I hope that you are doing well.
Here is my long-awaited newsletter. I was delayed a bit because I have accepted some temporary work in my previous field, that I am doing alongside my continually growing coaching practice. In this transition, I am seeking the right balance in my weekly schedule.
All of which is awesome for a few different reasons, but that is a topic for another newsletter. Here’s what I want to share about today: I had an illuminating experience yesterday that was a real-time illustration of what unresolved developmental trauma does to us – or in us – all the time.
Developmental trauma interferes with and fundamentally changes your relationship with your needs and feelings. And since your feelings are your organic built-in GPS for your life, both from moment to moment and in terms of the big picture, this disruption in your relationship with your feelings also interferes with the direction of your life in uncountable ways.
The other thing developmental trauma does is that it covers its tracks.
Each of us had an experience (or many experiences) of feeling
and terrified –to where we needed to basically check out and put that whole awful emotional package into hiding and cover ourselves with a veneer of ok-ness.
It’s a built-in feature of developmental trauma and human design that we hide from ourselves even the fact that the disruption and pain are there. As we discover bit by bit that, “Oh wow, I really am terrified and messed up inside and in pain, who knew?” we continue to hide from ourselves the depth and breadth of that pain. Each of us allows ourselves to only be aware of a degree of pain that is tolerable (even though it doesn’t always feel tolerable.)
One of the practices that I use regularly and encourage everyone to use is the “I am who also” practice
One of my statements for this week is this:
“I am a trusted and trustworthy role model and teacher for people struggling with trauma who also struggles with fear, collapse, and embarrassment.”
You’ve seen me share about my struggles many times. Still there’s a battleground inside me on this topic. There is a strong pull to not share my struggles or to not share the size and scope of them.
In theory, I know that I have deep layers of pain that I have only glimpsed. I know it because that’s how developmental trauma works, that’s what it is. Recently I have been doing some work with my terror and shame that’s taken me into these disconnected, non-verbal, non-cognitive places. I can feel that there is more, that I’ve just stepped a few inches into the room, and the room may be a cavern a mile deep.
And yet when I work with my clients and they feel seen and understood and have insights and shifts and when people use my recordings and tell me how helpful they are, there is some part of me that says, “See, I’m good now, I’m still doing my work but I’m really in an ok and solid place! There’s not that much left!”
I want so badly (or some part of me wants) to declare myself healed and fixed and “basically ok.”
There’s this Public Relations part of me that wants to present Resilient Rosalie as:
“I can help you because I’m just like you but at the same time I’ve transcended to another level where I am really solid all of the time.”
And here is what truth might sound like:
“I can help you because I’m like you. I’ve got lots of deep pain that still affects me in profound ways, and like you I’ve found a place of relative equilibrium where I can function well in some areas much of the time. And yet I still struggle and I’m still not where, who, and how I want to be. So I keep doing my work, just as I am here to support you in doing your work.”
Why do I have such an impulse to hide what is real about me? The quick and easy answer is that that’s what developmental trauma does. It’s all about hiding pain. The big agenda is to hide the pain from ourselves so that we can survive and function ok. Hiding the pain from others helps us to hide it from ourselves.
And the work is about un-hiding the pain, learning how to hold the pain, learning how to surf our own life force energy and the currents of both pleasant and difficult emotion.
We all have some basic wants. I believe that everyone with significant developmental trauma has some version of the following slate of wants. But as with everything else, we tend to minimize or deny the depth of these wants because we are denying the depth of the underlying pain.
When you read over this list, can you notice a reaction in yourself, crying out “That’s not me! I’m OK. I’m not that bad.”? I find myself having that reaction.
I invite you to read over the list again,
s l o w i n g d o w n
and letting each statement touch you,
gently being curious about any small place you can notice where this statement DOES resonate,
just hanging out there with curiosity and compassion,
And after doing that, you have 22 minutes, I invite you to listen to this 100% positive recording.
(FYI This is not a promotion, I’m not selling anything here.)
If you don’t have 22 minutes but you have 3 minutes, I invite you to listen to this recording.
So, I have not yet actually shared what happened yesterday.
I listened to the 22-minute recording above. And somewhere in the process of that I had this clear glimpse of myself – I could see myself in the present, still scared, still contracted, still fighting. I could see myself the way my mentor might see me, if I had a wise mentor.
It was like this flash – I saw the image of me, I saw her pain and struggle, and I saw her courage and vitality, I saw the size of the load that she is carrying, it’s a lot to carry. It landed like a momentary shock in my body.
You know, I feel so much better compared to even a year ago – that it hadn’t occurred to me that I’m still standing in a posture of fear and pain.
And when I got this glimpse of me, the Amazing Rosalie, looking so tense and so hurt, I think I saw it as an image of each of us.
There I am, walking through my life with courage and generosity, waving a huge banner that says, “Hey, I am fine!” and all the while feeling so distressed, unsafe, and unhappy. But pretending to myself, like I pretend to everyone else. If I can’t pretend that I’m great, I will pretend that I am ok. And if I can’t pretend that I’m ok, I will pretend that I’m not too bad. And if I can’t pretend that I’m not too bad, then I might just spiral into a freefall until I can come up with some way to get back to where I can pretend I’m not too bad.
There you are, walking through your life with courage and generosity, waving a huge banner that says, “Hey, I am fine!” and all the while feeling so distressed, unsafe, and unhappy. But pretending to yourself, like you pretend to everyone else. If you can’t pretend that you’re great, you pretend that you are ok. And if you can’t pretend that you are ok, you pretend that you are not too bad. And if you can’t pretend that you are not too bad, then you might just spiral into a freefall until you can come up with some way to get back to pretending that you are not too bad.
It’s not our fault, we are designed like this. We are totally designed to hide and minimize all difficult feelings in the name of effectiveness and survival.
And wow, sometimes it is so refreshing to get an image of what is real.
And the pain is not all that’s true. We are also awesome and effective and connected and kind and talented and wonderful.
I am a courageous healer who also struggles with unhappiness, terror, confusion, grief and shame.
I’m excited about getting that glimpse of myself. I figure that it means that I’ve made some progress, enough progress that it has become safe for me to see a little more of what’s true about me.
What glimpses and clear views do you have of what is true about you, about your superpowers and/or your struggles?
If you are not doing it already, I invite you to follow me on either Instagram or Facebook (via the buttons below.) I’ve been mostly absent for 10 days or so but my intention is to post self-practices at least a few times per week.
And I invite you to take a few moments in your day and DO the practice. Just do it. Or do whatever practices call to you.
Delta Covid is dangerous, and remember that all of our young children and some people with medical conditions cannot get vaccinated yet, so they are at risk. And there is lots of evidence by now that those of us who are vaccinated can catch Delta and pass it on to the unvaccinated even if we don’t get very sick. Be free, be wise, be compassionate!
With respect and gratitude,