Hey guys, welcome back to the Finding Clarity Series! Today’s post is a deep one, an important one, but also one that I can provide a lot less specific advice about because our wounds and our need for healing are all different.
Just know, firstly, that your wounds can heal if you stop poking them and start caring for them instead.
Here are some things to think about in terms of identifying your shame triggers, emotional wounds and a journey towards healing…
Healing from the past
Watch this: Lavendaire’s video on Healing from Past Wounds and Emotional Trauma, it also comes with a worksheet that I’ve used to work through my own past wounds.
Emotional wounds and scars are what people call our trauma, fears, belief systems, and painful memories and experiences. Things that happened in our past and have left traces in our lives to this day.
When we talk about “triggers” these usually come from unhealed past experiences that still cause you strong emotional reactions now.
As I say, what you need to revisit and heal is not for me to determine, but…
Here are some things to look out for that may indicate a wound that needs tending to:
- Getting angry easily about certain topics
- Defensiveness or putting up armour
- Things you “don’t want to talk about”
- Feeling the burning, sickly feeling of shame
- Deep overwhelming sadness
- Old metrics (measurements), values, or beliefs you used to live by and find yourself going back to
“You might be done with your past, but your past isn’t done with you.”
Language for healing
Language and dialogue are key to understanding yourself, having healthy communication and understanding others.
“I am feeling X which was triggered by Y and now I know I need to Z.”
Emotional Intelligence is so important to healing and self-understanding. This is because we find it hard to know what we’re feeling and why without emotional education and maturity. This starts, for me at least, with the right language for identifying how we feel.
I’m feeling angry.
I’m feeling shame.
I’m feeling anxious.
I’m feeling frustrated.
I’m feeling jealous.
Picture the characters from Inside Out, the Pixar film! All emotions play a role and are valid. Don’t think that just because it’s a typically negative emotion that it should be something you run from.
Emotions are just feedback. As Mark Manson says, “Negative emotions are a call to action, a sign of unresolved and unaddressed issues.“
They are “signposts” not “commandments,” he says, meaning we “shouldn’t always trust our emotions, we should make a habit of questioning them.”
All this starts with awareness. Being able to point out, “Oh, I’m feeling something here…I think it’s X.” And then, curiosity about what it might mean, “I feel X and maybe it could be because of Y. What does that mean? How can I move forwards?”
Emotional literacy is important for any healthy, wholehearted, well-managed, functional adult! Going around, feeling things like crazy, having no idea what is happening, what it means, what it’s making you do, or what to do about it is reckless and damaging. It sets you back and only hinders your life.
Bettering your emotional intelligence could be the best thing you can do for yourself and your relationships (all of them) in this world.
One emotion that has a lot of depth to it and can ruin our lives if left unattended is SHAME. Brene Brown is the queen of Shame as a Shame Researcher herself. It was through reading her book Daring Greatly recently that I identified more shame and shame triggers in myself than I realised.
Some thoughts from Brene:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.”
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
Shame lives on secrecy. It grows bigger and stronger in the dark. When we speak it, shed a light on it, it cannot live. Brene says this must be done with people we trust and who can hear our story without judgement. People who reply with empathy and kindness.
Hiding parts of yourself only hurts you. It’s not just shame around something in particular, it becomes about being ashamed of who you are.
I realised that I hadn’t told certain family members about studying again for fear of judgement, repeating the past, and pressure. Basically, I was allowing shame to win. Instead, I’ve now told them and it went as I should have expected: they didn’t care or react as badly as I thought.
We often think the worst. We build things up in our minds, turning a black cat into a vicious monster. But when we speak to those we love and who support and love us unconditionally, we take away shame’s power over us.
Even if my family had reacted badly, as my Sister-in-Law said when I spoke it through with her first, “It doesn’t matter because those who do matter love you and support you anyway no matter what you choose. Focus on them, other people don’t count.”
Reparenting yourself and Inner Child work
I’m just starting to unravel this one, so I won’t say too much. I think a lot of healing, self-acceptance, freedom, clarity, love, and worthiness comes from reparenting ourselves and speaking with our inner child. If you’re struggling emotionally, it’s likely that there are childhood scars – they’re often the deepest.
These aren’t always big traumas; even smaller ones that seem like nothing can still live inside of us and hurt us every day.
These are words like:
- Shut up!
- You look ridiculous!
- I can’t believe you got an F, are you even trying?
- You’re embarrassing me!
- I can’t look at you right now.
- Are you stupid?
- Why can’t you be like so-and-so?
- I wish you’d just be better!
Parents are human and humans make mistakes. None of us truly appreciate our words and how they can hurt others. When we are parents, we too will say things we don’t mean or things we think are harmless but actually teach our kids the wrong lessons in life.
What our parents say can lead to:
- Perfectionism problems
- Shame triggers
- Seeking outside validation
- Hustling for self-worth
- Defence mechanisms
- Wonky belief systems
In Daring Greatly, Brene says who are as people/parents does a lot more than what they say. As in, how we treat ourselves and live our own lives sends messages to our children. As kids, we mimic the behaviours we see. This, too, leaves belief systems and behaviours and values that could be hurting us now.
So, if you have a parent who hated themselves, never looked after themselves, and has low confidence, you too are likely to struggle.
If you had a parent who strived to be perfect, expected perfection out of you, too, you will now never feel good enough.
Work through that with a therapist, a loved one or a journal. What does the child inside of you need now?
I took a moment to open a Word Doc and work through all my feelings, fears, old ideas, new ideas, and beliefs about my insecurities. The first one I did was intelligence. I might share some of what I wrote because I know a lot of people have insecurities around intelligence, too.
But the thing is, nothing is simple. The only reason we feel insecure, not enough, less-than about things like intelligence is because we’ve been thinking about that thing all wrong.
It comes down to the agreements and metrics we worked on earlier in the series. If you equate intelligence to good grades or how many books you read in a year, then yes, you’re going to feel bad about yourself. But if you equate it to learning and growth mindsets, self-awareness, curiosity, seeking knowledge, seeing other perspectives, and asking questions, then I bet more of us will finally feel more secure in our intelligence.
So, whatever your insecurities are, dig deep. Analyse them. Shed light on what you really think and feel in that area, and then logically tackle it away from the emotional-reactions and wounds and fears that you may have.
Know that when you are trying to heal, tend to wounds, or analyse hard emotions, it will feel uncomfortable. It may be very painful. Others might be involved in the healing process (they usually are, as I said with my family) and you may want to run and forget the whole process.
You need this. You want this otherwise you wouldn’t bother reading this long post! So, give yourself time, grace, compassion, and resilience. Know that it will not be a linear road. It won’t be easy. You will feel exposed and vulnerable.
But again, Brene says vulnerability is needed. It is the “birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
We can’t just run and hide from the harder moments. Instead, facing them takes courage and will lead to everything we desire: freedom, clarity, trust, joy, belonging, connection, everything!
Brene, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
Ensure you have the following in order to do all this:
- A support system (friends or family who love you unconditionally and can work through things with you, where appropriate)
- A strong reason why to keep you going
- Sense of self-worth grounded in who you are even with your need to heal
This road to healing will be hard. You will have to have so much strength in order to do the hardest but most important things of all: accept and forgive.
Accept what happened and forgive those involved.
Accept what you did and forgive yourself.
Accept any mistakes made, hurt feelings, life changes, trauma, and forgive yourself for not knowing better, being able to change it, or not tackling it sooner.
Forgiveness is not about allowing what happened and saying it was okay. Forgiveness is not about letting that other person off the hook.
Forgiveness is about setting yourself free from it.
As with the anger and poison analogy, holding on to grudges, suffering and hate is just poisoning yourself, not necessarily the other person. But letting go and choosing to forgive is the antidote. It is the freedom and clarity you seek.
Again, let me reiterate that this will not be easy or linear. You won’t one day say “I forgive you” and then your life is sunshine and rainbows after that.
You have to choose forgiveness, perhaps in each moment, until it sticks.
Next week I’ll be finishing off the series with some last thoughts and tips and the resources I used and that I recommend to you, too.
Download and check out my workbooks and journal prompts to help you dive deeper and analyse your beliefs and emotions.