I’ve learned so much from the community that’s gathered around my YouTube channel. I’ve noticed that comments are usually one of two kinds, and one of them is from people who still feel stuck in their early trauma.
At it’s heart, Childhood PTSD is an injury to the ability to connect. From this injury, come so many of the life problems that are common for people who went through early abuse and neglect.
So to recover from that injury, I teach people a new way to focus their healing — to shift the focus off the past and other people, and onto their own symptoms, because that’s where healing becomes possible.
Even though my message is like a drumbeat, I still get a lot of comments and e-mails from people who are on a different path, saying they’re stuck in a lot of pain. In case you’re in that group and you just haven’t come to one of my courses yet or my coaching or one of my Zoom calls, I want to tell you how to get out of the stuck group and into the other group — the group that’s not stuck, that’s healing, and that’s changing their lives.
I’m not a doctor or therapist; I’m just someone who recovered from my own Childhood PTSD and I’ve learned from reading and from experience — my own healing and my work with thousands of people who went through neglect and abuse in their childhood,. I’ve watched some people have amazing breakthroughs and I’ve witnessed other people stay miserable and stuck and disconnected.
Within each of the groups – those who are healing, and those who are currently stuck — I’ve noticed two basic self concepts at work. The “healers” are usually working hard to figure out the problem caused by their experiences, and to find the solutions that seem to help them get better. Not everything they’ve tried may have been helpful, but they’re active in this project, noticing where they get lifted up and where they fall short. When they comment on videos, they’ll share nuggets of wisdom like “I tried X, Y and Z, and X was not that great but Y was amazing.”
There are clear signs when someone is healing. They get along better with people, they feel more at ease in groups or when they’re alone, and their talents and gifts start emerging and filling up their lives with joy and purpose and helpfulness to other people.
For this first group, they’re subscribing to my channel because (this is what they tell me) it’s practical, it’s solution-oriented, and it’s based on not just theory, but real experience to which they can relate. They feel seen and not alone. For people who are having a breakthrough in their healing like this, it’s exciting to try out new tools and ideas, and see if there’s something in there they can use. They want inspiration. They want action steps. They’re ready to begin.
You can tell I like that group, right?
Believe me, I love the second group too! The “stuck” ones are folks where the breakthrough hasn’t happened yet. They’re good people. They’ve worked hard on their healing, and a lot of them are knowledgeable about the treatments out there and they’ve tried a lot of them. But in this group, the healing never came. And so they’re often really, really discouraged. They’ve come to feel helpless and hopeless. All of this really shows in the comments they write.
Deep down inside, this second group has stopped believing that healing is possible for them, leaving them with nothing but bitterness. People who are going through this will have a lot to say about things outside of themselves — their family members, exes, people who said they would help but didn’t, or the hospitals or institutions that made them feel unimportant and unseen.
They can tell you very clearly what’s wrong with all of this, what ought to change, and what their pain is like.
But, in this discouraged and stuck group, what’s also clear is that they have a very vague or nonexistent concept of themselves – or specifically, what they’d be like without the emotional pain. The pain becomes everything, as if it’s who they ARE, making it so they can’t see themselves in a different, future state where things have changed for the better. They can’t imagine it, what day-to-day life would feel like if they weren’t trapped inside their own symptoms.
Getting stuck in pain and isolation is a very “traumatized” thing to do. It can happen to anybody. But if you want to break out, you’ve got to “break the wheel” (you might recognize this phrase from another context).
What I mean by “wheel” is the churning, negative thinking and emotional states that go round and round — the blame, the obsession with people who hurt you, the withdrawal from life, the struggles, the failures, the ways you were never accepted or seen, and the stories you tell yourself over and over, about why you are the way you are.
It’s not that these stories are untrue, necessarily, but if you can’t stop the spinning, the wheel just gets stronger. It’s like a centrifuge — something spinning that throws off and scatters everything that comes near it — people who love you, wonderful opportunities, financial security, joy… just thrown away.
The wheel is very seductive, and that’s why I used this metaphor. You can’t just slow the wheel down. You don’t ask it a lot of questions or analyze the trajectory of everything it flings. Sometimes you just have to shove a big stick in there and break it! (And if this sounds like a violent image, don’t worry; the wheel is made of air and when you break it the whole thing evaporates like a cloud!)
You thought the wheel was a form of strength and could protect you. But it actually just keeps you stuck in pain, and makes you see nothing but helplessness.
The truth is, you’re not helpless. There’s a whole wide world of experiences out there if you can get a little breathing room from that cycle of fear and anger, analysis and diagnosis, blame and fear.
Thinking and talking about this stuff doesn’t make it go away. It can go away (and remember all you need is just a little bit of breathing room) when you can release the story, if just for a moment, and open yourself up to a fresh and new experience of yourself and your capabilities, in present time.
The focus needs to come off of time past and other people, and onto the only thing you can heal, which is yourself, and the knowledge that right here, right now, through practical steps, you can open the door to that healing process by changing your mental state.
You are not helpless. You can be hopeful.
For there to be hope, you need to have a vision, an ideal; you need to have a belief that healing is possible inside, whether or not other people change, or circumstances change.
This is the crucial sign that someone is on a good path: they recognize their own agency. They begin to see choices even when CPTSD puts nothing but hard choices in front of them.
You have a choice, and despite the symptoms you have today, you can move, one foot in front of the other, toward the healed life you deserve. You can choose to learn a new way to respond to the inevitable stressors and hardships of life.
Life’s going to keep throwing this stuff at you, but you can change anyway. It starts inside, in the way you regard the possibility of your own healing. Can you see it? Do you believe it’s possible, that things could be better and easier in the future than they are right now? Are you willing to make some changes, starting with the way you talk to yourself about your trauma?
Because if you’re telling yourself you’re hopelessly screwed up, then whether you mean to or not, you’re disconnecting with your life and all the people in it. People generally have a lot of compassion but when they sense that negative wheel spinning, they pull away. Then the very thing you’re longing for can’t happen for you. You’re like “Why can I not get some support? Why doesn’t anyone believe in me? Can’t they see I need some help?” It’s a harsh place to be.
How do you even begin? This is one of the reasons Childhood PTSD and CPTSD are so hard. They can make even little steps seem overwhelming, and when there’s a whole list of things to do it can be paralyzing.
But if today, you can just do one thing — I’ll keep it really simple for you — just get it into your mind, what it will feel like, when your PTSD reactions to life are reduced.
You want to give it a try? Let’s take a minute and walk you through it. Imagine you’re in a stressful situation, like a party, being at work, getting your feelings hurt. Pick something that’s hard for you and that’s likely to be in your future.
Now remember what it’s like when you start getting dysregulated and reactive to the situation… You feel tight, your heart races, you want lash out, maybe you start getting numb, and you get scared that same old part of you that always comes out when you’re triggered, is going to happen one more time.
OK, let that go for a moment.
Now imagine you’re in that same situation, but this time your PTSD symptoms are 50% less than before. You feel a little rise when you’re triggered, but it doesn’t go over the top. You don’t lose control. You still have choices about the words you say, your body language and facial expressions. You can decide not to say anything in the moment.
Would 50% reduction in symptoms change how that all turned out? Would you be able to express yourself better? Would you be able to stay present, and keep your choices? Could relationships survive without damage, even though your feelings get hurt? Would that make a difference in your life, if you could do that long term, whenever stressful situations came up?
If the answer is yes, then congratultions! You just joined the ranks of the first group I mentioned — the ones who can see a better future, and who are more likely than anyone else to actually make it there!
It starts by allowing yourself to believe that you are capable of changing your life. See if you can let that in today. You can sit with that, or you can take more steps. I’ve got courses you can check out in the links below.
Stop telling yourself the terrible story of your life. You “break the wheel” when you believe and connect with a better vision of yourself, and start taking action on it.
You. Can. Change!
If you think you may have Childhood PTSD, take my quiz here.
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