SMOTHERING NEW LOVE
Being constantly treated by a parent or partner as ‘not good enough’ grates on our sense of well-being—swells of sadness spill over in to all aspects of our lives, feelings of abandonment and loneliness overwhelm. Painful experiences imprint deep scars on our soul. The memories continue long after the event. Poor treatment spurs incessant feeling of unworthiness—even after the emotional abuser is gone. Living with our own personal critic, integrated from harsh outside judgments, creates a constant sense of shame—suffering from self-abandonment. The scars from the past continually resurrect the past and shine it on the present. These painful remnants of the past trigger emotions that wreak havoc with current relationships. The past intrudes on the present destroying the opportunities needed to heal. Instead of enjoying the healing comfort of a safe relationship, internal insecurities continuously erupt—destroying relationships and inviting those who exploit weakness into our lives.
If we are ever to find peace, we must transcend the childhood traumas, quit recreating the past, and compassionately embrace the broken child within.
Rationally, for most, this advice makes sense; but practically, recognizing past trauma and its influence doesn’t automatically extricate the devastating force from our lives. Integration of insight is what’s needed, not simply insight. Trauma wouldn’t be so bad if it simply remained in the narrative of our past; but it’s much more. Like a parasite, the past drains vitality from the present. The smallest sights, smells, and sounds trigger powerful emotions established during the traumatic past—overwhelming, unexplainable and unbearable emotions. Emotional flooding narrows thinking, limiting cognitive resources, the current signals of danger demand full attention. Once the system is overwhelmed, identifying the emotions as relics from the past must wait; once the storm calms, thoughtful reflection, may help reconstruct the current event to properly identify the past and present involvement. This reconstruction is far from simple. Under the influence of strong emotions, we often say and act in hurtful ways. Our new hurtful actions motivate weighty justifying explanations, blaming the small triggering event in the present, and ignoring our own maladjustment.
The limiting of rational thought by high emotions is a survival mechanism—a biological construction. To rationally combat an overwhelming emotion is a biological impossibility. Some learn to emotionally numb themselves—effectively combating hyper-arousal. But emotional numbing has high physical and social costs. Others allow full emotional expression—destructive and hurtful. Neither path effectively leads to the life we desire. We need emotions. We need them to relate to the world. We need our own experience with emotions to recognize emotional expression in others. Emotion becomes the foundation of experience, adding richness, novelty, and wisdom to life.
When early life emotional programming has disrupted this system, we have work to accomplish. There are no magical cures. Painful pasts must be accepted, approached, and examined. As we grow, we can establish an open kind relationship with the wounded child from our past. Often our own acceptance is the beginning of change, opening doors for closer relationships, avoiding difficult exchanges, and establishing a foundation for self-confidence. Growth requires more than simple mind games; we need outer experiences to supplement mental efforts. Some of these outer experiences may include: exercise, active engagement (flow), meditation, nature, and professional guidance. These are physical acts of doing, purposeful actions that relieve stress, rejuvenate the mind, and provide a healthy departure from previous routines. They are self-soothing.
Self-soothing combats shame creating a kinder environment. A safe environment clears perceptions, providing a more realistic view, washing away misconceptions, which allows detecting the maladaptive framing of the present. Until we un-cloud our vision, distinguishing between the past and present cannot be accomplished.