Psychological abuse leaves behind long-lasting feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, a sense of being separate from love. After this, it’s common for PTSD to develop as the survivor replays every second in their mind, over and over again. The feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy are so unbearable that the mind is desperately trying to figure out what happened, to ensure it never happens again. The mind slowly develops an illusion of control, by analyzing everything and knowing all the “why” answers.
From here, all sorts of protective walls start to pop up: anger, resentment, fear, and blame. While these are all completely understandable after abuse, they can also block us from the soft love in our hearts. Left in place, these walls can slowly lead to all sorts of personality changes: numbness, people pleasing, excessive solitude, over accomplishing, perfectionism, constant battles—and ultimately depression, anxiety, insomnia, even paranoia.
In order to unravel this puzzle, we must get back to the root cause: those unbearable feelings. I highly recommend working with a professional therapist through this process. Remember, these feelings were so intense that your body actually put walls in place to stop them from being felt. But they’re still stored in your body, and that is the nature of PTSD.
This journey starts when we become aware of what’s really going on in our body and mind. Instead of living in our protective mechanisms, we start to notice them. At first you may be inclined to judge or dislike these parts of yourself, but that’s not the purpose of this work. Instead, we begin to develop a kind and curious awareness of what’s going on. So if we become judgmental or angry with ourselves in this process, we include that in our kind awareness.
When we work through trauma, it’s important to pay attention to our bodies (heart, muscles, gut), which have a lot of their own wisdom. It’s frustrating to communicate with body sensations like “numbness” or “tension”, but we can start with the knowledge that our bodies put up those defenses to protect us from some really overwhelming stuff. By acknowledging this noble effort, we can begin to offer a lot of care and kindness to these sensations.
Given that psychological abusers minimize and dismiss your emotions, it’s quite common in this process to think “This is stupid” or “I’m making this all up” or “I’m actually to blame”. In fact, you might notice a lot of your healing has been done from the mindset of “What’s wrong with me?”. Again, just include these in your kind awareness. It won’t be easy at first, because these anxieties and doubts have been etched deeply in your thinking. But as you embrace these thoughts every day, the awareness will grow stronger.
As it grows stronger, your body will begin to unravel the old wound, piece by piece. These feelings are likely to be overwhelming and intolerable at first. They may wake you up in the middle of the night, feeling stronger and “more real” than the kind awareness. But the more intense these feelings become, the stronger your own awareness will become. Because it recognizes the truth: that no human being, yourself included, deserves to feel this way. And it will keep fighting for you.
With time, you may start to notice how harsh and analytical you’ve been with yourself. You may start to regard your old protective mechanisms with gratitude and understanding, rather than loathing. You may start to see yourself as a real human being, with real feelings, who is suffering.
The more you see these truths, the stronger your kind awareness will grow. And eventually, it will become a loving awareness. You will see yourself as someone who is trying so hard. Someone who has been trying so hard for far, far too long. And with time, the loving awareness becomes stronger than any doubt or fear you’ve ever had, deflecting them like flies.
That is the ultimate gift of this work. By the end of it all, you have something you never had before. A loving awareness that your heart can surrender to, completely. You can rest finally, knowing that nothing needs to be done. You are loved as you are.
Note: This work can take months or years of practice. It’s not a one-time “ah hah” moment, but rather a slow shift in the way we think, feel, and relate to ourselves. The more we integrate these techniques into our lives, the more natural they become. And eventually, old habits are replaced with new ones.
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