Shame and self-hate are a dead end.

Holding ourselves accountable; pushing and challenging ourselves at the right time and in the right way; and being relentlessly honest and realistic with ourselves, will help us grow. 

Hating and shaming ourselves will not. 

Most people reading this have had enough of hate and shame directed at them to last several lifetimes. 

Often we experience hate and shame directed at us so much growing up, that we internalize it. 

It feels familiar— and in that way feels “right.” 

Sometimes we even paradoxically come to find a sort of safety in hating and shaming ourselves— because it’s what we know. 

Self-esteem, believing in ourselves, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt—  all of that might sound nice…but it also might make us anxious. 

When we’re told we’re capable and worthy, many of us get a little suspicious. We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’re wondering what the catch is. 

It’s heartbreaking that so many people reading this register self-hate and shame as their baseline for how they “should” feel about themselves. 

It’s heartbreaking that so many people feel like giving themselves the benefit of the doubt or standing up for themselves is “selfish” or naive’. 

It’s heartbreaking that so many people are truly convinced that, even if everybody else has worth and dignity, THEY are the exception…all because of how we were treated, related to, and spoken to at formative times of our life. 

Valuing ourselves doesn’t mean we always like ourselves or approve of our behavior. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re also realistic about the fact that we’re not always awesome, and sometimes we need to make amends or try harder. 

Guilt is a normal, useful, and healthy thing to feel. It tells us we’ve violated our standards, and we need to come back into alignment with who we are and what we value. 

Guilt very often spurs behavior change. We don’t like feeling incongruent with who we are and what we value. 

Shame, however, is a different, toxic animal. 

Shame isn’t about what we did— it’s about who we are. 

Unlike guilt, shame doesn’t point out any discrepancy between who who are and what we did— shame tells us that “bad” thing we did was perfectly consistent with the “bad” person we are…and we should feel bad about it, because we ARE bad. 

Unlike normal, proportional guilt, I’ve never seen shame be anything but toxic. I’ve never seen shame incentivize behavior that is anything but self-harmful. 

This is important to talk about because the world really likes to tell us that shame changes behavior. 

There are LOTS of people who think that shaming other people is the way to get them to change their behavior. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had shame weaponized against you countless times, in countless ways. 

The truth is, changing what we do and how we feel begins with a commitment to being kind, fair, and supportive of ourselves. 

That doesn’t mean liking or approving of everything we do. 

It DOES mean talking to ourselves with respect; giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt; and REFUSING to reinforce the voices and messages from the past that are trying to get us to shame and hate ourselves “for our own good.” 

Being kind and fair to ourselves isn’t about making excuses. It’s about being very real and very honest with ourselves. 

Recovery will absolutely ask us to make sacrifices, push ourselves, demand and expect more of ourselves, than is sometimes comfortable. 

That’s hard enough. 

We don’t have to make that task harder by layering self-hate and shame on top of an already exhausting, intimidating task. 

Changing our life starts with the commitment to be there for ourselves. 

Even when we don’t like ourselves. Even when we don’t approve of ourselves. Even when we don’t like or approve of our behavior. 

In fact— especially then. 

Have compassion– but set limits.

We need to find that balance between understanding why we do what we do— and setting limits with patterns of thinking and behaving that are negatively impacting our lives. 

This is very often easier said than done. 

One of the most important realizations we have in recovery is that we don’t do what we do for the hell of it. 

The patterns that other people might consider evidence of us making destructive choices— perhaps due to a “character” issue— we know to be adaptations to past or present pain in our lives…adaptations that sometimes kept us alive. 

It’s very common for people who grew up with pain to blame themselves for the destructive patterns in their life. 

We’re told that we could make “better” choices…if, presumably, we were “better” people. 

This tends to get us depressed and discouraged— became many of those patterns don’t FEEL like “choices” to us. 

We do what we have to do to get through the day. 

Many of us have lived for YEARS doing what we have to do just to get though the day. 

People who think that destructive coping patterns in our lives represent well-considered, voluntary “choices” don’t understand— or don’t care— what it’s like to have to manage overwhelming emotional or physical pain every day. 

All of which is to say: the patterns we’ve developed over the years to cope with what we need to cope with, aren’t our fault. 

Nobody asked for the physical or emotional pain you were handed from Day One. 

Shaming and blaming ourselves for our painful patterns isn’t going to get us anywhere. Shame and blame don’t tend to change behavior, except in the very short term, and under extreme duress. 

That said: even if we’ve gained perspective on the fact that there are reasons that make sense behind our destructive patterns of thinking and behaving— it IS on us to do everything we can to change those patterns so they don’t rob us of a future. 

Once upon a time I had to come to terms with the fact that I am extremely vulnerable to addiction to certain behaviors and substances. 

For a long time I hated and blamed myself for that fact. It took me years to develop any kind of perspective about the fact that my vulnerability to addiction was influenced by many, many factors OUTSIDE of myself that I couldn’t POSSIBLY control— regardless of how upstanding my “character” was or wasn’t. 

Learning more about what addiction is and why people are vulnerable to it helped me to get past the self-blame and self-shame trap, and helped me begin repairing my relationship with myself. 

However: even if my vulnerability to addiction is “understandable,” even if I can have compassion for myself and my struggle…it’s STILL on me to set limits on that behavior. 

Being vulnerable to addiction may not be my fault. But my recovery IS my responsibility. 

No one else is going to do it for me. 

That’s true for any pattern of thinning and behavior that is harming us in the here and now. 

Those patterns MAY be understandable. They MAY even have been unavoidable, given the genetic and environmental hand we were dealt growing up. 

But no matter how much insight or compassion we develop for our patterns…it’s STILL on us to change them. 

We have to love and respect ourselves enough to do what we need to do to live a life that is safe and stable here and now. 

We CAN’T stop at “well, it’s understandable I’d do this thing, given what I went through.” 

We CAN”T stop at, “but this thing helped me get by in the past, there’s a REASON I still do it.” 

We have to be real about thought patterns and behaviors that WILL damage our lives and relationships. 

We have to have as much compassion and concern for our future as we have for our past. 

Avoidance gets a bad rap.

Avoidance isn’t always bad. 

If we can’t yet handle a thing, it’s actually pretty smart to avoid it until we have the tools, skills, and focus to handle it. 

We’re told over and over again that avoidance will only make a problem worse. 

Really? I think trying to rush into a situation we’re not equipped to handle is a lot worse than avoiding doing that. 

Trying to “process” a traumatic memory that we’re not yet stable and skilled enough to process is a recipe for getting triggered and overwhelmed.

Trying to confront someone when we’ve not yet developed the assertiveness and self-talk skills to handle the pressure that comes with confrontation is a recipe for feeling small and getting hurt. 

Trying to hang out in a bar when we’re in recovery from alcohol abuse is a recipe for relapse. 

Having your drug of choice in the house when we’re in recovery from substance dependence is a recipe for relapse. 

In each case, avoidance is the SMART strategy. 

I don’t know where we got this idea that we always have to confront our biggest stressors and worst memories and most acute sources of pain, or else we’re “running” from them. 

A big part of recovery is being real about how safe and stable we are right now— not how safe and stable we “should” be, or how safe and stable we wish we were, or how safe and stable we want other people to think we are. 

When we’re not safe and stable enough to do a thing, the intelligent thing is to avoid that thing. 

There’s no shame in avoiding a situation we can’t handle at the moment. 

There might be a voice in your head telling you you need to be “tough.” That you need to “suck it up.” 

Chances are, if you’re reading this, the only reason you’re ALIVE is because you HAVE been tougher than you ever should have had to be. 

There’s nothing “tough” about exposing ourselves to situations and people who will only trigger us. 

No amount of “sucking it up” will magically give us coping skills we haven’t learned or practiced. 

Don’t get me wrong: recovery asks us to look at LOTS of hard stuff. 

Recovery asks us to do plenty of stuff that is uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and often exhausting. 

There are times in recovery when we have to engage instead of avoid. 

But “avoidance” in general gets a bad rap. 

When in doubt: err on staying safe and stable. 

Trust me: you will get PLENTY of opportunities to confront unpleasant realities in recovery. 

We DON’T need to go rushing in to triggering situations or leaning in to awful memories just because we want to “get it over with” or prove how much those things clearly aren’t affecting us. 

A lot of people struggle with the fact that we’re simply not ready to do a thing— until we are. 

We’re not skilled enough to do a thing— until we are. 

We’re not stable enough to do a thing— until we are. 

Often that process— of getting stable and developing coping skills— can’t be rushed. 

We’re not going to suddenly develop an amazing insight that will slingshot us so far forward in recovery that we don’t need to pick and choose when and how we confront the tough stuff. 

Avoidance is a tool. Use it intelligently and honestly. 

You deserve to NOT feel like sh*t.

You have the right to set boundaries with people and situations that make you feel like sh*t. 

That doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easy. Or maybe even possible, in some cases. 

But you don’t have to have any better or other reason to set limits with certain people or situations than, “it makes me feel like sh*t.” 

There are certain people and situations in our lives that make us feel uncomfortable— but we choose to continue engaging with, because they have some benefit to us. 

I’m not always comfortable with my diet or fitness regimen, but I keep it, because I value the benefits they give me in how I feel and look. 

I’m not always comfortable with clinical psychology as a profession, but I continue to engage with it because it gives me the chance to do work I highly value with people I love. 

But there’s a difference between people and situations that make us uncomfortable, but which are connected to some upside we value in our lives…and people and situations that do nothing but make us feel like sh*t. 

Everybody reading this has certain people and situations in our lives that just make us feel lousy. Small. Incompetent. Unattractive. Unloved. 

But we often hang on to these people and situations, for a variety of reasons. 

Maybe we feel obligated to hang on to certain people or situations because of our history with them. 

Often we feel obligated to engage with certain people because of our familial relationships with them. 

Sometimes we feel obligated to continue engaging with certain people or situations because we fear setting limits will invite confrontations that we don’t feel ready for, or we otherwise want to avoid. 

You’re not weird or silly for hanging on to a person or situation out of guilt, anxiety, or social pressure. Almost everybody in the world has been in that position at some point in their lives. 

Setting limits in those situations doesn’t come naturally. 

But we can learn to set those limits. 

We can learn to cope with the anxiety that setting those limits will trigger. 

We can learn to put ourselves, our quality of life, ahead of our fear of confrontation, our fear of backlash, and our fear of retaliation. 

Reading that sentence may have scared the living sh*t out of you. 

There are some people who might have read that sentence and said to themselves, “there is no way me or may quality of life is worth the hassle that would come with setting that kind of limit.” 

I’m here to tell you: you ARE worth the hassle. 

Confrontation is scary. Especially if we grew up with complicated, painful relationships. You’re not “crazy” for being anxious about it. 

The bottom line is: you shouldn’t have to put up with situations and people in your life that make you feel like sh*t. 

You shouldn’t have to live in fear of setting limits with your time and energy. 

It may take some work, patience, and time to develop the skills and confidence you need to start setting limits with situations and people who make you feel like sh*t— and there’s no getting around the work and time this requires. 

But you’re worth it. 

You’re worth the hassle. 

You’re worth the work, the patience, and the time. 

Your quality of life is important enough to not spend one more second than necessary tolerating a person or a situation that makes you feel like sh*t. 

No matter what that voice from your past is whispering in your ear— or screaming in your face— as you read this. 

Your job is to do your part. No more; no less.

Your job is to do your part. No more; no less. 

We can’t change the entire world. We can’t change our entire lives. 

But we can play a part. We can contribute to the forces that WILL change the world. We can contribute to changing our lives. 

All we can do is what we can do— and it’s on us to do that. 

Don’t let what you can’t do, keep you from doing what you can do. 

There are lots of factors that go into addiction— many of which aren’t in our control. There are genetic and systemic factors that contribute that our vulnerability to addiction that we couldn’t control if we tried. 

But the fact that we can’t control those genetic and systemic (and cultural and situational) factors doesn’t mean we have ZERO control over our vulnerability to addiction. 

We have SOME wiggle room in our choices. 

We have SOME control over what to focus on and how to talk to ourselves. 

There are lots of factors that go into our vulnerability to trauma and dissociation. We did NOT have the choice over “whether” to be exposed to the kind of trauma that results in PTSD— and we didn’t have the choice for our nervous system to “opt out” of being traumatized. 

But the fact that we did not control what happened to us, doesn’t mean we have ZERO say in how we respond to and cope with our post traumatic and dissociative symptoms. 

We have SOME wiggle room in the skills and tools we learn and use. 

Even in the midst of intense abreactions and dissociative episodes, we have SOME control over our focus and our self-talk. 

Many people approach how we deal with our struggles as all-or-nothing: they assume we either have complete control over our experience, or no influence at all. 

They think that it’s either our fault we’re struggling as much as we are— or that we have no control anyway, so why bother trying. 

Recovery isn’t black and white like that— because life isn’t black and white like that. 

Recovery will NEVER ask you to try to control or influence something you just can’t. 

In fact, recovery is VERY often about accepting what you can’t influence— and being realistic about what you CAN influence. 

(There’s a reason why one of the most popular recovery tools is the famous Serenity Prayer, which reminds us that there are things we can and can’t control— and that it takes wisdom to tell the difference.) 

It’s vey difficult, when we’re down a rabbit hole of hurt and hopelessness, to remember that there really ARE things that we CAN control and influence in our life— even if those things don’t seem very big or important right now. 

Pain and fear very often try to convince us that we shouldn’t even bother trying to change anything in our lives. They’ll whisper in our ear (or shout in our face) that what we do simply doesn’t matter— so we may as well not try. 

It’s not true. 

The stuff you CAN do right here, right now, may not seem like much in the grand scheme— but we don’t need it to be. 

Start with the inside of your own head. 

Start with how you consciously, intentionally talk to yourself. 

Start with the language and metaphors you use with yourself. 

Taking purposeful charge of your focus, your self-talk, and your metaphors— no matter how hopeless or overwhelming the situation seems to be— is the first step to feeling more in control. 

Making the inside of your head a safer place for yourself is always worth the effort. 

Don’t worry about solving all the problems. 

Don’t worry about “fixing” the entire situation. 

Don’t worry about changing the entire world. 

Focus on doing the teeny, tiny thing you CAN do- right here, right now, inside your head. 

No more. No less. 

We’ve lost more than we thought– and we’re more hurt than we realized.

Recovery is very often about grieving— which is confusing sometimes, because often we’re not quite sure what we are or should be grieving. 

Many of us think about “grief” primarily in the context of losing a person or a pet who was in our lives. 

Most people have at least a few of those types of losses in our lifetimes— but the feelings of loss we experience often seem to be disproportionate to what we lost. 

The truth is, recovery often puts us in touch with losses other than death. 

As we come to terms with things that have happened to us and things that were denied us, we start to realize we’ve lost more than we realize along the way. 

Maybe we lost, or never had, a sense of safety. 

Maybe we lost, or never had, a sense of belonging. 

Maybe we lost, or never had, a sense of possibility. 

Sometimes we get up in our head about whether our life experiences were “bad enough” to produce the struggles and symptoms we experience today. 

What we remember may not “seem” like a recipe for the kind of fallout we’re now experiencing— which can mess with our heads. Because, well, we ARE experiencing EXACTLY what we’re experiencing. 

Part of the struggle is realizing, as we regain control of how we feel and function, that we were more hurt than we thought— and that we’ve lost more than we realized. 

You’re not wrong for experiencing the love and safety you didn’t experience, as a loss. 

You’re not wrong for being angry or sad that you didn’t get the chance to explore and develop your identity in safe, supportive relationships. 

You’re not oversensitive or overdramatic for feeling exactly as hurt as you feel— whether you remember every second of your past, or whether you are missing entire years from your memory. 

Mourning the past we should have had and the person we could have been is a complicated task. 

You might have a voice in your head demanding to know why you think you “deserved” certain things growing up— after all, life is unfair, who is anybody to think they “deserve” anything there than what they got? 

It’s not a sense of entitlement that feeds the grief you’re feeling. 

It’s the instinctive knowledge that any person, any kid, should have a baseline level of safety and support that makes it possible to develop who they are and explore the world. 

Some people don’t even realize that the fact that they DIDN’T get that safety and support significantly impacted their beliefs about who they are, what they can do, and what they deserve. 

We’ll never have a better past. 

Our past will always be exactly what it was. The goal of recovery isn’t to change that. 

In recovery, we change how we RELATE to our past. 

We challenge the negative beliefs that our past “taught” us— that we somehow “deserve” to suffer, that we don’t have a right to be happy or be ourselves. 

And in recovery we mourn the life we could have had. 

We mourn the love we didn’t get. 

We mourn the safety we didn’t feel. 

We get in touch with our right to BE angry at what happened to us. Our right to acknowledge, no, I didn’t deserve to be hurt. I didn’t deserve to be ignored. I didn’t deserve to be excluded. I didn’t deserve to be shamed. 

Building a new life often happens while we mourn our losses and tend to our emotional wounds from the past. 

You have the right to acknowledge exactly how hurt you were, and are. 

You have the right to grieve and mourn. 

Even if the losses you’re grieving and mourning aren’t that straightforward. 

Recovery, attachment, and sacrifice.

Sometimes we KNOW we have to give up a habit or a relationship— but we’re just not ready to yet. 

It’s not a matter of self-sabotage. It’s a matter of feeling safe. 

Certain habits and relationships help us feel safe. They’ve been reliable. They’ve been sources of pleasure or stability in our world. 

Even if they have created more problems than they’ve solved at certain points, it can be very difficult to relinquish certain habits and relationships when they’ve been important parts of our world. 

One of the hardest tasks of recovery is giving up or setting limits on habits or relationships that are in the way of our growth or freedom— but to which we are attached. 

Other people may not always understand why we’d want to hold on to a habit or a relationship that seems to be hurting us. 

They don’t realize that many of us experience the world out there as VERY uncertain. 

We don’t know if or when we’re going to find reliable sources of pleasure or connection out there. 

When sources of pleasure or connection have been very inconsistent in our lives, you’d better believe we latch on to feeling good and feeling attached wherever we can find it— even if those sources of pleasure and connection aren’t always ideal. 

Part of us is often truly worried that if we give up certain habits or relationships, we won’t find replacement behaviors or connections that will fill the void. 

We’re truly afraid that the world will become a harsher, lonelier place WITHOUT those habits or relationships. 

Giving something up that has made us feel safe or understood is never quite as easy as other people think it “should” be. 

If we’re attached to a habit or a relationship, it’s never simple to just say “no more.” 

Giving up certain habits or relationships often involves mourning. Losing them from our lives represent losses. 

Some people might read that and think it’s silly. Aren’t certain “losses” good, if the habit or relationship was hurting our ability to grow and heal? 

As usual when attachment is involved— it’s complicated. 

Unfortunately, the truth is that recovery very often involves sacrifice. And we often don’t want to hear that, because Lord knows we have lost PLENTY of things on this journey already. Who the hell has the right to lecture us about more “sacrifice” at this point? 

But it’s true: we just can’t carry certain habits and relationships into recovery with us. 

As much as we want to think we can manage our exposure and response to certain behavior patterns or people, we simply can’t. 

That’s not a personal weakness of ours. It’s not about character. It’s not about willpower. 

It’s about the fact that certain habits or relationships are just antithetical to our healing. 

It’s always sad when we lose something from our life that has been important to us. 

It’s always sad when we have to give up something aspects of which we like. 

It’s always sad when we have to choose between hanging on to something we know gives us pleasure and comfort, and the lifestyle we know we have to live in order to take the next step. 

We don’t have to downplay how much it sucks to make some of those sacrifices. 

We are perfectly within our rights to acknowledge our losses as losses, and mourn them. 

But the old saying turns out to be true: your new life will cost you your old one. 

Sometimes we’re going to wonder if it’s worth it. 

It is. 

It’s anxiety provoking and tiring and frustrating and complicated at times. 

But recovery, and the chance to heal? Is ABSOLUTELY worth the sacrifices we have to make along the way. 

Complex trauma, complex memories.

Very often, when our past is complicated or painful, we can confused about what we do and don’t remember— and what we do remember means. 

This is especially true when the pain of our past centers largely around people, situations, and institutions that we were involved with or immersed in for a long time. 

Sometimes we look back at what we remember from our past, and it doesn’t seem quite real, or has small or large chunks just missing. 

Sometimes we look back at people and relationships that we KNOW caused us pain and damage in the past…and we’re confused, because in addition to painful memories, we also have neutral and even positive memories. 

This can lead us down a rabbit hole of, “Did I really have it so bad? Was I really abused? Was I really neglected? Was I really traumatized?” 

For many people who have experienced complex trauma, it’s hard enough to accept that what happened, happened. 

Many survivors of abuse and neglect struggle with the reality of our past. Many of us have voices in our head that are constantly asking us, “C’mon, now, was it REALLY that bad? Or are you just looking for an excuse for why your life is messed up now?” 

That narrative can be reinforced when we have mixed or positive memories of certain relationships or situations— how could they have been “traumatic,” we ask ourselves, if I actually remember parts of them fondly? 

For some people, the fact that they DON’T remember large chunks of what happened to them raises similar doubts: could something REALLY have affected me that much if I don’t even REMEMBER it? 

You need to know that complex trauma is, well, complex. 

It’s NOT uncommon for survivors’ memories of traumatic relationships and situations to be a mixed bag. 

It DOESN’T mean the situation “must not have been that bad.” 

It’s even possible to miss aspects of a person, situation, or a time in your life, despite the fact that they were painful or damaging to you on the whole. 

In your journey as a trauma survivor, your’e going to have plenty of people try to shape how you remember your past. Plenty of people will weigh in on whether you “should” struggle with what you’re experiencing right now. 

Thing is: they don’t get a vote. 

Your past impacted you exactly the way it did— whether you remember all of it or not, whether your memories always seem to make sense or not, whether you or anyone else think that you had it “bad enough” to produce your current symptoms or not. 

If we’re going to realistically recover, we have to start with accepting that whatever we went through produced exactly what we ARE going through. 

Memory, especially traumatic memory, is complicated. 

How we remember something is influenced by a lot of factors. It’s true that our memories are rarely, if ever, photographic and perfectly accessible to us. 

But the fact that our memories of the past are complicated doesn’t mean they are not valid. 

It doesn’t mean that they are not true. 

If we don’t remember something, or don’t remember it entirely, or don’t remember it in the kind of detail someone else expects, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. 

What we DON’T need, as survivors, is anyone— even ourselves— trying to tell us that what we do or don’t remember invalidates our experience, either past or present. 

Few things get in the way of trauma recovery like the creeping thought, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Maybe I’m just being dramatic. Maybe I’m making it all up.” 

Nobody “makes up” the kind of pain and heartache that trauma survivors endure every day. 

Your job is not to evaluate your life experience, memory by memory, in search of how badly you “should” or “shouldn’t” be hurting. 

Your job is to accept that you’re hurting exactly as much as you’re hurting— and to start the recovery and rebuilding from exactly right there. 

Understanding triggers takes patience. (I know. Ugh.)

We often think of triggers are these big, sensory events that happen outside of us— and sometimes they are. A sound; a smell; something we see that, for whatever reason, takes us back to a place where we feel less safe and resourceful than we actually are. 

But sometimes triggers aren’t that straightforward. 

Often, we can be triggered by something we feel, perceive, or conclude about a situation. 

It can be triggering to FEEL invisible or erased.

It can be triggering to FEEL judged. 

It can be triggering to FEEL inadequate. 

There might be many reasons WHY we feel those things in any given moment— and sometimes those feelings only have a tenuous relationship to anything that’s actually happening right here, right now. 

When we grow up under constant pressure and unpredictably in our relationships, we tend to be hypervigilant about what things mean and what other people are thinking. 

Sometimes it gets to the point where we think we “know” what somebody else is thinking based on a look in their eyes or a tone in their voice— and our entire nervous system reacts. 

These kinds of triggers may be confusing, because they’re not the “obvious” sensory triggers that people often talk about. 

Lots of people reading this know what it’s like to grow up having to guess at what the people around us are thinking and feeling— or what they’re going to do next. 

It’s enormously stressful— and our nervous system doesn’t just turn that hypersensitive alert system off. 

That hypersensitive alert system maybe the only thing that kept us relatively safe and functional once upon a time. 

It’s really easy for other people to tell us that we no longer need the defenses we once did, because we’re not in those dangerous situations anymore— but the equation just isn’t that simple for our brain and body. 

Our nervous system knows that it’s when we drop our defenses and think we’re safe that we’re often the most vulnerable. 

One of the reasons why it’s so hard to change how vulnerable we are triggers is because that vigilance may have literally kept us alive once upon a time. 

If we’re going to ask our body and brain to become less sensitive to danger signals, we’d better be prepared to explain our new strategy for keeping ourselves safe— and how that strategy maintains or improves upon the benefits of the old strategy. 

Too often in trauma recovery, we expect ourselves to be able to just let go of old defenses, old strategies, old skills. 

We need to remember that those old defenses, strategies, and skills may have been the most reliable things in our life once upon a time. 

Understanding the complexities of how we get triggered takes a lot of patience. 

No one LIKES the fact that they get triggered. No one LIKES having to think about how or why subtle things spark such a huge reaction. We WANT to just get PAST our triggers. 

If only it worked like that. 

In understanding our triggers, we necessarily pay our due respect to the nervous system that, while it can be frustrating and the source of pain sometimes, got us through some pretty awful stuff. 

If we want to tell that nervous system it’s time to stand down, we owe it an explanation why that makes sense. 

It’s not just about surrendering old coping skills and tools. 

It’s about replacing those skills and tools with new ones that allow us to grow past mere survival. 

You deserve more than mere survival. 

You deserve to be more than the poster child for “resilience.”

You deserve a quality of life that is defined by your preferences, your goals, your dreams. 

And if you’re reading this: that quality of life is NOT beyond your ability to create. 

No matter what your trauma (or depression, or addiction, or eating disorder) is whispering in your ear right now. 

YOU deserve the compassion, love & respect you’d extend ANYONE else.

Often, survivors fall into this trap where we can feel lots of compassion for others— but virtually none for ourselves. 

It makes NO logical sense— but it FEELS very real. 

We can look at others who are struggling, and acknowledge that they “deserve” help and comfort— but when it comes to our own suffering, we just feel…cold. 

Many survivors struggle with the feeing that, all evidence to the contrary aside, we must somehow “deserve” what we’re experiencing. 

We look at all the ways we fall short of others’ expectations, wants, and needs…and we tell ourselves that’s the “real” us. 

The thing is, if anyone else says that about THEMSELVES, we’re often the first to leap up and say that they’re wrong. 

Survivors are very often very good at finding the value and beauty in others. 

Finding value and beauty in ourselves, though…can be really complicated for us. 

Much of that comes from conditioning. 

Many of us grew up with the people around us minimizing what we went through. 

Even if we were feeling overwhelmed and hurt, we were told to quit being “dramatic.” 

Some people reading this are quite familiar with being told to stop crying, or else they’d be given “a reason to cry about.” 

Again, we can very often look at somebody ELSE’S experience of this, and be horrified and saddened. 

Nobody should have to experience this kind of pain and invalidation. 

We can often see how these experiences have negative impacted others’ lives, and we can feel overwhelming compassion for them. 

But when it comes to feeling compassion for what WE went through…that old conditioning often kicks in. 

We don’t want anyone to think we’re feeling “sorry for ourselves.” 

We don’t want to be shamed or punished for being a “sad sack.” 

We don’t want anyone to think that we’re not “tough enough” to handle what we went through without reacting or breaking down. 

A big part of recovery is finding the ability to reconnect— or maybe just connect with— our ability to empathize with ourselves. 

Acknowledging that WE are worth feeling compassion for. 

Feeling sad or angry about what WE went through…without worrying about being punished or getting overwhelmed. 

Your experience counts. Your pain. Your heartache. Your loss. 

Others may have tried, effortfully, to convince you that you’re the one person who DOESN’T deserve the empathy, compassion, and support that you yourself would extend to ANYONE else…but that’s just not true. 

Yes, you’re imperfect. You STILL deserve compassion. 

Yes, others have had it EXACTLY as bad as they’ve had it in comparison to you. You STILL deserve compassion. 

Yes, you may have mixed feelings about the “you” who went through what you went through. You— both that past version of “you” who went through it, and the current version of “you” who is going through what you’re going through RIGHT NOW— STILL deserve compassion. 

You are as deserving of compassion, empathy, and relief as any human being who has ever existed on this planet. 

In recovery, we very often have to “act as if,” even if we’re not feeling it. 

In this context, that means extending ourselves compassion, respect, and, yes love— even if we’re not quite FEELING it just yet. 

BEHAVING toward ourselves AS IF we deserve compassion, respect, and love— whether or not we happen to be FEEING it— is a key part of recovery. 

Feeling it will come, in time. 

First thing’s first: being open to it.