Today I want to share my personal experience with 'taking responsibility' for my traumas. I want to share how I've been walking the line between understanding where my patterns of harmful behaviors have come from, understanding that nothing I do is intentionally harmful or bad, having compassion for my history and programming while at the same time using my self love tools in a way that allows me to GROW and CHANGE these parts of myself.
I want to share how I'm learning to use explanation as a vehicle for growth rather than as an avenue to live in 'excuse.'
I hope my personal experience serves to help you balance the two if you're finding it hard to navigate understanding that there are things we need to shift in ourselves sometimes without going into shame or guilt - or going to the other side of the coin where we abdicate our responsibility to shift and change because we have a 'good reason' for being how we are.
Let's dive in and see how we do.
Explanation Vs. Excuse:
There’s a big difference between an EXPLANATION and an EXCUSE.
In our world today, many are becoming more and more ‘aware’ of ‘why they are the way they are.’
More and more people are coming to terms with their traumas, their histories, their genetic and neurological conditioning/foundations. People are seeing the patterns that have been passed down through the generations, the changes that have occurred with each generation and the flow of history that’s led to the world - and the people - we have today.
This is an INCREDIBLE thing and is something I think we should all be celebrating.
Having a clearer understanding of ourselves as individuals and as a collective means that we are more empowered to make changes where changes need to be made, it means we can have more COMPASSION for ourselves and others, and it means we can move forward knowing that we aren’t just ‘making bad choices’ when we harm ourselves or others - there’s a lineage going on. There’s conditioning. There’s nervous system patterns. There’s pain. There’s COMPLEXITY - which is the most important aspect to understand.
With this new-found awareness, it feels like more of us are finding some PEACE in the fact that we aren’t inherently broken, flawed or weak.
As we discover that we have chronic illness we didn’t know was chronic illness, as we discover our root traumas and where we were cut off from love and provision (even if our upbringing ‘looked normal’ or at least FELT normal to US because it was our ‘normal’), where we were trained to believe things that aren’t true, where we developed certain behaviour patterns as adaptations to the environments we had to survive in - we are finding greater levels of SELF ACCEPTANCE.
We are recognizing that we didn’t arrive in adulthood fully aware, fully capable, fully knowing all there was to know, with full capacities to go out there and ‘get our lives’, only to decide to be incapable. Only to decide to engage in unhealthy relationships, coping mechanisms and addictions. Only to choose to ‘not live up to our potential’ due to some inner deficiency. We are finding freedom from SO much of the shame, guilt and down right self hate we’ve had over the seeming gap between what we think we should be/what we’ve been told our whole lives we should be and what we ACTUALLY are/are capable of in this moment.
This is HUGE and I hope it’s a trend that continues. I hope we become more and more of a compassionate society understanding that NOTHING ‘started’ with us - we ALL inherited a world that was already turning, on the micro and macro scale - and SO many things that are assumed to be ‘normal’ and ‘the way things are’ are DEEPLY harmful and hurtful, needing questioning. I hope that we continue to look at our PAIN and our incapacity to ‘go along with things’ and rather than judging ourselves as inadequate and quietly trying to ‘fix’ ourselves (with all the self help/self improvement/healing modalities we can afford or even not afford) so that we can fit into these systems, we continue to QUESTION the systems, their value, their rightness and their function - as we are the ones the systems should be serving, not the other way around.
Awareness = Get Out Of Jail Free Card?
At the same time, we don’t want to fall into a pattern of using our new found awareness as an EXCUSE to give up on ourselves, to continue with behaviour that doesn’t serve us or others, or otherwise to stay stuck in loops, simply because we have a REASON for being how we are. We don’t want to become a generation that says ‘well this is not my mess, I didn’t make it, I was raised this way/traumatized/have physical issues I didn’t choose, that have caused me to feel how I feel and to act how I act - and it’s the worlds job to simply understand and accommodate me - no matter how harmful my behavior may be to those around me or to myself.’
You see, there’s a HUGE difference as far as I’m concerned - between acknowledging trauma/lineage/inherited mess, having compassion for ourselves that we are not in fact flawed, evil or stupid and then choosing to do our best to continue to GROW within these messes - and choosing to allow our awareness of the past to be something we use as a ‘get out of jail free card.’
There’s a gigantic difference between ‘ah I see why I did that, that was my conditioning/trauma/pain talking. I get that I’m not ‘choosing’ to do this to try to hurt myself or others, this is coming from past pain and I’m going to love myself safe within it so that I can GROW to a new way of being’ and ‘You need to just be ok with whatever the consequences of my behaviors are because they aren’t ‘my fault’ or I’m just going to live with the consequences of these patterned responses so that I don’t have to feel like I was ‘doing the wrong thing’ this whole time when I DIDN’T have awareness or the capacity to change.
There’s a fine line to walk here, and I feel like, at least for me in my life, it requires constant checking in to make sure I’m walking in integrity.
The Fine Line I'm Walking In My Life:
I was born with several physical issues that for MOST of my life I blamed on myself. I pushed through when I was tired and in pain. I worked when I should have rested. I figured out how to burn the candle at both ends and just ‘clean up my mess’ in the morning. I worked REALLY hard to try to be as unobtrusive to those around me as possible in ways that caused me to degrade myself via ignoring my actual needs and making myself sicker in the process.
I was raised in an environment where a lot of my mental/emotional/physical needs weren’t met, where I was shamed and blamed for the way I was, where I LEARNED to be a rescuer/codependent/manipulative in order to feel loved. I grew up in some pretty toxic relationship patterns, having profoundly poor self esteem which led me to being at once really desperate to be seen, heard and loved while also being totally closed off, analytical, emotionally unavailable and lacking in any kind of healthy boundaries. I’ve been someone who willingly allowed people to push me past my limits, and then turned around and got mad at them for doing so - when I was the one who didn’t set the boundary. I’ve made promises I couldn’t keep. I’ve routinely misunderstood and mischaracterized people very close to me, filtering them through the lens of my childhood instead of allowing them to be THEM. I’ve been deeply critical of certain behaviors and ways of being that are NATURAL to my loved ones, causing them to feel hurt and abandoned by me. I’ve stepped in as ‘savior’ more times than I can count, erasing the people I was trying to help and losing touch with any sense of empowering THEM - needing to be ‘right’ more than I wanted to actually make THEM feel better.
I’m neuro-divergent and my emotional processing mechanisms are simply totally DIFFERENT than most other people. This has caused me to come across as uncompassionate, preachy, proselytizing and lacking in any nurturing, human level CARE on many, many occasions. I’ve told people ‘the truth’ in ways that were only harmful. I’ve abandoned human relationships for logic and rightness.
I didn’t make any of the messes above. I didn’t choose to be that way. That was all trauma. That was all ‘how I am.’
Knowing that, knowing that none of the above is ‘my fault’, knowing that none of the above is ‘bad’ in the sense that it makes me a ‘bad’ person that I have done these things, doesn’t mean I’m not showing up for these hurting, immature, abandoned, neglected parts of myself with love and compassion AND asking them to grow up.
With compassion. With love.
For me, this awareness is something again I’m balancing.
It means I’m placing boundaries on myself and my time and energy - accepting my physical, mental and emotional limitations and recognizing that being HONEST with people about what I can and can’t do is actually BETTER in the long run (though I know I will disappoint them in the short term sometimes) for everyone.
Also it means I’ve had to love safe the parts of myself that are TERRIFIED of being left behind, seen as weak and incapable, being rejected for not being able, being seen as DIFFERENT in a bad way.
It means accepting that I need to rest more than others.
That I have to take care of myself in ways others don’t.
It’s meant learning that what I used to call ‘selfish and lazy’ is actually vital for my current state.
I’m also NOT limiting myself to ‘being like this forever.’ I’m still seeking every day to support my body in getting stronger. I’m still here showing up, accepting where I am AND also working in ways that I can to improve things. Both/and.
I’m processing the mental/emotional pain of having been sick my whole life and blamed for it. I’m grieving. I’m processing the fear and everything that comes with admitting I’m ‘sick’ in ways I may never be able to fully ‘heal.’ It’s a lot.
But I’m willingly showing up for all of it and choosing to do my best not to let it be something that gets ‘dumped’ on the people around me. Sometimes I need extra help. Sometimes I’m in pain and I’m short tempered and mean. Sometimes I slip up - but I always choose compassion for myself and to make amends rather than using my EXPLANATION as an EXCUSE. I can EXPLAIN why I’m mean, why I’m not able, why I’m emotional - but I don’t use that as a reason why the people around me should have to ‘put up with’ being treated poorly.
Explanation. Not excuse.
I’m using this same understanding with my emotional/mental traumas. I have an EXPLANATION for why I do harmful things. For why I bleed on people who didn’t cut me. I have an EXPLANATION for why I shut down, why I overreach boundaries, why I proselytize, why I try to shut down others expression, why I do harmful things - AND I’m NOT using it as an excuse to keep doing those harmful things.
I realize that these harmful things don’t make me a ‘bad person.’ I never INTEND to cause harm. I never INTEND to be rude or short or judgemental. I never INTEND to hurt others feelings. But I do it. And when I do, again I show up with compassion for myself so that I can LISTEN to the people who are telling me I hurt them, and so I can CHANGE and EVOLVE to do better in the future. So I can show up for THEM differently. So I can meet them where they are, finding that place where we can both feel seen, heard and supported. My trauma is the EXPLANATION, but it’s not an excuse to keep being that way. When I hurt others, it’s an opportunity to go deeper into my shadow, to love myself safe (and do all the processing/resisting/pitty party-ing and so on that needs to happen in that process) so that I can then learn, grow and change. Grow. Not feel bad, not have shame, not go into guilt, not go into defense - just learn. Change.
Sometimes I can’t and that’s ok. Sometimes I have to admit I’m overwhelmed and can’t see their point of view. Sometimes I need space. Sometimes I have to admit I’m not mature enough yet. I have to clean up a mess I know I’m going to make again. I have to say ‘sorry, please forgive me, and know I’m working on this but I’m probably going to slip up and do it again. But I’m working on it! I’m going to keep getting better. It’s not your job to ‘accept’ my slip up, just know I’m an imperfect human, but I’m not ‘owning’ this behavior as an identity.’
I’ve learned that it’s OK TO CHANGE. To have been wrong. To have been harmful. To have been what I didn’t want to be - to realize I was causing harm I didn’t know I was causing - and to make it OK that that WAS what I was doing and that I can do different in the future.
Change doesn’t mean I was BAD before. It means I was doing the best I could at the time. Now I know better. I can do better. Slowly. With compassion.
This to me is the real essence of the power of awareness.
Why Bother With This?
The point of all of this, for me, is that I want to see a better world. I don't want to keep living out my traumas, stuck in loops of harmful thought and behavior patterns that were developed as survival mechanisms before I had autonomy.
I don't want to carry on the lineage traumas that were passed onto me.
I don't want to leave this world and it's systems the way they are so that the next generation gets to be just as traumatized and harmed as I was.
I don't want to keep hurting people I love.
I don't want to keep hurting myself.
As far as I can tell, and as far as I have seen, we humans tend to have a pretty hard time with paradox - and self love is one of the greatest paradoxes I've ever come across.
It's this balancing act between accepting who and what we are, understanding how we got here, having nothing but compassion and love for this being that exists AND knowing that as we love, support and accept ourselves and our histories, we are GOING to grow and change. That we are going to 'improve' the way we do things - meaning we are going to become less and less harmful and more and more harmonious. We aren't going to stay the same when we're really loving ourselves - because life want's to GROW. And when life is getting the tools it needs (love, provision and safety) it's naturally going to change and mature.
The parts of me that hurt and are hurting others need to be loved as they are. Yes. In that, they are naturally going to want to do something different - something that FEELS BETTER.
Because the patterns of harm we all learned, at the end of the day, when we feel SAFE, don't feel good.
They feel FAMILIAR. They feel comfortable. They feel safe and predictable - but they also hurt. When we are shaming, blaming or abandoning ourselves, we are triggering ourselves into a state of fight and flight - and in that we CAN'T change. Our nervous systems won't let us and doing something different will feel WORSE to us than just keeping on how we are. This is part of the reason we double down and deny that we know what we know when we know it - we're scared. When we're scared, change is the ONE THING we can't do.
But when we LOVE ourselves safe - that feeling of 'if I change I'll die' wears off. The fear of being rejected or misunderstood stops having so much power over us. The fear of change = admitting we were bad before stops controlling our lives.
In this, we are just left with the pain of the consequences of our conditioning/the systems we were raised in - and then of COURSE we are going to want something different. Because we want to feel GOOD.
This self love approach is the way to make change feel GOOD. So it's not a discipline to grow. It's not a forcing. It's not using shame or guilt. It's using the natural tools of pain and pleasure to guide us towards something more useful for our survival and for us thriving.
THAT'S the point.
We change not because being how we are is 'bad' - but because it hurts. We change because we deserve to feel better, and to do better for everyone around us.
We change because we DESERVE to change. We are worthy of something less painful and more pleasurable.
THAT'S the point.
We love ourselves safe, so that change feels GOOD. So that moving towards something more mature, more aligned, more ordered, more harmonious feels like a thing we WANT to do - because we aren't locked down in fear. We become ok with being misunderstood, rejected and abandoned by others as we venture towards truth. We become our own safe place so we can determine for ourselves, as we interact with real reality, what is and isn't 'truth' and what is and isn't helpful. It makes us less dependent on consensus and more capable of creating new systems that work better for everyone.
THAT's the point.
This self love allows us to evolve our traumas into lives that feel better.
I hope we can all use our awareness as a powerful tool for shadow work, so that we can GROW into better humans - for ourselves and those around us. Knowing why, getting real about our current limitations, getting real about what we can and can’t do in this moment AND loving ourselves enough to keep striving for growth - that’s the magic mix.
What does this bring up for you? I’d love to hear your reflections as well.