Updated: Jun 25, 2019
“Are you at the wheel of your life or is something else?”
This seems like an easy enough question and I would gamble most people say “I am in charge of my life and I call the shots”.
Are you though?
I see it in my own life as well as the lives of those I work with- TRAUMA... at the wheel.
Don’t worry though, it isn’t the end of the world if your trauma is navigating the ship for now. What matters is that you identify, to the best of your ability, which trauma is at the wheel and why.
Trauma comes in many forms. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual traumas can unknowingly be directing a human’s entire life if they don’t catch it in time. Trauma also comes in the form of conscious and unconscious memories.
Firstly, conscious trauma. Take a moment to sit down with pen and paper and jot down the top 3-5 traumas that come to mind. These traumas should be memories that are very clear in your mind, no guessing as to what occurred or didn’t occur (save the uncertain memories for the unconscious portion of this practice). If you feel like this practice is too much for you, working on this with a mental health practitioner can be a helpful place to start. Once you have your list of conscious traumas, draw a vertical line beside your list and start the next list. The second list should be a list of the TOP 3-5 priorities/goals/intentions in your life right now (such as: get the work promotion, make new friends, ask my love interest out on a date, save up money for a new car, etc.) Once you have both lists side by side, start with your first trauma. Whether you feel the trauma is big or small, it most likely plays a role in every decision you make IF you haven’t wrangled it in yet. Go down your list of top priorities and ask yourself “Is this trauma affecting my ability to (blank)”.
For example, “Is my memory of humiliation in second grade, that is STILL seared into my mind, affecting my ability to show my boss how great I would be for the promotion at work?” Dissect the trauma (again, being gentle with yourself and ask for help from a friend or seek help from a mental health practitioner when needed) by locating the underlying feeling, belief and fear within the trauma. For example, “I felt humiliated when my second grade teacher yelled at me in front of the entire class for something that was not my fault”, “I believe that any situation that puts me in the spotlight could lead to humiliation again”, “I am afraid to show up in all of my glory for the promotion because I might be humiliated”.
By outlining the feeling, beliefs and fears behind a trauma, you can begin to see how you may be allowing your trauma to steer the ship at the cost of YOU, your goals and your best Self.
Sometimes there will be very clear connections such as the example above and sometimes there will not be as strong of connections between your traumas and your priorities. Traumas don’t ONLY affect your priorities though, they affect your relationships (with yourself and with others) and they impact how you “show up” in the world every single day.
Although unconscious memories can be challenging to unearth, there are several ways to grow your awareness in hopes of healing the deep recesses of the mind. In the practice above, you started with your conscious traumas and then looked for the ways they might be creeping in to your important goals and priorities. One way you can access memories that may be unconscious is by starting with your daily habits, relationships, experiences then looking for dis-empowered behaviors. For example, you can’t seem to bring yourself to look the clerk in the eye when purchasing your coffee, morning after morning, despite how kind they are to you. You know that if you are going to accomplish your goal of making new friends you will need to be able to make eye contact with people you meet. Is it possible that somewhere in your mind you have a traumatic memory that is causing you to fear eye contact and the connection/intimacy/vulnerability that accompanies it? Yes, totally possible, just as it is also possible that your resistance to eye contact may not be due to trauma. What matters most is that you have identified a part of yourself that needs attention in order for you to go slay your goals and wishes!
By bringing more awareness to your conscious and unconscious traumas, you are choosing to live in the present with an empowered outlook for the future. You don’t have to have every single trauma of your life outlined, highlighted and categorized in a note box in order to heal yourself and empower yourself; but the work of healing will require your dedication and devotion.
Don’t worry, it will be well worth it! XOXO