Resources: TED Talks about Negative Feelings

I really enjoy watching or listening to TED talks.

My first experience of TED talks was through the BARCC Hotline when a counselor suggested I listen to Brene Brown’s presentation about shame and vulnerability.  Since then, I’ve discovered other wonderful resources about feelings, nutrition, brain physiology, magic, etc.

Unfortunately, I’m not that great about keeping up with TED talks and many other video resources.  Movies and video don’t really have a big impact on my senses, so they are low on my priority list for distractions, resources, or coping strategies.

In this way, I am grateful for my friends who do enjoy videos and share links on social media.  This video made its way to me via Facebook.  As I write this post, I’m listening to the TED Talk about negative feelings.

The free account won’t let me embed and show the video on this post, so please click on the link above or here to watch.

Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. A talk to share.

This lesson took me many years to acknowledge, let alone understand.  Now, I’m working to accept my negative feelings.  Maybe some day, embrace them too.  Then I’ll be able to let those feelings go and move on.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: Martial Arts Can Help with Trauma rom AWMA Blog

**CORRECTION RE Krav Maga below**

AWMA – Martial Arts & Trauma (all photos credited to the AWMA blog)

One of the best experiences in my childhood was taking martial arts lessons.  The other was warrior training in my other life.  Tae kwon do taught me inner strength, resilience, meditation, discipline, and self defense in a protected setting.  Warrior training did the same, but with punishment instead of positive reinforcement.

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The link at the top of this page is an article from the AWMA that describes how martial arts can be used to treat trauma and help victims/survivors empower themselves through learning how to protect themselves and trusting their bodies again.

Martial arts is also a relatively safe way for victims and survivors to channel anger and feelings of violence from something scary and negative into something useful and positive.  I wish I still had that outlet, but my body can’t handle so much activity right now.  Plus my instincts are too close to the surface.  I fear losing control and hurting people too much to try.

Finally, finding a safe place to learn and practice is not always easy.  Not many instructors are trauma informed and/or willing to let someone with my kind of history take lessons with students.

HOWEVER

That doesn’t mean others looking for a physical outlet or activity more active than yoga or dance can’t try taking lessons.

For people who are comfortable with some or limited physical contact, I’d recommend Judo, JuJitsu, Tae kwon do, or wushu.  Maybe even boxing or kickboxing.  These are physically active, but don’t require a lot of sparring or extreme health until advanced levels.

**Edited to reflect guest comment: The amount of physical contact in Krav Maga classes depends on the instructor and the studio.  Thank you for the Correction**

For people who are less comfortable with physical contact, I’d recommend boxing, tai chi, and/or qigong.  Most of these trainings are in groups with limited or zero physical contact.  The pace is also different and can be better tailored to different levels of physical fitness.

Kung fu is great for many levels, requires limited physical contact, but is physically intense.  Maybe it’s the right option for you, maybe not.

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There are many other styles and types of martial arts out there.  Plus things like boot camps, dance groups, cycling, and so on that may work better for you.  Or even paramilitary/wilderness/survivalist training will work.

What I shared above are examples of the styles I’ve tried and practiced in the past with different levels of success.

If you find a school with instructors who teach using a philosophy of self defense and mindfulness, you will learn a lot more than kicks, punches, submissions, holds, and ways to fight.

Those lessons helped me build a flexible structure to fall back on even at my worst moments.  Maybe they will help you too.  Either way, I hope you click on the link and decide for yourself.

Thanks for reading.

Quotes & Affirmations: Empathy & Acceptance

Last post I shared a quote from Archangel’s Storm by Nalini Singh featuring the heroine. This post’s quote is from the hero, Jason.

Why?

I’m sharing this for many reasons, but mostly because it’s important for my male guests to feel included and acknowledged too. He says this to Mahiya after misjudging her actions early in their relationship.

“I apologize.  I do not know anything of the battles you’ve already fought or the choices you’ve had to make to survive”

Because Jason, like Mahiya, is an adult angel who has lived a long time (approx. 700 years according to the book).  He’s also a survivor of trauma.  In this world, angels do not become adults until about 200 years.  Under 100 years  angels are still considered children/pre-adolescent and look that way too.

Can you imagine a young child with wings too big for his or her body just learning to fly?  Can you imagine growing up on a remote island with only your parents?

Then one day both of your parents are dead.  You survived because your mother hid you, told you to stay quiet until she came for you.  But she didn’t come back.  And as a child, you had to survive alone until your body was physically able to fly all the way back to the angel stronghold where children are raised.

Does that make Jason bitter?  Does that close hi off from feelings?  Does it allow him to also feel empathy?  Does it along with natural talents make Jason a natural at his chosen profession – spymaster?

Here is the final quote from Jason.  Maybe it will answer the questions above.  Maybe not.  If you want to know more than the spoilers here, please read the book.

You’re not hard enough for such a task” – almost gentle words – “and I honor the strength it must’ve taken to fight the bitterness, to refuse to allow your heart to petrify to pitiless stone.”

Because Jason is afraid that exact thing has happened to him after so many centuries alone.

Like Jason and Mahiya, I sometimes fear that my anger and shame will take over and turn me into the perpetrators and predators who raised me.  I fear that my inability to connect with people face to face is a sign of permanent damage that marks me as something less than human.  Unworthy of healthy relationships, a job I love, and a life full of joy.

Then I remember that I survived.  That I have healthy, happy relationships with people who love, value, and accept me as I am.  That these people are my family and friends; people I love, value, and accept as they are.  That there is hope because recovery takes a long time.

And for every person that gives in to the bitterness, there is another who chooses love.  The feelings come so intensely, they feel like they’ll never go away.  But the feelings do go away eventually.  Acknowledgment and acceptance each time the feelings appear helps them feel less intense and go away faster.

So, I will be like Jason too.  He survived 700 years before meeting the one woman who helped him find joy again.  I can survive this cycle of intense feelings too.

Thanks for reading

 

 

 

Quotes & Affirmations: Choosing Love as a form of vengeance

 

This week, the OCD is really strong.  I am struggling with compulsions to be self-destructive, let shame take over, and push people away because I don’t deserve to be around good people.  Instead of being self-destructive, I chose to watch crime dramas, procedurals, and super hero shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime.  When TV & movies didn’t work, I re-read one of my favorite books about overcoming obstacles.

Here is the quote from Archangel’s Storm by Nalini Singh

“I’ll find my vengeance in living a life overflowing with happiness,” Mahiya vowed, “In drowning myself in love, not hatred.”

This quote reminds me that I have choices.  And so does anyone whose survived trauma and abuse.

Mahiya survived over 300 years living with a narcissistic father who hated the sight of her and blamed her for the fact that his wife wouldn’t forgive him for cheating on her with her twin sister.  Mahiya’s aunt was the ruler of the territory she lived in.  The aunt used her as a tool for vengeance and tortured her for fun as long as she was useful.  Then Mahiya’s father dies, and the aunt no longer has a reason to keep her alive.

If Mahiya can survive living in that kind of situation for 300 plus years, I can get through one or more nights of flashbacks & nightmares that trigger OCD.

So can anyone else as determined and courageous and resilient as Mahiya.  Because survival is one thing.  But living a life of joy & love in spite of past trauma is something else.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: Does a traumatic past = unhappy or terrible past?

Halloween is tomorrow.  From an objective perspective, I enjoy people watching and seeing the families with young children trick-or-treating.  From a personal perspective, my triggers are still too raw for my to actually enjoy the holiday.

So here is Wednesday’s post a few days early.

Background

Saturday afternoon, I was doing errands and visiting friendly people in the neighborhood.  It was the first day all week that I felt somewhat energetic and able to go out.  Not sure about you, but sometimes, in spite of using every coping strategy possible and trying to stay healthy, the flashbacks, triggers, pain, and exhaustion win.  And it comes down to choices: stay in, rest and be able to work; or go out, enjoy the nice weather, do errands, and come home feeling tired/sick/unable to work then next day?

But Saturday, started off pretty good and continued that way until obligation reared its ugly head.  Not sure if you recall, but I wrote a few posts back in August/September about toxic relationships and communication with people in my life.  My choice was to share the posts as a way of discussing the issues with them and then let those individuals make the next move since verbal conversations turned into stressful arguments or worse.

Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4.

Well, one of those individuals reached out indirectly; not through email, Facebook, text or anything like that.  Maybe this person expected me to come back and visit or reach out in some way?  When that didn’t happen, a mutual acquaintance “casually” asked if I was stopping by a  particular store to visit there too.

The situation

Personally, I knew that I would talk to the individual eventually because I would want closure in the future.  But I wanted to do that on my terms.  That meant walking away from a triggering situation with a potentially toxic individual for a while.  Then using that time to reflect on conversations, interactions, and changes in perspective.  I honestly did not expect her to reach out in any way.

But I also knew that if this individual did, I would be walking into a trap of some kind.  And by trap, I mean a situation where the other individual controlled the setting, manipulated our interactions, and tried to incite a reaction (negative) that shook my confidence or made me feel less than her.

The goal: to put me in my place by making me realize I had no control in the relationship.  That I conformed or got excluded from the community.

The set up was pretty obvious from the time I walked in.  Two friends were in the store with the individual; people close in age with shared interests and perspectives on life.  All three went out of their way to show me with their body language and own personal stories how little my update mattered to them and how boring my apartment decorating was.  When that didn’t incite a defensive or shamed reaction, they moved on to discuss other topics.

I listened to them and observed the store owner; that’s why I was there you see.  I wanted to confirm that this individual was not someone I wanted in my life.  Listening to the store owner talk to someone else my age, some other older customers, and answer a question I had about store credit confirmed that we would not ever be able to be friends or have a relationship in the future.  Put downs disguised as teasing.  Emotional manipulation in the form of “helpful” advice or suggestions.  Passive aggressive comments about body shape from the friends all spoken in sugary, polite tones.

But what really got me was when one of the friends talked about her “terrible childhood” and then condescended to tell me that I “was probably too young to know” what they were referring to.  The condescending part didn’t bother me.  I look 10 years younger than my age and told them so.  Then mentioned some other shows from that time period.  Not the reaction they expected, so the conversation ended with: “You’re a baby” from a person 9 years older than me.

Inspiration for this post

The female friend’s description of a “terrible childhood” struck me.  You see, the store owner befriended me when I first moved to the new state and was vulnerable – alone and getting to know the neighborhood – thanks to my social experiment.  So she knew a fair amount about my past, but not all the details.  One thing she knew about was my traumatic past and toxic family situation.

What she didn’t realize until later was the following:

  • I may be soft spoken and quiet, but I am not a pushover
  • I may not act confident all the time, but I feel and am confident in myself as an individual
  • I cultivate and live by the following concepts: radical acceptance, unconditional love, respect for all living beings, unconditional compassion, and forgiveness
  • Doesn’t always show because my triggers get in the way, but I am secure enough in myself to fight back, speak up, and assert myself when people try to take advantage of me or manipulate me or bully me or be mean in any way
  • I hardly ever start fights/arguments/etc. but I always finish them
  • I am strong, am resilient, and fight to survive – that means I fight to win and/or escape every time – and am well versed in how to fight dirty with words or fists
  • Finally, I work hard to cultivate only supportive, positive relationships while minimizing and removing toxic or negative ones.

So when she and her friends texted each other and brought up so many potentially triggering topics (personal finance, repairing/decorating the apartment, family) to try and manipulate me, I realized that I don’t need or want people like that in my life.  Listening to their conversations without reacting frustrated them more than it did me.

Observing them in action and talking about their childhoods got me thinking about my past.  It also got me thinking about the definition of an unhappy or horrible childhood.  Because honestly, I’m not sure that having a traumatic childhood is the same as having an unhappy or horrible one.  Yes, trauma causes many unhappy, horrible, unsafe, and dangerous childhood experiences.  Yes, trauma has a long-lasting negative influence on child/adolescent/adult development.

But does the experience of a traumatic past really = an unhappy childhood?

My perspective

Feel free to disagree with me on this.  After all your experience is just as true and valid as mine, and this blog/website is about accepting and valuing all perspectives and experiences of trauma.

When I started this website, about 28-30 years of my past was a blur of fragments and sensations that didn’t make much sense.  I couldn’t trust my memory of past events because of all the holes from traumatic amnesia.  And I didn’t know that my dreams and nightmares were sometimes interpretations of my childhood memories intertwined with the traumatic events.

There were times I woke up one morning and couldn’t remember what happened for the last 6 months.  Or times I was at work in the middle of a report, dissociated and/or switched, and couldn’t remember what happened for 5, 15, 20, 60 minutes at a time.  I had to go back and redo all of my work because I couldn’t remember what I started or finished.

That memory problem lessened as I started working with a trauma informed counselor.  And as the tangled trauma memories sorted themselves out, other memories surfaced.  Memories of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood that brought smiles and laughter.  Memories of accomplishments and small successes that strengthened my resolve and helped me understand where my values come from.

Memories, that when separated from the trauma triggers and shame, that reminded me of how wonderful and happy the most important parts of my childhood were.  Experiences where adults modeled tolerance and acceptance and forgiveness and compassion in their daily interactions.  Experiences that showed me how to bounce back from mistakes, be an individual instead of part of the crowd, own my flaws and turn them into strengths, and always have a plan.

Most important: anything is possible as long as I believe in myself and not let fear stop me from trying, making mistakes, learning, and trying again until I succeed.

Sure, I am flawed.  My family is flawed.  Some of them are outright dangerous and toxic and unsafe.  But others are safe and trustworthy and loving and accepting of everything in their own ways.  And the safe relatives, those are the people who taught me the skills I needed to survive and then let me go when I needed to leave in order to find myself.  When I did come back, they welcomed me with open arms and unconditional love and acceptance and forgiveness for hurting them – unintentionally or not.

Conclusion

So while traumatic situations can cause unhappy and horrible experiences in any phase of life, I truly believe that individuals choose their own perspectives of childhood or any other part of their life.

I choose to acknowledge and value what my traumatic past taught me while living without regrets and focusing on the gifts that same past gave me so that I could become the woman I am now and who I will be in the future.

And I hope that sharing this story helps other guests find the little bits of positivity that comes from any experience to help them move forward in their recovery or healing journey – whatever they choose to call it.

Thanks for reading