Acknowledging trauma is not about “making excuses.”

Trauma recovery isn’t about making “excuses.” 

I’ve worked with hundreds, maybe thousands, of trauma survivors. I’ve never once met one who was primarily looking to “excuse” ways they’ve behaved or treated others. 

Trauma recovery IS about understanding. 

It IS about giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt. 

It IS about meeting who we were, and who we are, with compassion and trust, rather than cynicism and hostility. 

Many people come to trauma recovery not thrilled with how they’ve lived their life. 

Many people reading this know what it’s like to feel that you’ve alienated people you used to be close to. 

Many people reading this know what it’s like to have missed out on or sabotaged professional opportunities. (I know that feeling VERY well.) 

Many people reading this know what it’s like to walk around feeling like you simply having lived up to your “potential.” 

Eventually we come to understand that a lot of what we have or haven’t done in our lives may be related to trauma we’ve endured and our nervous systems’ conditioned responses to trauma…but even then, many of us are resistant to really wrapping our heads around that fact. 

After all, we don’t want to make “excuses.” 

Many of us have been conditioned to believe that WE are the problem— and that to acknowledge what may have contributed to our behavior is making an “excuse.” 

Almost every trauma survivor I’ve ever worked with has been very clear that they are NOT interested in “making excuses” for anything. 

In fact, many trauma survivors struggle to even acknowledge the role trauma might have played in their behavior, specifically because they don’t want to avoid responsibility. 

Here’s the thing, though: understanding what’s going on with us is not making an “excuse.” 

There is a BIG difference between an excuse and an explanation. 

The vast majority of the survivors I’ve worked with very much want to understand what the hell is going on with them— but they also very much do not want to reject what they’ve been told is their “responsibility” to “own” their behavior and reactions. 

We can only “own” our behavior and reactions when we understand them in context. 

And we can only realistically change them when we meet what’s going on with us with acceptance and compassion. 

NOBODY has ended up in trauma recovery because they planned or wanted it. 

NOBODY planned or wanted abuse, neglect, or other trauma to dramatically affect their beliefs, thinking, emotions, and behavior. 

EVERYBODY in trauma recovery is in a process of discovering and understanding what the hell is going on. Making it make sense. 

If we’re hell bent on judging ourselves for situations and reactions we didn’t freely choose, we’re NOT going to meaningfully understand what the hell is going on. 

If we start out from a place of judging our past self for reactions that were the result of trauma conditioning, we’re only going to stay at war with our current self. 

I know. Exploring our trauma history and our past behavior with curiosity and compassion is a tall order— ESPECIALLY when we’ve been conditioned to hate and judge ourselves for what we’ve experienced and what we’ve done. 

But self-acceptance is a bedrock of recovery. 

We’re not going to recovery and shame and reject ourselves at the same time. 

We’re not going to forgive and judge our past self at the same time. 

We’re not going to understand and vilify our nervous system responses at the same time. 

Understanding ourselves isn’t about making “excuses.” 

It’s about meaningfully constructing a future— and, when we need to, making amends— WITHOUT having to worry about making excuses. 

The most important boundaries we can set.

The toughest boundaries I ever set were with myself. 

And they are STILL the toughest boundaries I have to enforce every day. 

Growing up, I learned to relate to myself a certain way. Talk to myself a certain way. 

Lots of us grew up learning to relate and talk to ourselves in certain ways that didn’t exactly make us feel awesome. 

Why? Because that’s how we were related to. That’s how we were talked to. 

When we were abused, bullied, or neglected growing up, yes, it’s awful— but it’s also instructive. It “teaches” us what we’re supposedly worth. 

It “teaches” us how we “should” be talked to. 

We get USED to being related to and talked to like we are not worthy. It becomes familiar. 

We internalize it. We learn to talk to ourselves in aways that are self-downing, dismissive, mean. 

Then, when people come along and actually treat us with respect or kindness, it feels…off. Wrong. Weird. 

The reason for that is because it clashes with our conditioning— but we don’t know that. 

All we know is, we have a “feel” for what we “deserve”—and what we “deserve” is to be put down. 

Most of this happens implicitly. We don’t wake up one day and DECIDE that we’re going to treat ourselves like sh*t, because we’ve only BEEN treated like sh*t. 

It just becomes part of our conditioning. Part of our programming. Often the cornerstone, the baseline of our conditioning. 

When I got into recovery, a lot of the stuff I was learning felt “wrong”— because it clashed with what I was used to. 

Recovery asks us to be kind to ourselves. 

Recovery asks us to be on our own side. 

Recovery asks us to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. 

My conditioning tells me that I don’t deserve ANY of that. My conditioning told me that suggesting I deserved kindness was some sort of “excuse.” That it was me trying to get out of what I “deserved.” 

Turns out: we can’t recover AND talk to ourselves like we’re someone we hate at the same time. 

We have to set limits on how we talk to ourselves. 

When our conditioning nudges us to behave in self-harmful or self-sabotaging ways, we have to set limits with it. 

We have to set boundaries with ourselves. 

And it’s hard. 

My brain wants what my brain wants, when my brain wants it. And if what it wants is to beat the living sh*t out of me, it feels “wrong” to set a boundary— even if that boundary is just, “I will not beat the sh*t out of myself.” 

Sometimes my brain wants to relapse. I have to set a boundary with it— that we don’t relapse just because we want to. 

Boundaries of all sorts tend to be difficult for trauma survivors— but boundaries with ourselves are often the MOST difficult to stay consistent with. 

Our old programming, our old tapes, WILL kick back when we try to set a boundary. They will NOT like it. 

But we’re not in recovery to stay loyal to our old conditioning. 

We’re not in recovery to stay loyal to our old abusers. 

And that’s who we’re REALLY settling limits with when we set boundaries with our conditioning, isn’t it? 

Yes it is. 

Don’t abandon yourself for Christmas.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably no stranger to the pressure to pretend everything is “okay.” 

Especially at this time of year, with lots of us either opting in or roped into family commitments, the heat is often on to present to the world as, you know, “fine.” 

After all, nobody wants to be a downer. 

Nobody wants to develop a reputation as “bitter.” 

Nobody wants to be that person who ruins the Christmas party by being glum or complaining. 

So— we get in the habit of presenting to the world not what we really are or what we’re really feeling…but what we think, what we assume, THEY want us to be, THEY want us to fee, THEY want us to express. 

This isn’t to say that we’re always miserable, and always hiding it. 

It IS to say that we get in the habit of not really “being” ourselves— but playacting what “they” want. 

For many of us it’s a form of the “fawn” trauma response— playing along with what we think “they” expect or want, in hopes that in meeting “their” expectations, we might be more or less safe. 

Safe from what? Abandonment. Mockery. Shaming. 

It all feeds into this belief system we develop that we aren’t enough just as we are. 

That there’s something inherently WRONG with us. 

That we can be a lot of things to a lot of people— but we certainly can’t be authentic. 

After all, to be authentic is to risk— to risk being abandoned, mocked, shamed. Rejected. Hurt. 

This isn’t news to a lot of people reading this. A lot of people reading this are VERY familiar with this project of putting up a front all day, every day. 

The project of becoming who we think “they” want and expect. 

The thing is, there’s only so long we can do that before our self-esteem kind of collapses in on itself. 

Self-esteem is built on self-acceptance. 

It’s built on NOT denying, disowning, or rejecting who we really are, what we really feel, what we really need. 

When we build our entire LIVES on NOT being authentically us— our self-esteem suffers. 

We become convinced that our anxiety is right— maybe there really IS something wrong with us. 

We become convinced that we can’t possibly be authentic in ANY context, even our most important and intimate relationships— because what would happen if we WERE authentic, if we DID let our real feelings and experiences and needs show…and “they” didn’t like us? 

It’d be heartbreaking. 

Very often we’re not willing to risk that kind of humiliation or abandonment. 

No shame. Everyone reading this knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about. You’re definitely not alone. 

In recovery, we begin to rediscover— or maybe just discover for the first time— who we really are. 

We start to use our voice— our authentic voice— again…or maybe for the first time. 

We start to face up to our fear of abandonment— realizing that if we let that fear run our life, we are actually abandoning ourselves. 

Think about that. Denying and disowning who we are because we fear abandonment, IS actually abandonment— it’s US abandoning US. 

It’s REAL important we not abandon ourselves. 

We are, after all, the most important relationship in our life. 

We are with ourselves 24/7/365. We are talking to ourselves all day, every day. 

If ANY relationship is worth NOT sacrificing, it’s the relationship with ourselves. 

If you’re not okay, you’re not okay. Even if it is the holiday season. Even if you’re “supposed” to be okay. 

And you know what? That’s okay. Your not-okayness. 

You can make the decision whether or how much of ANY of it you reveal to ANYONE— but it’s real important you BE real with yourself. 

Your experiences, needs, and feelings matter. 

Okay, not okay, and otherwise. 

Feeling and Healing.

Anger tends to mess with complex trauma survivors. Of course it does. 

Very often, we’ve had nothing but bad experiences with anger. 

We’ve seen anger suddenly turn “reasonable” people into out of control, violent people. 

We’ve sometimes been punished for daring to express our own anger. 

Many people reading this grew up in families in which emotional regulation wasn’t exactly great. 

That lack of emotional regulation probably went beyond just anger. You might have grown up in an environment in which feeling ANYTHING meant that a situation could quickly spiral out of control. 

When we grew up in families that weren’t great at emotional regulation, it’s very common to end up actually FEARING emotions. 

It’s easy for people to say that “in order to heal, you have to FEEL”— because they don’t know what it’ like to become actually FEARFUL of yours and others’ emotional reactions over the years. 

We might think of feelings as things we can’t control. 

We might think of feelings as things that lead people to do irrational things. 

Some people reading this were actually told that the abuse they were experiencing was the result of “love.” 

They might have been told that the reason their abuser focused on them was because they “loved” them. 

Love doesn’t have anything to do with abuse— but what association is made in our nervous system, we often struggle to see powerful emotions like “love” as anything other than a precursor to confusion or pain. 

Some people reading this were told that they were getting abused specifically because they evoked a specific emotion in an abuser, like anger. 

We were made to feel that we CAUSED someone else’s emotional state— and that person consequently could not manage or control that emotional state, resulting in us or others getting hurt. 

Fast forward to adulthood, and we’re left with an idea of feelings that they are these overwhelming experiences that can be evoked from outside of us— and that rob us of agency, resulting in pain and loss. 

Why WOULDN’T we be afraid of emotions, if that’s what we grew up with. 

The truth is, emotions are there to help us survive. 

Emotions, including (especially!) anger, serve an ADAPTIVE purpose. 

Back when we were cave people, it was the cave people who got ANGRY when their territory or resources were being threatened that was able to successfully fight back. 

Fast forward to now, if we are cut off from our anger— if we are AFRAID of our anger— we are robbed of an emotional resource that gives us access to focus and energy we NEED to defend ourselves. 

The truth is, some things SHOULD make you angry. 

We NEED our anger. We have a RIGHT to our anger. 

Our anger DOESN’T need to be an uncontrollable, overwhelming experience that puts us or others in danger. 

We can break that cycle. 

We can be different from what we saw growing up. 

We can commit to learning emotional regulation— not because our emotions are scary and need to be reined in, but because our emotions are valuable sources of information that we need to listen to. 

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been alienated from your emotions, including anger, for long enough. 

It’s time to reassert your right to feel— and your ability to not make feelings your ONLY guide to action. 

Do not talk to yourself like your bullies or abusers talked to you.

We don’t change how we feel and function by talking to ourselves the same way our abusers and bullies talked to us. 

We’re always talking to ourselves, inside our head. 

Sometimes we hear it in complete sentences; sometimes we don’t. 

But we’re always in a dialogue with ourselves about who we are and what things mean. 

And who we think we are and what we think things mean largely determine how we feel and what we do. 

If we grew up being treated like we don’t matter, chances are good we internalized the belief that we don’t matter. 

If we grew up being TOLD we matter, but being TREATED like we don’t matter, we might have internalized the belief that, even though we supposedly “should” matter…we don’t. 

If we grew up being the lightning rod in the house for a parent’s unpredictable anger, we might have internalized the belief that anger is dangerous— and angry people are not to be trusted. Which is a belief that probably comes back around whenever WE have the very normal human experience of getting angry. 

Lots of times we’re not even aware of how we’re taking to ourselves. 

We just view and experience the world the way we view and experience it— not realizing that we create much of our experience of the world by how we talk to ourselves and what we believe. 

Our self-talk and our beliefs become the filter, the prism, through which we experience and interpret the world. 

They are our filter for what we perceive to be our options— and what we can’t imagine would EVER be options for us. 

That’s NOT to say that any pain we experience, we inflict upon ourselves. We are hurt by PLENTY of things outside of our control. 

It IS to say that how we respond to what the world throws at is is largely shaped by how we talk to ourselves and what we believe, especially about the world, other people, and the future. 

Trauma tends to mangle what we believe about ourselves.

Trauma also tends to heavily influence how we talk to ourselves. 

People who are smart and strong get convinced that they are stupid and weak— all because they’ve been conditioned to talk to themselves like their bullies and abusers talked to them once upon a time. 

Survivors become convinced that they have no right to even THINK about themselves, their needs, their perceptions, their discomforts or wants o fears, because they’ve been indoctrinated in the belief that to do so is “selfish.’ 

So much of what we do in trauma recovery is just talk back to how we’ve learned to talk to ourselves.

So much of recovery is chipping away at distorted beliefs about ourselves that were created when we were abused or neglected over the course of years. 

It isn’t fair. Nobody reading this should HAVE to do this work. 

Everybody reading this SHOULD have grown up in an environment and in relationships that were safe and stable. 

No one should HAVE to un-learn destructive ways of talking to themselves. No one should HAVE to recondition untrue beliefs about themselves. 

But that’s what trauma does. 

It’s not our fault— but recovery is our responsibility. 

And we can only recover at the pace we can manage. 

Do not put pressure on yourself and do not compare yourself to anyone else. This isn’t a race or a contest. Recovering “faster” doesn’t make you a better person. 

What we’re doing in trauma recovery is correcting for the damage that was done to you that SHOULDN’T have been done. 

And the only minute you have to manage in your recovery is THIS minute. THIS one, right here. 

One step, one day, one minute at a time. 

“Brave” is about realistically acknowledging our vulnerabilities.

There’s nothing wrong with being tired. Of course you’re tired. I’m tired. 

Wrestling with what we wrestle with in recovery is tiring. 

There’s kind of this cultural myth that acknowledging and dealing with emotional or behavioral struggles is somehow “weak” or an “excuse”— but those of us who are in recovery know that it’s EXACTLY the opposite. 

Making recovery from trauma, addiction, depression, or another emotional or behavioral struggle the central project of your life is anything BUT a cop out. 

It’s one of the most courageous— and one of the most stressful— projects possible. 

The “cop out” would be to NOT acknowledge our emotional or behavioral struggles. 

The “cop out” would be to try to IGNORE how those struggles impact our work, our relationships, our ability to create and sustain life worth living. 

I’ve never met anyone who used the fact that they were in trauma or addiction recovery as an “excuse” to NOT live up to their responsibilities. 

I HAVE met PLENTY of people in recovery who struggled with the OPPOSITE problem: they considered EVERYTHING their fault, and EVERYTHING their responsibility. 

Making recovery the cornerstone of our life and decision making is not about avoiding responsibility or making excuses. 

It’s about realistically acknowledging what we’re up against. 

Those of us in recovery don’t get days off. 

We don’t get to decide that today we’re sick of trauma recovery, so we’re just gonna pretend we don’t have to worry about triggers, flashbacks, or abreactions. 

We don’t get to decide that utilizing our coping skills, tools, and philosophies is just too much work, so we’re gonna not do it today, and let the chips fall where they may. 

Those of us in addiction recovery don’t get to decide, you know what, today I’m not gonna bother managing my access or exposure to my substance or behavior of addiction— I’m just gonna go with the flow, see where the day takes me. 

We know all too well what happens when we “go with the flow.” 

I don’t mind admitting that trauma and/or addiction recovery is a MASSIVE pain in the ass. 

I would MUCH rather NOT think about any of it, on any given day. 

I WISH I could trust my nervous system to go on autopilot and allow me to make good, healthy decisions. I WISH I could trust my body and mind to respond to the world and its assorted stressors and triggers like a “normal” person. 

But that wasn’t the hand I was dealt. 

And if you’re reading this, it’s probably not the hand you were dealt, either. 

As I write this, I’m coming off a two week period in which multiple significant stressors came at my face, including a car crash and a change in employment. 

Both situation triggered multiple things for me that are deeply connected to my history of trauma and my vulnerability to addiction. 

One of the thoughts I’ve been struggling with over the last two weeks is that I WISH I could handle these stressors like a “normal” person. 

I WISH that managing these stressors didn’t have to include me checking on my vulnerability to relapse, or my reactivity around relationships. 

But: that’s not the hand I was dealt. 

Life calls on us to be brave. 

The brave thing ISN’T to just “suck it up” and pretend we’re NOT vulnerable. 

The brave thing is to acknowledge our vulnerabilities without pretense or shame. 

There’s nothing wrong with being tired; there’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable; there’s nothing wrong with being hurt. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you, like me, are a combination of all three. 

All we can do is what we can do: manage our vulnerability, manage our risk, manage our emotions and our behavior and our triggers and our resources, one day at a time. 

So let’s do that. 

Don’t measure your life in “shoulds.”

Don’t think about your recovery in terms of where you “should” be. 

That perspective gives you lots of ways to feel bad— and relatively few ways to feel good. 

Think about your recovery in terms of what you need today. 

Think about your recovery in terms of what you need THIS MINUTE. 

Recovery is not an accomplishment. No one’s ever going to give us a medal for it— because, to much of the world, NOT getting our ass kicked by trauma or addiction is what we “should” be doing anyway. 

There are absolutely people out there who think recovery is no big deal, because people “shouldn’t” “let” their lives get derailed by trauma or addiction in the first place. 

As if we “let” our lives get hijacked by trauma or addiction. 

Nobody reading this “let” that happen— at least, not on purpose. 

Everyone reading this was surprised and dismayed when trauma or addiction showed up to ruin their lives and steal their dreams.

Not one person reading this would “choose” that— not for our worst enemy. 

I agree, trauma or addiction “shouldn’t” derail peoples’ lives— because trauma and addiction, in the best of all worlds, “shouldn’t” even exist, shouldn’t even TOUCH people’s lives. 

But they do. And they do. 

You did not choose the hand you were dealt. 

All you can choose is how you play it. 

And we CAN get better at this game of life— but the WAY we get better is through recovery. 

Recovery is not the goal. It is the path. 

It is not an accomplishment. It is the TOOL we use to accomplish what REALLY matters to us in life. 

It took me awhile to figure out that measuring my life in “shoulds” was an AMAZING way to feel absolutely terrible. 

But that impulse is so strong. 

Everywhere we turn people want to measure our lives in “shoulds.” 

Are we doing what we “should?” 

Are we THINKING what we “should?” 

Are we feeling what we “should?” 

(As if we choose our feelings.) 

Resist the temptation of to “should” all over yourself— or your life. 

Don’t think about the huge mountain in front of you. 

The truth is, we have absolutely no idea how big that mountain really is— but we can surely freak ourselves out if we focus on its size. 

You just focus on the step in front of you on the path. 

We’re gong to climb this mountain like any climber climbs any mountain— one step at a time. 

We’re going to pay attention to what each step needs from us in terms of balance, focus, and energy. 

We’re going to only focus on making this step as efficiently and safely as we can. 

No more; no less. 

There are no “shoulds.” Not really. 

Just focus on THIS step. 

“Fawning” doesn’t come out of nowhere.

You DON’T “have” to accept others’ worldview, opinions, or directions. 

But a lot of us think we do. 

A lot of us have been conditioned to believe that to NOT accept other peoples’ worldview, opinions, or directions, is LITERALLY dangerous. 

The essence of the “fawn” trauma response is, if we don’t go along to get along, if we con’t acquiesce, then we’ll be abandoned— or attacked. 

We don’t come by the fawn response by accident. 

Many of us grew up in environments where our survival— emotional or maybe even physical— really did depend on our willingness to “play along” with somebody. 

We might have grown up in an environment in which disagreement really wasn’t an option. 

Perhaps we grew up in an environment in which disagreement was brandished as evidence of our “bad attitude.” 

Maybe we were shamed for even THINKING about NOT conforming to what somebody wanted. 

Maybe we were threatened for not “playing along.” 

Or, perhaps it wasn’t even that active or specific— maybe we grew up neglected, and got it in our head that our only chance at getting ANY kind of love or attention was to “go along to get along.” 

Maybe we figured that IF ONLY we could get everything JUST RIGHT, we would “earn” approval or acceptance. 

Maybe we made it our goal to be SO GOOD at “going along to get along” that OF COURSE we would be loved and valued. 

Sometimes that strategy may have even worked— for a minute, at least. 

Many people DO like people who agree with them. 

Many people DON’T tolerate it when people in their sphere disagree with them. 

Some people in positions of power DO attack or retaliate when someone in their sphere doesn’t “get with the program.” 

Whatever the origin of your “fawn” trauma response, it didn’t just come out of nowhere. 

You didn’t just think it up one day as a strategy to gain safety or approval. 

if your “go to” trauma response is fawning, chances are you grew up in an environment in which “go along to get along” may have been an actual survival strategy. 

We often judge ourselves when “fawn” is our go to trauma response. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that people pleasing is a “choice” we’re making because we’re “scared.” 

Trauma responses aren’t choices. 

We don’t sit down and calmly decide between fight, flight, freeze, fawn, or flop. 

When we’re triggered, our nervous system makes that decision for us. 

It helps to understand where our “fawning” comes from— to see its origins clearly, with acceptance and compassion. 

If your go to trauma response is “fawning,” you likely grew up very scared or at least somewhat desperate. 

People pleasing can be an exhausting addiction. 

The only way we’re going to recover from it is to understand the purpose it served— both once upon a time, and now— and to meet it with enormous self-compassion. 

Inside of our “fawning” adult self is a kid who is scared they’ll never be safe or loved. 

We need to hold that kid close. 

Trauma recovery is about progress, not perfection.

Trauma recovery is about progress, not perfection. 

Recovery from ANYTHING that threatens to ruin our life— including trauma, addiction, eating disorders, depression— is about progress, not perfection. 

Perfection doesn’t exist, except by accident every now and then. 

Our recovery will NOT be picture perfect— probably ever— and that’s actually the good news. 

I dunno what I would have ever learned from a  “perfect” recovery. 

Recovery is about getting close to some NASTY truths. 

In trauma recovery we get close to truths about what happened to us that MANY of us would REALLY rather not know. 

We often get close to truths about certain people that we’d rather not know. 

We get close to truths about the world that we never, ever wanted to know. 

It’s rough stuff. 

Anyone who says that getting past PTSD is about “willpower” doesn’t understand the hard truths that trauma recovery asks us wrestle with. 

That journey will not be “perfect.” 

Wrapping our head around this sh*t is painful. 

Our nervous system is going to push back. 

We’re going to want to avoid. We’re going to want to dissociate. We’re going to want to numb out. 

We’re going to have days when we’re REALLY into our trauma recovery…and days when the very LAST thing we want to think about is our trauma recovery. 

Our coping skills will DEFINITELY not be perfect— at least partly because we’re not particularly good at them yet. 

In order to get good at coping, we have to cope— a lot. 

We’re going to have to get a lot of practice. 

And practice is not perfect. It’s not SUPPOSED to be perfect. 

We’re going to get scared. 

We’re going to get overwhelmed. 

We’re going to backslide. 

We’re going to use our focus and our motivation. 

Sometimes we’re going to choose priorities OVER our trauma recovery for a minute. 

And that’s all okay. 

Our recovery doesn’t need to be perfect. It needs to keep us alive. 

It needs to keep us functional enough so that we don’t throw away the things we value and love. 

Our recovery needs to support us in getting through THIS minute. 

In trauma recovery, we gotta think progress, not perfection. 

Perfection’s a red herring. It’s a fever dream. It’s doesn’t exist. 

Don’t worry about it. 

Let your trauma recovery be good enough. 

Good enough to get you through. 

Good enough to keep you alive. 

Good enough to take the very next step. 

That’s all we need. 

Trauma really f*cks with our self-esteem.

Trauma really does a number on our self-esteem.

Self-esteem has two components: our confidence that we’re appropriate to life, that we can figure stuff out, that we can meet the challenges of living; and our conviction that we deserve good things to happen to us (or, at the very least, we don’t deserve BAD things to happen to us). 

That is: our self-esteem is our summary judgment of our efficacy and our deservingness. 

Trauma messes with both. 

Trauma tries to tell us we can’t figure stuff out. 

We often look back on what we went through, and we see all the ways we think we could have, should have, avoided it. 

We remember what we went through and we reexperience the feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed that we experienced at the time. 

On top of that, our post traumatic symptoms themselves often leave us feeling helpless and overwhelmed. 

How are we supposed to believe we are appropriate to life, that we can figure stuff out, when we’re constantly remembering feelings of powerlessness, experiencing feelings of powerlessness, and telling ourselves how we “should” have done things better or differently? 

Then trauma tries to tell us we don’t deserve good things. 

After all, if we deserved good things, the things that happened to us should never have happened, right? 

How can we possibly believe we deserve good things when bad things have happened to us, sometimes over and over and over again? 

Often our brain tries to tell us that we MUST “deserve” bad things— because there’s just no way the universe would let all these bad things happen to a “good” person, right? 

When trauma kicks the crap out of our confidence that we can figure things out and handle life on the one hand; and our conviction that we deserve good and better things on the other hand, it’s no wonder that we often just don’t wan to get out of bed in the morning. 

Who WOULD want to get out of bed? 

Trauma recovery, then, is about reclaiming and rebuilding our self-esteem. 

Recovery is about accepting the fact what happened to us WASN’T our fault— even if our brain tries to tell us it was. 

Recovery is about realizing: the fact that we couldn’t control what was happening to us— and we may struggle to control how our nervous system is responding to it, even now— DOESN’T mean that our actions don’t matter. 

It doesn’t mean our priorities, goals, and desires don’t matter. 

We DO have efficacy in the world— even if once upon a time our ability to stop or change what was happening to us was limited. 

And we DO deserve good things. 

You, right there, right now, deserve to be safe. 

You deserve to have the same opportunities to create a life— the same opportunities at happiness— as any other human being who has ever existed. 

Trauma is going to try to convince you you don’t. 

Trauma is going to try to convince you you can’t change anything and you don’t deserve better things. 

Trauma is going to try to convince you it is a truth-teller. 

It is not. 

Trauma colors and distorts our world. 

It colors and distorters our future. 

And it ABSOLUTELY distorts our self-esteem. 

Trauma recovery is about slowly getting to the point where we don’t listen to it anymore— and when we do hear it, we recognize its propaganda for what it is.