childhood PTSD, here.
Not sure if you have Childhood PTSD? Take the Quiz.
If you like learning about Childhood PTSD through videos, you’ll love my YouTube Channel.