Firstly, my COVID update. My antibody test came back negative but I’m still clear that it’s COVID – there are 8% false negatives and my IgG levels are way low which means I would be one of those negatives. I’m still recovering – this week I am trying to have a semi-normal schedule, and I will see how that goes.
Now, about wanting ice cream and not getting it…
Those of us living with the effects of developmental trauma sometimes have emotional experiences that don’t fit what is actually happening. Depending on the scope of our developmental trauma patterns, this might happen often, even several times a day.
The good news is that it is possible to identify the unconscious patterns are that underlie these emotional events. When we can meet our emotional experiences with curiosity and compassion (instead of self-judgment and self-shaming), we can get clues about what our patterns are, and over time we can soften and then release the patterns. In doing this, life becomes incrementally easier and more fun, though many of the emotional events don’t feel fun at the time.
I’ve been having an ongoing emotional event for some time, and I just now realized that I have been processing disappointment. Do you know how a 3-year-old child sometimes responds to disappointment with a passionate protest that could even become a tantrum?
“I want ice cream! You said I could have ice cream! We need to get ice cream! Where is my ice cream!?”
I’ve been having my version of a passionate protest. Not quite a tantrum, but pretty passionate!
Here’s the story:
I took a class that happened over a few months, to learn stuff about healing developmental trauma. I expected a certain quality of connection and a certain emotional experience in the class. I learned stuff. The connection and the emotional experience were not what I expected. In fact, the experience was quite uncomfortable. The discomfort led to personal insights. And I learned the stuff I was there to learn. But I didn’t have the emotional experience I was expecting. I was disappointed.
I didn’t know I was disappointed. I thought I was hurt, missed, not seen. It felt like an emotional betrayal.
I didn’t realize that a big piece of what I was experiencing was disappointment. And there’s a good reason I didn’t know I was disappointed. Part of the flavor of my personal developmental trauma was that I could not count on having my needs met. I was perennially disappointed as a young child. And that disappointment was too painful, so cut myself off from feeling my needs or my disappointments.
That was then, this was now.
In the unfolding of my disappointment about this class, I became quite clear about what I needed. I was NOT disconnected from my needs. And I asked for what I needed, I did NOT silence myself to keep the peace or to avoid rejection.
That is what a healthy child does. They know what they need, they ask for what they need, if they don’t get what they need, they protest, perhaps mightily.
So looking back on this, I can see that I did the healthy child thing!! By continuing to be open and curious and by giving myself permission to feel things and want things, I was able to navigate the emotional process for disappointment. I expected something that I thought had been offered, I was disappointed that it didn’t come, I spoke up and asked for what I needed, repeatedly in different ways, and I got upset and protested when I didn’t get it.
Obviously I don’t want to be a perpetual child, but to get to healthy adult sometimes we need to pass through healthy child.
After all of this, I still didn’t get what I needed, so I guess I didn’t truly need it. But the question of when an emotional need is an actual need and when it is a want is a topic for a different email or blog post. That is a huge topic all by itself. There will also be great topics based on the stuff I learned in the class. (Did I mention I did learn stuff?)
I am seriously excited! If I can feel my emotional needs in real time in an uncomfortable situation with people I don’t know, and I can advocate for my needs without backing down, then I am now more alive and more connected with myself than I used to be! Yay! Yippie! Wow!
I don’t have to do it perfect. I don’t have to do it just right.
What I have to do is to keep being curious, keep being open, and keep being compassionate and gentle with myself and the people around me.
And I did that!
So my invitation to you is to gently study yourself, watching out for rules and ultimatums about how you are supposed to be able to feel and behave and react. And when you find those rules that you have for yourself, I invite you to declare a wish and intention to soften, to give yourself a break.
In fact, I invite you to give yourself a whole lot of breaks, lots of forgiveness, and lots of good humor. Yay, you!! You deserve all of that.
Please continue to take care of yourself and your beloveds the best you can, and if you have time, energy or money to do so, please extend yourself to take care of others as the need is great right now.
Please check and make sure that you are registered to vote.
I am sending love to you and smiling in thinking of you.
Sweetness, hope, perseverance,