Do you know what the biggest obstacle to healing Complex PTSD is? It’s not your parents. It’s not the health care system. It’s not politics or money or social media.
The reason you are getting stuck is most probably because you keep sabotaging yourself. You block your own healing with self-defeating behaviors.
We all do it sometimes, and up to a point, we can probably keep making progress anyway. But the fact is, a lot of people with CPTSD are walking around NOT healing, still being stuck, getting more stuck, more disconnected, more angry, and more suppressed from ever becoming the person they were meant to be.
Here are things you can do right now to stop sabotaging your healing, and to start changing the direction of your life:
Stop isolating. If you’re like most people with CPTSD, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you get extra triggered by other people. This can make it hard to show up with an open heart and an open mind in social situations, and to connect with other people in ways that support your healing. There’s this huge temptation to pull back from other people. You might be isolating overtly, hiding out in your house. Or you might be isolating covertly and acting like you’re available and friendly, but secretly avoiding invitations and commitments.
Either way, the result is the same: You’re alone. And as much as you may find it hard, you need to interact with other people so that you can progress in your healing.
Isolation is funny — it’s caused by trauma, and it causes trauma. I know a bunch of you are going to say isolating is the only way to stay safe from the kind of mistreatment you went through in the past — and in one way you’re right! If you don’t have contact with people you can’t be mistreated. But you can’t heal.
So there comes a time when you’ve got to stop causing yourself trauma and let people in a little bit.
What I suggest to you is that you “titrate.” That’s a word I’ve borrowed from the medical world that means, roughly, taking on just a tiny bit at at time. You try a little interaction, then see how you do. Then try a little more interaction, and see how you do. As you practice interacting, you can get stronger and more flexible around people by learning to calm your people triggers. (If you want a way to do that, you can take my free course, The Daily Practice, which teaches you two simple techniques you can use every day to less stress and more freedom to connect with people and be yourself).
Get unstuck from your sad stories. I know! You were told that telling these stories and exploring them and feeling your feelings about them (if you could just do it enough times and for enough years) that someday you’d feel better. If that worked, and you’re just watching this video about how to stop sabotaging your healing “for a friend” then great!
But if you feel that you’ve already told your story, felt the feelings and learned what you can about the past, maybe it’s time for a new approach to healing that brings your attention to present time, and how to calm dysregulation and other symptoms that harm you. It’s a happy story that you want to live in now, right?
The trauma did happen to you. People hurt you, and for a long time it suppressed you and held you back.
But now, let your story be about you — not the people who hurt you, and not about the past! Let your attention come to present time.
There is definitely a time and a place to talk about what happened and it can be very healing when it’s the right time, and in the right measure.
But I have not found that talking (and talking and talking) about it continues to deliver positive results. The past needs to be acknowledged and shared — AND we need to feel better today, and create a life that we like.
We want to connect with other people, to love and be loved by them. And the thing is – when the sad stories are dominating our lives, we can’t really do that. We’re not present, we can’t really pay attention to the lovely person right in front of us. We don’t’ tend to have good boundaries. And to be perfectly honest, we’re negative to be around!
So I’m not telling you to deny what happened, but if you’ve talked it to death and you still feel like your healing is stuck, maybe all that talking has turned to self-sabotag. Maybe it’s time to focus on you, now, and ways you can start making things better in your work, in your relationships, in your sense of meaning. Those are important.
Stop the angry outbursts of negative emotions. Now I know, you have things to feel angry about. What happened to you can’t be erased. But there’s an anger that’s common with CPTSD that can be made monster-sized when you’re overwhelmed or feeling threatened. And no matter how perfectly you can trace why you feel that way, raging can do no good.
It turns out that whole idea of pounding pillows when you’re angry (was that ever suggested to you?) Researchers at Iowa State University showed what many of us suspected: It not only doesn’t reduce anger, it makes it WORSE.
Nothing will destroy your relationships, your career and your mental health faster than lashing out from that traumatized place.
If you were traumatized as a kid, I don’t even have to explain this to you. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve done it. It’s almost certainly been done to you. And it’s poison.
So yes, there are reasons to be angry — there are present day things that might make you legitimately angry — when you’re insulted or cheated and so on. And there are past things that happened that weren’t fair, that you feel damaged you, or robbed you of a wholeness you worry you’ll never find. I don’t blame you for having anger.
But here’s the thing: What happened to you can never be totally set right because it’s in the past. You can’t change the past. And so you’re healing depends ultimately on you facing this reality. You do what you can about the past, and then with every bit of energy you have left, forge a happy life today.
Your happiness doesn’t depend on getting revenge or getting an apology. You probably will never have that. But you can become happy by not damaging your life any more. You can be happy by blossoming into your real self, being you, using your talents and developing your gifts so that you can work and give love, and serve the world in the unique way only you can.
We can do it in a thousand ways, but we need to be useful. And from there, the anger has a way of working itself out of your heart, out of your mind, out of your cells, so that you can be free.
End bad relationships. If you’re going to heal you’ve got to stop being in abusive, chaotic, disrespectful, non-mutual, bread-crumb relationships.
To keep seeking them out is insane. To stay in them is spiritual death. When you know something is killing you (or harming the other person) but you stay anyway, there is an injury to your integrity and self-respect that will sabotage anything else you’re trying to do.
Are there ever reasons to stay? Sometimes, perhaps where there are children or an illness involved, for example. I’m not going to list them here, I’m just suggesting you look at the fact ( and I know you know this) that when you believe that you have no choice but to stay in an abusive, exploitive or damaging relationship, it’s probably your past trauma talking.
For you to heal, some stronger part of you needs to rise up and see the situation for what it is, and get you out of there.
Stop running away from challenges and opportunities. How many times have you turned away from a potentially good thing — a job, a relationship, telling someone how you feel about them — because you had to fear that your CPTSD symptoms would just rise up and destroy you if anything went badly.
Getting out there and living our lives always, always involves the risk of failure. And the horrible thing about living with dysregulation and CPTSD is that failure is a risk we feel we can’t take.
What’s needed to cope with failure — and to avoid sacrificing everything good when we seek to avoid failure — is a way to offload that tsumami of emotion sufficiently to tolerate those emotions. When your CPTSD is totally untreated and you’re dysregulated and life is shaky you can’t afford to lose anything. So you don’t try. But when you’re active in the process of healing, when you’re supported by a friend or two (or three) who know what your challenges are, who know why it’s so worth it for you to keep taking your next brave steps, when you know how to calm your triggers… you can afford to take the risk.
The only way to grow and learn is to try things. And the only way to bear the possibility that most of what you try won’t work out is to just embrace yourself as someone who tries, and to have a really good way to find ease inside when you fail.
It’s bearable when life is hard, when there’s ease in your heart. That’s what you didn’t used to have but now you can have it. You have freedom to try because there’s ease available to you. If you haven’t found a way to give that to yourself I can teach you — it’s in the free course where I’m always pointing you.
The victory to reach for is MORE than just feeling better. The victory is that you become your real self — not held back but free to grow into ALL you are capable of becoming.
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You can learn the calming techniques I describe in my free course THE DAILY PRACTICE.