One of the things that has made the biggest impact on me in my recovery is using affirmations. I have spent a lifetime telling myself, “I’m not worth it, I’m not enough”, that message has become hardwired in my brain. Nuero Scientists have learned that we can re-wire or over-ride what’s been wired. So, if I tell myself “I am worth it” I can re-wire my brain and that becomes my new go to thought about myself.
The other day I was in traffic and someone honked their car horn. I thought nothing of it. Then it hit me, “hey, I thought nothing of that.” That was growth for me because in the past every car honk was intended for me. In my thinking, “You are a mistake, you can’t do anything right” I would draw the conclusion that somehow, I had done something wrong or offended someone. Since the time I left the Meadows 6 years ago I have been” telling myself, “I have the right to make mistakes” and “I have worth and value” so in that situation my brain was able to go to my new “go to” thought about myself.
One of the first thing I learned at the Meadows was that I have value and worth. To borrow one of their analogies, they said that just like a dollar bill was given value when made I was born with value. No matter what happened to that dollar bill, whether it was torn, trample on, muddied and un-recognizable it was still worth a dollar. It’s the same with me. No matter what I have been through or choices that I have made I still have that same value and worth I was born with. There is nothing I did to earn it and nothing I can do to lose it.
I love word pictures because it’s a quick way for me to remind myself when I am feeling less than …… I can remember “dollar bill” … I have worth and value. I am enough.
I looked in the Thesaurus under affirmations and I found these synonyms;
Assertion, Confirmation, Affidavit, Certification, Declaration, Oath, Okay,
These words stood out to me because in light of affirmation, they have such conviction and certainty. The definition of the word, Affirm, is “to declare the truth of something”. “I am stating that this is true about me.” These words sound like someone who is convicted, certain and convinced. If we commit to telling ourselves what is true about us we will be as convinced, convicted and certain of the truth about ourselves as we have been about the lies, that we are flawed, a mistake or don’t matter.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Understanding how your past affects your present
As a Life Coach, I have a client I’ll call her Jane. I’ve asked her for permission to share this story. Jane stated once that she was sad and discouraged because other students were going through struggles in school, like her, but they didn’t seem to be affected by their struggles as much as she was. This High schooler came from severe neglect in her home. Her Dad had taken his own life when she was 4 and Mom was passed out from drinking when she came home from school each day. Jane didn’t have a mom and dad to help her to learn how to walk through difficult times or help her learn to regulate self or who to ask for help. It made sense that she would deal with things differently than others.
We need to “understand” our past trauma. Understand how your trauma affects your thinking and do not dismiss the impact that it has had and does have on you. Whether it’s big trauma, such as sexual abuse or lots of little trauma’s, like a critical parent, these things have affected your thinking. Our responses to our trauma were hardwired into our brains. This was for our protection. However, sometimes our body still goes back into fight, flight or freeze and we don’t why. This may lead us to feeling flawed. “Why am I reacting this way, no one else seems to”?
Now Going back to my client, Jane needed to understand the role her trauma played in her perspective and response in life, in order to give herself grace and be patient with herself. She wasn’t less than, a mistake, an oddity but rather she had something that her friends didn’t have. Now that she recognizes what that is about she doesn’t need to live in fear of it but can make choices based on it.
So, when you find that you are beating yourself up over something. Take some time and think about it. Ask yourself:
Where have I seen this before?
What am I feeling right now?
Am I feeling shame and where is that coming from?
Asking myself these questions has helped me to be able to work through situations quicker as I see patterns and I have learned that play out for me based on my past. Once I pinpoint the lie I tell myself truth about me.
Journal about it:
You may not have an answer to the questions above, but journaling may open up some understanding for you.
You can share it with your therapist and get his or her insight
You can come back to it later and see patterns
Journaling was instrumental to me in learning what I was feeling. I had shut down my feelings, so I couldn’t have told you what I was feeling when I was at the Meadows. But, I started with writing down memories. Then I went back and assigned feelings to the memories. As I journaled and practiced the few feelings I could tap into then I could then go back to those same memories and feel appropriate feelings for them. That’s when I could really begin healing from my past.
And of course take it to your counselor. He or she can help you recognize past trauma and walk through it.
Understanding how your trauma impacts you will help you to put it in perspective and It becomes more manageable.
Look for and Celebrate your successes
Recently my husband and I went to a play. While he was getting tickets, I asked the doorman where the bathrooms were. In his thick accent he stated that “they’re on all floors.” I have a hearing loss and processing disorder so what I heard was “There are no Floors”. I was trying to make sense of this and he continued to tell me the same thing getting increasingly irritated. When I finally understood he gave me a look that I read as “There is something wrong with you. You are a flawed.” I felt shame and anger as I walked away. By the time we’d been to the bathrooms and took our seats I was very aware that my anger was with myself. “Why didn’t I tell him that I had a hearing issue?” Well, my past had come forward. I lost my voice as a child and certain situations triggered it. I already had shame over my hearing loss and in that moment that little girl was scared and didn’t know how to stand up for herself.
Later, I shared this story and my discouragement over knowing what to do but not doing it with my husband. Then it hit me that I WAS able to recognize who I was angry with and why. I HAD given myself grace and affirmations afterwards. Not only that but since I was able to processes these things, I could enjoy the play without beating myself up over it all night. That was a Success!
We are going to experience setbacks. Be sure to celebrate the successes. Even in the midst of your setback there is probably something that you can celebrate.
Maybe You recognized your pattern sooner. Maybe you were able to stop the lie and affirm yourself afterwards, even days afterwards (it’s never too late.)
Looking for and Seeing accomplishments will help you to see growth and that you are moving forward.
The Importance of Community
I heard that there was a study done on a college campus that had enlisted students to experience a random electrical shock. Their heart rate was measured with each shock. Then they were allowed to have a significant other sit beside them or hold their hand. They again received several random shocks their heart rate was measured again. What was found is that when the volunteer was alone his heart rate was much higher than when with someone close to him.
What researchers are finding is that when we are not connected with others if affects our health as well as when we empathize with others we experience a response similar to a pain response. Its as if we were experiencing it together.
I think the implication is clear on how important it is to have others around us to support us in this tough journey.
We are born wired with the need for relationship. Out of our trauma comes mal-adaptive tools that keep us from having healthy relationships with others. However, we still have a need for closeness and connection.
Finding a community that speaks the language of recovery is important. It is there that you will find others who give you encouragement, the feeling that you are not alone, feedback into your life of successes and things you need to work on. Others to help mirror your worth and value.
When we are vulnerable about our past and present we find there are others like us. We find people who care. We create connection. We are stronger together than apart.
In the book of Ecclesiastes it says…
“Two are better than one …. If either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. Or if two lie down together they keep warm but how can one be warm alone? And if someone can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily torn apart.” Eccl Chpt 4
This is a great picture of the strength of community.
Read or Listen to Audio Books or Podcasts About Co-dependency and Recovery
I was fortunate when I returned from the Meadows to have a counselor who was steeped in recovery. She encouraged me to read books about co-dependency. I was so hungry to understand it and of course in my co-dependency “wanted to do recovery right” that I devoured books she recommended. This was important to my growth because it continued to connect the dots for me and help me understand my thinking and behaviors. Reading these books validated me, helped me release some of my toxic shame and helped me to feel normal. Not only that but reading material about my co-dependency kept me thinking on it. If I’m not active in my recovery, then I find myself falling back into old thinking and actions.
The books I have read range from recognizing co-dependency and helpful “how to’s” to learning about who I am and being ok with it. One of my favorite books I read wasn’t even about co-dependency, but it was just as important in my growth. As a co-dependent I lost my identity and took on who I thought I should be. So, it was important for me to discover who I really am. The book, “Quiet” helped me to do this. I’ve never felt ok with being an introvert, but this book gave me permission to be “quiet” and helped me to feel comfortable in my own skin.
I have a great love for science so some of the books I’ve read like “The Body Keeps the Score”, “Scared Sick” and the “Anatomy of the Soul” have to do with the neuro science behind how and why our past trauma affects us the way it does. And then, how we can repair the damage that’s been done.
There is so much information out there that we have access to. Books and media are a great way to build upon what you have learned.
These are just a few strategies to help you move forward in your recovery. There are so many others that I haven’t touched on such as mindfulness and self-care.
Doing just one of them is great, however, the more you invest in your recovery the stronger and healthier you become. I encourage you to find several things that you can do to help balance out your recovery process and do them every day.
Robert Collier says….
Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. Robert Collier
By Meg Hamilton, Advanced Certified Life Coach