Hi everyone, this week I’ve released a video and article about emptiness, and the surprising way we can come to feel fulfilled. As you’ll see in the video, especially near the end, I feel very strongly about this.
Everyone feels a sense of emptiness sometimes, but people with Childhood PTSD are especially prone to it. It’s one of the classic adult symptoms of early trauma. And like most trauma symptoms, it has roots in your brain development as well as your psychological development.
This is the final article/video in my Resilience series, where I’ve talked about eight big obstacles to healing the effects of childhood trauma, as well as the strengths we can develop to heal anyway. By obstacles, I mean our own negative tendencies. There’s a pattern with Childhood PTSD; everyone’s a little different but you see these eight obstacles crop up over and over again. The one I want to talk about today is the feeling of emptiness.
Do you ever get that?
Everyone feels it sometimes, but people with Childhood PTSD are especially prone to it. It’s one of the classic adult symptoms of early trauma. And like most trauma symptoms, it has roots in your brain development and your psychological development.
If you were hurt or ignored as a baby, there’s an important part of your development, the connecting part — that may have had a setback, a neurological delay. And if you were abused, laughed at, constantly afraid, forced to hide your real thoughts and feelings — there was a whole lot of stuff that wasn’t happening when you were a kid, when you were MEANT to be developing into a fully feeling, thinking, connected person.
What wasn’t happening? Maybe things like being held and unconditionally loved — or loved enough… or expressing yourself and getting a response — talking, laughing, making jokes — or doing something that showed a special talent. We’re meant to get that love shining at us so that we can KNOW, really know, that we BELONG in our family, and we belong in this world.
That’s the ideal, and a lot of us had some funky version of that, or a really broken version of it. And I think that’s a big source of the empty feeling. I think it’s behind the really common fear that we’re going to end up homeless, and I think it’s a big reason people do become homeless. Whether it’s wiring or conditioning, the connections that are supposed to come naturally, don’t, Connection is hard, and you know, with the way we grew up, in many ways we don’t actually fit in.
I can tell you that the empty feeling that used to just seize me up before my own healing from Childhood PTSD had a lot to do with the feeling of abandonment. Even when I didn’t want to be connected to somebody, anything they did that felt like leaving would set off the terrible state that Pete Walker calls the “Abandonment Melange”, which he describes as “ the terrible emotional mix of fear and shame that coalesces around the deathlike feelings of depression that afflict an abandoned child.” For me, feeling abandoned was just like that. I might not even like someone but if they say “I think this isn’t working” it really was fear and shame and Deathlike feelings!
So I’m here to give hope. First of all, I’m here to tell you if I can heal from all that, so can you. First I learned to heal my brain, and then I learned to heal my thinking and my behavior that had gone off track BECAUSE of my dysregulated brain. It took me about 20 years, and if you’re interested you can go a lot faster that than that because I put it all in a course and walk you step-by-step through the process. I put a link at the end of the article if you want to take that course.
You’ll hear me say in all my courses, that when we’ve got our brain and emotions more balanced, we’re on a level playing field with people who never experienced trauma. But we’re also in a position, for the first time perhaps, to do something extraordinary. And that’s to develop our gifts.
So what do I mean by gifts. I am using an understanding I learned from a mentor of mine, Father Michael Sweeney, and his work at the Siena Institute. He did a tremendous job bringing the idea of spiritual gifts to people in a religious context. I discerned my own gifts with his guidance, and over the years have found that virtually everyone, religious, spiritual and atheist, instinctively understands the basic validity of this idea — that gifts are unusual abilities with which we are endowed, that came to us seemingly out of nowhere.
Now gifts are not exactly the same things as talents. You might have a talent for playing the piano, and you play a certain piece so perfectly that people listening will say “That was incredible! You didn’t miss a single note!” If a gift is at work, you’ll know not by your technical expertise necessarily — (in fact if music is your gift, you may not have learned to play anything yet, so you have no way of knowing what your gift is yet!). But when a gift is operating in someone playing the piano, you’ll know it by the effect it has on others.
You may have a room full of listeners with tears running down their cheeks. People will tell you how your work affected them. They might say “I am so moved by what you played.” And if you’re a teacher with a gift, your students might say “You made me want to learn more, you made me want to be a better person.”
Have you ever met a doctor or nurse who has technical expertise, but no gift for healing? And likewise, have you encountered someone who does have that gift? There’s something about them, beyond their talent and knowledge, that affects you. Now what are the gifts. Some common gifts you’ve probably noticed in others are healing, teaching, writing, music, art, wisdom, knowledge, encouragement, hospitality, leadership.. There are more but those are some examples. And everyone has at least one gift, maybe two or occasionally even three.
The reason gifts show themselves in the way we affect others is because they were given to us for the benefit of others. Not everything about us is for the benefit of others. Some things are for survival and some things are just fun hobbies. And though you might enjoy your gift, it doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Even when your gift is something you do alone, it is something that ultimately benefits others.
And you may not have found your gift yet — it’s not always obvious — or you may not be very good at it yet. But here’s the thing; everyone has a need to use their gifts in order to feel truly happy. Doesn’t this resonate as something you’ve always known? You have gifts, and you need to use them.
And you may need to be around people with complementary gifts — because some gifts are meant to work in tandem. People as a whole have many different gifts because how it works — it truly takes all kinds to bring about good in the world. And I’ll be making a course about this next year so if you’re interested, you can sign up for first-access in the links below — there’s going to be a lot of links there today!
But I’m talking to you about this in light of Childhood PTSD, because I think this is the great tragedy of child trauma. Something gets damaged, and among all things that this damage will cost that child throughout her life, perhaps the worst is that it will suppress her gifts.
And not only will this prevent her from feeling like herself and purposeful with all she is capable of, but it will deny the rest of us the gift which she was meant to share with us — the art, the wisdom, the insight — whatever her gift is — that all people, all the world were meant to receive. It’s like fabric. When we’re all sharing our gifts it’s like a fabric but it’s still full of holes because of all the people who can’t contribute yet because they’re hungry, they are trapped in abuse, or in some way not free! We need a context that lets us develop these gifts. But imagine! Imagine a world where everyone becomes fully their real selves, and becomes able to share their gifts with all of us?
And so this is what I believe: We heal from Childhood PTSD not JUST for the healing itself — The purpose of our healing is so that we can develop our gifts and share them. It’s what we were made for. So we need to heal, and when we’re healed, we need to help create conditions where other people can heal and this is no simple thing but as just one person, you don’t need to make the entire thing happen, you just need to bring your gifts into the world, and discover the role that you were meant to play among many poeple, in the beautiful unfolding of this wonderful world, where somewhere in your heart you know, is where you’ve always belonged.
There is darkness out there. But through healing, we bring light. We bring the light and increase the love in the world –increase the healing of what happened, healing toward something good that never even existed before. Something new comes through our healing.
So. Let your love and healing grow in you. Let it out. Let it spread back in time to love and heal those who suffered with Childhood PTSD in the generations before us. Send your protective love and healing into the future, to all the people who are here now, and all the people yet to come.
There will always be suffering. And there will always be those of us who understand, because of our own suffering. And so let’s be there for them, the ones who will feel alone, like we sometimes do. That’s why we’re here.
This is why we heal from the past, for this purpose, to now bring love and light to all living things in this world. Merry Christmas to everybody, and happy, happy holidays to each one of you. I’m so glad you’re on this road with me!
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