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Leave Your Toxic Feelings and destructive Actions In the Past: 3 Steps to Change

Why do you think you have “to change” who you are? What is it about yourself that you don’t like? Do you think you must change because you encounter others who seem to have things better? Does the desire to change come from pressure from your family or friends who want you to “fit in” better with/be more like them? Or is it something internal which drives you to change?

Change is Hard

Change is hard, especially the older you get. Behaviors and habits become more engrained as we age. The hard truth is that all of our behaviors serve a function for us. Even for destructive behaviors, there is something underneath that is driving the behavior and in some way making it rewarding for you. In general these (destructive) behaviors protect you. Protect you from feeling emotional, physical, and/or sexual hurt.

Emotional Pain

You know that feeling you get like you can’t do anything right! Where you beat yourself up over every mistake and then call yourself stupid, again, and again. It’s that dark place you go to where you don’t have words, just a feeling of dread or misery.

This is what emotional pain looks like for you and many others. It’s often tough to describe and quite frankly people are hesitant to discuss it, for fear of judgment from others. What makes you feel more alone, is that others may think your over exaggerating because “what do you have to be upset about, your life is perfect?” But that’s just the issue, right! Your life is not perfect! You have worked hard to make your outside “perfect” and presentable, but now it’s time for you to heal on the inside.

Emotional pain often stems from toxic feelings you have about your worth. They often come from direct but also indirect messages about our worth and value from childhood by your parents or other important adults who were in your life.

Think back to your childhood.

When you were a child and you did poor in school, did your parents:

A) calmly tell you it’s ok, it’s not a big deal, let’s work a little hard next time

Or

B) angrily tell you how disappointed they were in you and get on you for not working hard enough

My guess is that B was more likely the response and it drove you to working harder and harder. You very rarely, if ever failed in school after that. You became successful during college and then in your career. Yet you’re still haunted by thoughts that your not doing enough and that you could be better. If you’re not working and instead doing something fun, you feel guilty. You believe your not working hard!

So the cycle of emotional pain continues. Your life looks perfect on the outside, but on the inside you are suffering. But you can change this and find relief from this type of self deprecation.

Continue reading to learn the 3 steps to take to alleviate emotional pain.

Physical Pain

Those physical aches and pains you get at seemingly random moments during the day that force you to reach for the pain killers seems like a constant in your life. The pain can be sharp or a constant buzz in the back of your mind

Physical pain can be a result of physical illness or disability, but it can also be from past childhood trauma which is stored in muscle memory. For the purposes of this article I’ll only be discussing physical pain as a result of childhood trauma.

Manifestations of chronic pain as seen through diseases like Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are often the result of childhood trauma such as physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse. When you were a child being harmed your bodies natural response for self protection is either fight, flight, or freeze. Sometimes you went through all of them but for small children the typical response is freeze.

Being physically struck as a form of punishment to correct behaviors goes beyond the physical pain you experienced but also includes the message that you were “bad” or not good enough. Although people often try to differentiate between the person and their behavior if you think about this it’s not really realistic. It’s hard to distinguish who we are from our behaviors when our behaviors give information to others about who we are, just as others behaviors tell you who they are.

As a child you may have engaged in less than desirable behavior and as a result your parents used physical means to correct your behavior. As you grew up you believed that you were bad and that you deserved to be punished. Have you ever said or heard someone say “I was a bad child”? What type of positive message about your value and worth can come from believing that not only did you deserve to be beat but that you were a bad child. As an adult have you ever felt like you deserved bad things because of the choices you make?

When you experience inescapable terror your body prepares itself, the muscles in your body, to engage in one of the above methods. The muscles tense in preparation. Once the event is over the body begins to “relax”. But with repeated incidents of this your body continues to hold onto that tension for longer and longe periods of time as you become more and more sensitized. As a result you enter adulthood with new hardwiring in your brain and stored traumatic memory in your muscles that come out in chronic pain.

Continue reading to learn the 3 steps to take to alleviate physical pain

Sexual Pain

Sex is apart of the human experience yet there is a lot of shame around sexual desires and needs. There is also a lot of shame for survivors who believed that somehow they are tainted because they were violated as children. In order to get rid of these distressing feelings and thoughts they either avoid sex or engage in sexual relationships recklessly. Both have a way of reinforcing the negative beliefs about ones value and cause pain and suffering for the individual.

Sexual pain, like physical pain, comes from two sources. #1 is biological or #2 is related to sexual abuse/assault. For the purposes of this article I will be discussing sexual pain as a result from trauma.

When a child is sexually violated they are often confused, scared, ashamed, and obviously hurt. While the abuse is occurring the body implores many methods of self protection. It’s the same as the ones I’ve listed above, that come from the Stress Response System. They are fight, flight, and freeze. In the moment the body tenses and protects itself to act in way that kept you alive. When the threat/abuse subsides the child goes on with their life. But they have been changed. Their sense of safety and trust in adults is fractured.

Many children are repeatedly sexually abused and their bodies go through the same cycle of self protection. One of the most common protect methods that occurs during the freeze response is to dissociate or disconnect from the physical experience of the abuse. When the incident is over the child goes back into their body. But with each subsequent threat their brains become sensitized to anything that resembles this initial threat. The result is an automatic disconnection that happens at the slightest provocation. This is great when you’re a child being abused, but once outside the environment, as an adult trying to have intimate relationships with other adults, being disconnected from your body becomes a problem.

For many survivors they continue to have physical pain in their genitals which makes them avoid sexual intercourse. For others as they begin the healing recess they start to have genital pain as their body and mind reconnect and the “memories” occur. Both methods reek havoc in relationships and on a person’s self-esteem. The survivor may even feel shame about what they are going through or worry that their partner will feel sorry for them or leave them if they learn what happened to them. There is a feeling of being broken that a survivor must, and can overcome, in order to find peace happiness, and wholeness in their lives. This is possible.

Continue reading to learn the 3 steps to take to alleviate sexual pain

3 Steps to Change Your Toxic Feelings and Destructive Behaviors

So I’m sure your wondering just what all of this has to do with Toxic Feelings and destructive behaviors. The above have everything to do with it because like it or not, cliche as it is, your childhood does impact your adulthood. The messages you received as a child about your worth and your value become engrained as you develop. As children seeking and needing the love and safety from our parents, teachers, and other important adults in our lives, the behaviors we engage in serve to keep us close to them. To keep us connected. This is a part of the human condition, the need to be connected and to belong. When you’re feeling less than or unworthy then you engage in destructive behaviors that reinforce that message. These behaviors include spending money recklessly and thoughtlessly because you believe your bad with money, avoiding dating because you don’t think anyone would truly love you, or keeping silent about a problem at work for fear that you won’t be taken serious or worse you will be blamed for causing problems.

So how can you change this mindset?

#1 Get to the root of your problem. What messages did you receive about your worth and value as a child? How about as a teen? What are the examples of this that are and are NOT true? Really examine your life and your beliefs. You can engage in meditation practices or journaling to implore this technique to learn more about yourself, your wants, and your needs

#2 Create a plan of action. Change can be hard but it’s even harder if you don’t make plans and take actionable steps to make things different in your life. It’s actually not as hard as you may think it would be, it just takes a little bit of time. Make a list of goals, no more than three, that you would like to achieve. Create a date you would like to achieve them by. Then create the steps that you need to make this happen. They should be as specific as possible, noting how you will know that your on the right track, how you expect to feel when you reach that goal, etc. Finally, track your progress every week. The more specific and detailed you are and by actually keeping physical data you will be able to monitor your progress rather than rely solely on your memory.

#3 Don’t give up. Even if you mess up or fall back get back on that horse and try again. You will eventually hit a stride and it will become second nature to you. It’s the nature of change to misstep or to go back to old habits because those were normal for you for so long. But keep at the forefront of your mind the reasons that your wanting to change. How do you hope that your life will be different, better, and happier. Remember you are worth it.

Conclusion:

So why do you have to change? Is there something you are struggling with that’s keeping you from living a happy, peaceful, and rewarding? Do you want to improve in some area or your life? Then these are great reasons to begin to make changes in your life and hit your goal.

But on the other hand if your feeling pressure from others to change to make you more acceptable in their eyes then I’d examine whether the change is worth it.

These are just a few strategies and recommendations! I hope you found this post helpful! I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!

Thank you for taking the time to read. Remember sharing is caring, so share if you found this helpful!

Until we connect again,

Jessica

 

Jessica Lang

Jessica Lang

Hi I'm Jessica and I am passionate about empowering survivors to find peace, happiness, and success in life. I specialize in treating trauma using the mind body connection and helping expats who are having a hard time adjusting to life in their new countries.

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