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Trauma and self-sabotage all too often go hand in hand. This subconscious self sabotage can block us from the joy, love and success we are absolutely worthy of. Are you ready to move away from the cycle of self-sabotage?
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SELF-SABOTAGE AS A TRAUMA RESPONSE
TRAUMA BIG AND SMALL
Trauma is a tricky word to define because it’s such a personal experience, yet we all understand it at a soul level. Trauma and self-sabotage are often the key components in an unhealthy cycle that keeps us stuck. At some point in our journey, we will experience trauma in which something that isn’t fair, just, loving, or right will happen to us and we will be left trying to understand it.
I'm a big believer that we all have something that we're working on. Some of us have major trauma. Some of us have smaller traumas. But we can all have some sort of trauma response that can be triggered by the smallest thing, the biggest thing, or the most obscure thing.
And one of the most damaging trauma responses is self-sabotage. Have you ever caught yourself in a cycle of self-sabotage but don’t know why? Let’s talk about that!
Self-sabotage is responding to a situation through the lens of trauma and creating drama and stress around a situation that has provoked a trauma response.
TRAUMA AS A TEACHER
I’ve shared often that my childhood experiences included a lot of yelling, walking on eggshells, and a constant state of bracing for impact. My step-dad was loud. He was an alcoholic. And he was abusive.
So when I was faced with a manager in my very first job in the car business, having my general manager bear a very strong resemblance to my stepfather created a strong trauma response.
Every time I was called into his office, I braced myself for something BAD.
I couldn’t pinpoint what the bad thing was that I was bracing for, but my entire being just thought “You’re in trouble Amy!” But I wasn’t. I was being called into an office to communicate about the work I was doing or even to receive praise for a job well done.
It took me months to realize I was having a trauma response to my past instead of a new and positive working relationship with an entirely different person. Trauma response is an invitation to heal. To see through a different lens. To reclaim your belief you are worthy of love, respect, and all the beautiful experiences the universe has to offer!
If you have the tendency to self-sabotage, take a step back and try to see the situation through multiple lenses.
TRAUMA SKEWS THE FACTS
Trauma is something that happened to you that shouldn’t have happened. It’s when a pair of hands you trusted should have given you a hug and instead….maybe those hands hit you. It’s a person in your life that should have had your back and instead stabbed you there.
Your soul remembers. Your ego remembers. And your ego wants to keep you safe.
But now, you’ve associated one experience with all new experiences moving forward. Trauma skews the facts. It asks you to hold other people accountable for things they are not responsible for. But we are worthy of looking at new people and new experiences through a different lens and accepting the love and support they have to offer.
- We can create a new response based on the new information.
- We can have healthy relationships after trauma.
- We deserve it.
The majority of the time when we're responding from trauma, the story is not actually accurate.
SELF-SABOTAGE WHEN LIFE IS GOOD
It’s easy to understand why a challenging situation or conversation can cause a trauma response, but what about those times when things are going SO GOOD?
And we STILL have a trauma response? This is where self-sabotage comes in. Our set point is an expectation that when things are good, it’s just the opening act for the trauma to make its grand entrance. Our whole being is expecting it, so why not just get it over with? Everything is so great right now, so…..
Over-reaction! Blow up over a minor inconvenience! Pick a fight over something insignificant!
Does this sound familiar? This is exactly what self-sabotage as a trauma response IS.
A lot of people will self-sabotage that's because that was the only way that they understood how to receive love. And it's really, really hard when if that's the only way you've received love, then okay, something's going great. So let me self-sabotage, because that's the only way that I know how to receive love in these situations.
But how can we change this?
You are worthy. You do not have to self-sabotage in order to experience love.
CHANGING YOUR TRAUMA RESPONSE
Trauma creates a story for us. Sometimes the story is accurate and sometimes it's not. The facts around the trauma, are true and you can honor that.
But in your story, there was a particular situation or person that caused the trauma, and if you’ve learned to react to ALL people and ALL situations as if they are the root cause of your trauma, it’s time to do an edit.
The majority of the time when we're responding from trauma, the story is not actually accurate.
We want to take a step back and wash off the story and listen to what the person's saying again or replay it in our mind in a different way. This allows us to start perceiving things in a different way, through the lens of love instead of trauma.
This part of your journey is also healing yourself from the inside out. And this will change your relationships as well because you deserve it. You can leave trauma and self sabotage out of your experience. You truly, truly deserve it.
If we haven't processed our trauma or found the courage to really look at our self-worth and recognize our triggers, it can prevent us from living our best and most authentic life.
Sometimes, we have to have difficult conversations with people who have hurt us, said mean things, or been dismissive of our thoughts, feelings, or perceptions.
Not every single conversation means the other person is completely innocent in the conversation.
There are people that do insert mean tones and do have ill will. But we still have the power to break the cycle of self-sabotage.
I have a rule for hard conversations. They need to occur in a way where we can either see or hear each other (no texts!!) so that we can both hear the tone and inflection of the other person and not errantly insert our own perceptions of “how they are speaking to me.”
I want to encourage you, if you have the tendency to self-sabotage, to take a step back and:
- Look at your words
- Look at the other person’s words
- Look at their deeds
- Look at their actions
And then see through different multiple lenses, different perspectives, because it might help you change the way that you're responding in that situation to eliminate the subconscious self sabotage that causes an unhealthy response.
The more kindness, the more love, and compassion that we give to our community and ourselves, the more love, kindness, and compassion can grow within the community as well.
OBSERVE YOUR TRIGGERS
We all have triggers. These triggers cause us to respond to a current situation as if it carried the same weight as a traumatic situation in the past. This is the self-sabotage cycle we want to break!
But the great news is, once you identify these triggers, you can work with them, honor them and then remind them that the story has changed.It is really important for us to recognize these signs because you will sabotage the very thing that you are looking forward to.
Self-sabotage happens because of the trauma, unworthiness, shame, guilt, the nervous system's response, or the ego trying to keep you safe and brace for impact. And this happens because of what has happened in the past or is what is currently happening in regards to causing the trauma within you. So how do we fix this or how do we respond differently?
You are worthy. You deserve to be loved. You do not need to be alone.
THE LENS OF LOVE
How can we change our trauma responses and not cause ourselves to self-sabotage the good things happening in our lives? How can we separate trauma and self sabotage? One thing I’ve learned is to view what is happening through the lens of love and compassion. When I am facing a hard situation, a difficult conversation, or a trying person, I can ask myself:
- What are they actually saying?
- Are they saying this the way that I think they're saying it?
- Am I responding in a way that is from trauma?
- Can I try to add some compassion and love into this conversation for myself and for the other person?
Taking a step back and trying to view the conversation through the different lenses will instantly support you in finding some sort of compassion for yourself and or for the other person. This is where healing begins. This is where you can decide you are worthy to view your experience through the lens of love. This is where you can step into the belief that the universe is here to support you, love you, and wants you to live in peace, joy, and abundance.
How do you read the text on social media or personal text messages? Are you inserting tone and attitude?
***Please note that some words are purposely misspelled so this article can be found by people looking for internet content using alternative spellings.***
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Full transcription of the episode:
Hello. Hello everyone. Today we are going to talk about self-sabotage and how this can occur with trauma response. I'm a big believer that we all have something that we're working on. Sometimes we have some major trauma that we're still processing that is holding onto our body. Some of us have smaller traumas that we're still working on, but we can all have some sort of trauma response that can be triggered by the smallest thing, the biggest thing, the most obscure thing.
I know that for me, I'm always looking at and observing people's responses. My husband and I, watched this show on, I believe it was Netflix or it doesn't matter where it was located, but it was called 90 days In. And there's these volunteers that go into the jail and they're undercover. And what they do is they volunteer to act as an inmate, to be an inmate for 90 days, and then give feedback to the higher-ups in the jail. I can't think of the word right now and what they're called so that they can reform, reorganize, and better the jail system. And so they get really honest feedback from these people. And when these people go in, it's hard. It's very, very hard. It's a reality. Like their reality completely shifts.
And one of the volunteers on the very first season, she was always in foster care. When she walked into the jail like the women did not accept her. And you can see her trauma response and her body language. She's completely shut down. Then she's lashing out. And I felt so sorry for her because I just wanted to go up and give her a big hug. And so I'm giving you an extreme example, right? Not everybody is going to go and volunteer and go into jail. But I found this show very fascinating and as an empath, normally I can't watch things like that, but I observed it through a different lens to look at how people respond to trauma and how they will sabotage things or create drama or more stress in their life because something's occurring in their environment and they're responding from a place of trauma.
I recently had someone that I care about respond this way as well. She was having a hard time and she was interpreting things in a different way than they were being shared. And this can happen. We can put tone and inflection into a conversation or a text message or even in an audio message or when the person is standing there. Our trauma response is really, really strong and if we haven't processed or haven't found the courage to really look at our self-worth or to start recognizing these signs, it can really ruin our life. And I'm being extreme here, but it's true. It can ruin really great opportunities because you don't feel like you are worthy enough or you deserve something and this is huge.
I know, for me, and I'll give you an example: when I started my first career, I was super excited about this career. Growing up, my stepfamily is Hispanic, and my stepfather is Mexican, and he had this very particular demeanor. He was an alcoholic and he yelled and he was abusive. And I grew up walking on eggshells my whole life. This is just something if you know an alcoholic, some alcoholics are really nice, some of them are really mean, but you don't know what you're going to get when you get an alcoholic. And growing up in this environment, I learned how to walk on eggshells.
So my very first job in the car business, my GM reminded me of my stepdad, completely reminded me of my stepdad. He looked similar to him. He had the same demeanor as him. And any time he would call me into his office, I thought I was going to be in major, major trouble. And it wasn't until I finally caught that, like, hey, I'm realizing I'm bracing for impact every time I come in here. And all he was telling me is,"Hey, can you do this?" Or, "Hey, you're doing a good job in this." Never once did I ever get in trouble when I went into his office. And I finally had to recognize that I was bracing for something from an experience in the past. This was my trauma response. And I even talked to my mom about it and I said, "Hey, mom, when your boss calls you in, do you always think that you're going to get in trouble?" And she goes, "Actually, yeah. I never thought about that, Amy."
And it was a really big awareness at 21 years old for me that that's how I was responding to someone that's done nothing to me. But we can do this. We can so do this because if someone is in an authority position, and if someone hurts you in an authority position in the past or is currently hurting you and they're an authority position, or we've put them in an authority position, this can cause us to sabotage healthy relationships that have nothing to do with anything that's happened in the past or is currently happening with something that is causing you trauma.
And this is because our nervous system is responding in a way that we are used to responding. And so for me, I have been working on this all of my adult life. I will continue to work on this all of my adult life. I will catch myself doing little things that I don't recognize that I'm doing, that I will work on this my entire adult life. Is it better than what it was when I was 21? Absolutely. But there are things that I will still catch in small conversations where unworthiness comes up or I'm not feeling good enough, or I'm misinterpreting what the person is saying. And I want to react in a different way than what actually is happening.
And this is really important for us to recognize these signs because you will sabotage the very thing that you are looking forward to. And self-sabotage happens because of the trauma, unworthiness or shame or guilt or the nervous system's response, or the ego trying to keep you safe or the ego trying to brace for impact. And this happens because of what has happened in the past or is what is currently happening in regards to causing the trauma within you. So how do we fix this or how do we respond differently?
One is observing the conversation with a lot of love and a lot of light. And one of the things that I really love doing in spiritual work is trying to look at any situation through multiple lenses. So I'm wanting to see different perspectives of what's occurring and why it may be occurring because you never ever know what's happening in the other person's shoes. Even if they're being mean, even if they're truly being rude, you never know what is truly happening for them.
So I always try to take a step back, not make it about me and take a breath and look at like what are they really actually saying? Are they saying this the way that I think they're saying it? Or am I responding in a way that is from trauma? Or can I try to see if I can add some compassion and love into this conversation for myself and for the other person? And this right there, taking a step back and trying to view the conversation through the different lenses will instantly support you in finding some sort of compassion for yourself and or for the other person.
It might just be a little, like 1% more compassion than you had, and as you do this more and more, the easier it gets as well. I know for me also, growing up, like my stepdad was an authority figure. So for men talking to me and having a particular authority over me, sometimes I would have to take a step back and not take what they were saying personally to wash off the debris from my childhood to see what they were actually saying. And this allows me to actually see what they're saying without inserting story in it. And sometimes the story is accurate and sometimes it's not.
The majority of the time when we're responding from trauma, the story is not actually accurate. And so we want to take a step back and wash off the story and then listen to what the person's saying again or replay it in our mind in a different way and allows us to start perceiving things in a different way. You are worthy. You do not have to self-sabotage in order to experience love. A lot of people will self-sabotage that's because that was the only way that they understood how to receive love. And it's really, really hard when if that's the only way you've received love, then okay, something's going great. So let me self-sabotage, because that's the only way that I know how to receive love in these situations.
And I know for me, I used to do this to my husband, like, I would blow something out of the proportion because something was going so good. And it would be like, where did that come from? And it was because that was how I experienced love growing up. And so if you are or have ever experienced trauma and you're still processing things and you're still working on things, watch the way you're responding. Watch your interactions with people. Watch how you may be inserting tone or changing the way that the context is being laid out.
And I want to preference this as well. Not every single conversation means the other person is completely innocent in the conversation. That is totally not what I'm saying. There are people that do insert mean tones and do have ill will. People do have that. However, what I'm saying here is, if you have the tendency to self-sabotage, start looking at how you're responding in conversations, even if the conversation is not face-to-face. How do you read the text on social media? Are you inserting tone and attitude? How are you reading the text when someone sends you a personal text message?
I often have a rule if there's a challenging conversation to have with someone, I will tell them, let's have this conversation by phone, in person or on video, because I don't want context and tone to be lost. I actually had to say this to my daughter's daycare, the other day. They were misinterpreting what I was saying, and I wanted to make sure that it wasn't misinterpreted because I wanted to make sure that I was clear and that everybody knows I wasn't upset, I wasn't mad. I just wanted to express myself in a really healthy way. And I also wanted the people there to express themselves in a healthy way, so everybody felt, heard, seen, and safe expressing what it was that needed to get done or what have you.
So I want to encourage you, if you have the tendency to self-sabotage, take a step back, look at your words. and look at the other person's words. Look at their deeds. Look at their actions. And then see through different multiple lenses, different perspectives, because it might help you change the way that you're responding in that situation. And remember, you are worthy. You deserve to be loved. You do not need to be alone. And it is so important for you to experience self-love on all levels.
And so this part of your journey is also healing yourself from the inside out. And this will change your relationships as well because you deserve it. You truly, truly deserve it. And if you have a friend, if you're like, "Amy, this isn't me, but I have a friend that does that," please give them a lot of love and compassion and encourage them to do this inner work, because it takes years. It really does take years and years of untangling trauma within the system on how we respond to things. And it doesn't mean we're responding negatively all the time. It just means that some
The more kindness, the more love, and compassion that we give to our community and ourselves, the more love, kindness, and compassion can grow within the community as well. And we all deserve that.
So I hope that you've enjoyed this episode. Please make sure you like and subscribe. Share this with a friend. I love you guys. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode. Bye.
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