Emotional abuse is nebulous and poorly defined. This makes deciding if we've experienced it only that much more challenging.
If you’re here, you are finally ready to consider the idea that you have experienced trauma, and it is holding you back.
Emotional abuse, codependency and what I call ‘everyday trauma’ are sneaky. They aren’t as easy to spot as physical or sexual violence. Living with constant ridicule, or being controlled, or observing an addicted loved one are all experiences that can cause trauma.
Yet, I’m willing to bet many of you are still on the fence that what occurred to you is trauma. So, let me ask you a few questions to help you decide.
Give yourself a check mark for each of the following you’ve said to yourself in the past:
"What happened to me isn't that bad..."
"If I were stronger, I'd be over this by now...."
"Lots of people have experienced worse...."
"Maybe I really am just lazy/bad/worthless...."
"It happened so long ago, it can't really matter anymore..."
Let me guess...
You checked all of the above. So, let's really look at what that means.
"What happened to me isn’t that bad…"
I know, I know. It really wasn't that serious or ‘only happened a few times’ or ‘wasn’t really a big deal’. You’ve probably dedicated a fair bit of time convincing yourself that you’re just overly sensitive and really could use some toughening up.
We discount our experiences of trauma because they don’t fit in the box of ‘bad enough’ (whatever the hell that means). Society tells us we should just ‘get over it’, or ‘choose happiness’ or something else completely meaningless.
The reality is, trauma is experienced differently by each person. Even what is traumatizing will vary from person to person. There is no standard for what is ‘bad enough’ to constitute trauma.
Trauma isn’t rational- its reactionary. Our bodies react; and our minds are left to make sense of that reaction.
"If I were stronger, I’d be over this by now…."
‘Make me stronger’ is the prayer of the emotionally abused. I cannot count the number of times I have wished I was stronger.
We are strong. We are titans asking to be stronger. I have seen survivors who causally write off taking care of an addict, or being called worthless a thousand times.
The problem isn’t your strength. If anything, you are too damn strong for your own good.
"Lots of people have had the same or worse experiences…"
We have this idea that if other people have the same or a worse experience, it somehow negates our own. ‘Lots of people have alcoholic parents. I have no right to be upset about it.’
Millions of people experience war, famine, disease, does that make it less horrific? This is the exact same logic. Just because lots of people have experienced the same thing doesn’t mean it isn’t trauma.
"Maybe I really am just weak/bad/lazy…"
Many survivors believe they are somehow responsible for their pain. They are ‘bad’ or ‘cursed’ or ‘evil’. When the world gives us awful experiences, we want to make sense of it. We decide it must be because we are somehow deserving.
Further, in crazy situations, we do what is necessary to survive. Often these skills and tools are ultimately destructive if left unchecked. It is common for those effected by trauma to struggle with eating disorders, alcoholism and self-harm. We think these actions are reflections of who we are, when in reality they were simply ways to cope.
"It happened so long ago, it can't matter anymore..."
Trauma doesn't magically go away. It doesn't matter if it happened yesterday or 40 years ago.
If we consider trauma like a wound, if it is never healed it will continue to impact our health and well-being.
Denying your story doesn't change it.
I know these lines because they are universal. We have all repeated them to ourselves a million times. It is time to stop. That is the moment everything will change. There is a way to a better life. But you have to start by believing yourself about what happened and confronting it.
That is the work I do. That is the work we can do together.
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