Friday, January 28, 2011

Raise Yourself Up! Guest Post by Amy Eden


Amy Eden of Guess What Normal Is

Every now and then I run across someone's work that just makes sense and today I want to introduce you to Amy Eden of Guess What Normal Is. I've asked Amy to give us an introduction to the subjects that many of us face who come from backgrounds that may have been less than normal. 

Over the next several days Amy will be sharing her 3 part series on the subject of her blog and introducing some makes-sense solutions we can adapt in our journey from there where we lived in the darkness...

to here, where we begin to live in the light. :)

Today then, Part 1 of Amy's series Raise Yourself Up!

By Amy Eden of Guess What Normal Is

Who, truly, are you?  How did you get here, to this place—this resource?  I’m here because I have a deep desire for a good and happy life, based on love and free of secrets, denial, and shame. It’s not my fault, but I when I was a child, at my most vulnerable, impressionable, when I was in need of consistent nurturing, good nutrition, and encouragement of my emerging self, my needs were a low priority for my parents. My human child needs were in competition with my parents’ addictions.  I was treated like a durable, rubber blob that was expected to be blind to reality, to inconsistencies, to terror, and just bounce, shape and reshape myself to fit my parents lives and related chaos, and then bounce back to shape after it was all over. 

But, what shape?  

Maybe your mother, father, and extended family, too, were abusive, whether emotionally abusive in a secret, stealth, insult-wrapped-in-a-smile sort of way, or physically abusive—or both.  Maybe you had alcoholic parents, or a parent who had an alcoholic parent and was conditioned in that environment. Or workaholic parents who neglected you and put their work first and used it as a buffer between themselves and the world.  Maybe you had a disabled parent—or sibling—who sucked up all the attention at home while you were growing up and needed attention and nurturing.  Or you had a seriously depressed parent, a narcissistic parent, or a parent with a borderline personality disorder.  Perhaps it wasn’t clear, your parents were never diagnosed, but something was just…off—something was wrong.

Whatever the particular lack or dysfunction, we all have a lot in common!  And we all want nothing more than to be free of the effects of how we were raised so that we can have enjoyable relationships and inner happiness.

What, exactly, do we all have in common?

A Childhood You Didn’t Choose

Here are the core issues that most plague people who were raised by deficient, neglectful, and abusive parents:    

  • You often personalize things and feel that, somehow, you are to blame for errors in the world, other people’s moods, and the outcome of events. 

Because our parents held us (as well as themselves) accountable—whether in a verbal or nonverbal way—for things that weren’t actually in our control, we continue to hold ourselves accountable for the actions of others and the outcomes of events. Maybe your parent guilt-tripped you into doing things, telling you that other people would feel bad if you didn’t take a certain action. In my house, it was, “Your brother will feel bad if you don’t go to his soccer game.” Or you were told that you “had to” go to a certain school, take a certain summer job, join a certain sport, to keep people happy—“Your father did everything for you to do play soccer (even though you hate it), you better not let him down now.” The message, time and again, was:  you must do what we want, you’re responsible for our moods and the moods of others.

  • You can’t seem to come to a conclusion about what’s “normal,” and would feel much calmer if you just knew what are desired and acceptable behaviors. 

You know you’d feel calmer if you freely trusted your gut and didn’t feel so uneasy in social situations, around authority figures, and when making life decisions.

  • You judge yourself often and meanly. 

Your compassion just isn’t there when you need it most (during everyday mistakes—snagging the sleeve of your sweater, forgetting to get gas again, spilled milk even!)  We experience great anguish when we realize we’ve made a mistake, particularly one that impacts other people. Our first instinct will be to cover it up because denial and not self-acceptance played such a large role in our homes.

We tend to be afraid that others will reject us, or leave us, when they discover who we truly are.  This has to do with the fact that our parents attacked our whole being rather than our actions when there was a problem or discussion; therefore, we think of ourselves as deeply flawed in light of the smallest fumbles.

  • While not meaning to and while not in keeping with your self-image, you tend to react to people, situations, and life rather than take action inspired by your own wants, ideas, and goals. 

We tend to relate to life as something that happens to us, from the position of victims, someone to whom things happen. In some cases this is very subtle—like making sure other people speak first, before you—and in other cases not-so-subtle (like when thinking thoughts like, ‘if only he/she would do x, y, or z, then I’d be able to have what I want.”)

  • People exhaust us because we’re not able to fully be ourselves.

A lot of us feel like chameleons.  And being chameleons was a necessary adaptation for surviving our childhoods.  As adults, we take-on personas that we feel work in particular situations and are hyper-attuned to non-verbal cues from others (even in situations in which we’re not entirely sure we want to be taking part!), which determine our actions, or more precisely—our reactions.

  • We don’t know our needs nor advocate for them; we don’t ask for what we want; we suffer guilt when we assert ourselves.

The way we grew up, we were conditioned to put others’ needs before our own—now the only way to get our needs met is, first, to begin to understand (a) what it means to have needs, (b) get a feel for what ours are, then (c) to become vocal about those needs and a champion for ourselves. Becoming comfortable saying ‘no’ to others (without feeling guilty for it or apologizing) is part of this, too.  It takes time, but we can learn that our needs and other people’s feelings are independent of one another, that getting our needs met isn’t in conflict, actually, with other people’s needs and their happiness.

  • We don’t feel our feelings.

While we are individuals in pain, and harbor deep pain from our childhoods, whether on the surface (sad face, slumped shoulders) or below the surface, we don’t know how to feel our feelings.  Our feelings were denied, yelled at, ignored, and even laughed at.  When feelings do arise, we’re easily overwhelmed by them and very quickly, we either deny them—to be “pleasant” for others and to avoid rocking the boat, or we re-stuff them because our feelings are begging us to say ‘no’ and speak our minds, and that seems high-risk and deeply frightening for us.

The Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization offers a description of the emotional issues of adult children of alcoholics—which I share here because it’s so relevant to the issues of people who endured other various types of childhood abuses as well. The ACA WSO refers to these emotional characteristics as The Problem—there’s no question you’ll find something to relate to in it.  Here’s my take on The Problem (be sure to read my Antidote!)

Comments and insights are invited and welcomed:) 

Join us here next week for Part II of Amy's series Raise Yourself Up!

Amy Eden, writer of fiction and creative nonfiction, has been studying and writing about issues of children of alcoholics for over fifteen years.  She has worked in book publishing and magazine publishing since 1994, and is currently an editor for a San Francisco-based book publisher. She has published nonfiction articles in city and national magazines, for educational publishers, and for the Web, and earned a BA in English and an MFA in creative writing.  Amy Eden’s inspiration for her self-improvement blog, “Guess What Normal Is” is to “help people trade armor for courage.”
 Thank you for reading today! Please visit Amy's blog Guess What Normal Is and let her know you found her via A Journey!

This post is property of its author; its publication here in no way implies endorsement nor should it be construed as medical or therapeutic advice. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Please sit with me and listen

Many just don't know how to sit with the pain of those who have suffered in trauma. Their intentions are good but they often don't understand that to heal most often begins with being heard. After all - if our experiences are not valid, what do we have to heal from so we should be able to just "get on with it", right?

If we are forced to live in denial of our pain from the trauma experience, we are often setting ourselves up for our pain to come out in other, often maladaptive,ways. 

This is when we can often fall into a long lasting depression and develop a chronic, deep sense of worthlessness, a feeling of hopelessness and helpless to ever be "better". 

We may act out against others as we project our anger and pain on those around us; unexpressed anger may become deep seated rage. We may feel as though we have no control over our own thoughts, feelings or actions.

If we have learned it is not acceptable to act out and in the past been punished or rejected for expressing our feelings and thoughts we may resort to acting in, engaging in self harming and self defeating behaviors.

Drinking, using drugs either prescription or illegal, promiscuity, "zoning out" and wondering where the time went....are just a few of the ways we adapt to survive the trauma and being denied our emotional experiences connected to it. 


The residual effects of our reality being denied or minimized by those around us. 

"What is wrong with you?"

This is often where the focus becomes one of managing "symptoms" as the focus becomes one of minimizing or managing the behaviors of acting out or acting in and still - the original pain is successfully denied and avoided. 

Those we turn to for help and support, feel validated as they become our heros and fixers; concerned  persons take responsibility for making us feel better. We feel hopeful that someone can finally "fix us", tell us whats "wrong" with us and offer us an Rx of some sort. 

Unfortunately when their well intentioned efforts to offer solutions and fixes don't work, or offer only temporary relief, we are then sometimes tagged as difficult, resistant and simply defective. Their desire and drive to "help" often turns to irritation as we struggle to understand why we don't "get it".

Our sense of hopelessness and helplessness increases as we are sure that they are right. 

Something is wrong with us, not that the help offered or the Rx prescribed was ineffective. There is something deeply and intrinsically wrong with me

Yet, when our experiences and pain are validated by another it is no longer an issue and it's effect begins to dissipate with each telling...

The fallout begins to fall away.

The key is to tell not to those who are naysayers or those who have all the answers.

But to sit with one who can sit with both our anger and our joy.

To heal most often begins with being heard.

I Will Never "Get Over It"

"story" or "Story"?

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Join me back here on February 7th as we take a look at learning how to share our stories and choosing who to share them with. 

This Friday....a guest post series on identifying some common issues and solutions faced by those of us who may have had a less than nurturing environment as we grew and developed. Learning to "re-parent" ourselves is the beginning of learning to live beyond broken and create and live our best life!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

To Everything There is a Season

To everything there is a season

There is a natural order to the emotional healing process. It was when I attempted to either circumvent or avoid this process that I struggled and suffered the most. 

And it was in trusting that in going through the pain that I would then live free from it that I found the courage to accept this process because I knew it would end; that it was not for forever.

To everything there is a season. 

May today you find peace if you are struggling with your pain. 

And trust

it is not for "forever". 

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Photo Credit

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pain is Pain

To Heal is a Journey...not an event


In my journey, I've personally experienced a broad range of trauma. I've also had chance to meet and talk with other survivors-of-bad-things. And while our stories are varied, our experiences different, very often our healing journey's are very similar.....

Pain is pain.

It doesn't matter the source of the pain - something hurts.

Healing takes place in the same way, no matter the sources of the injury; there is a natural healing process. An order. 

Wounds look different - a broken bone looks different than a cut. But still the healing process is the same for each. 

It is vital that this wound be protected; time, tenderness, dress the wound, set the break. Rest and compassion for the injury; don't overtax ourselves. 

Emotional trauma is trauma, regardless of the source; the wounds look different, the source of the injury is often different, varied. But the healing process is very often the same regardless of the type of or source of pain, I've found.**

Telling my story about what I survived is vital; but I learned to tell only to those who will treasure it and validate my experience and my pain without trying to offer fixes or worse - denying or dismissing my experience. 

It is vital that this wound be protected; time, tenderness and kindness for our soul and our spirit. Rest and compassion; don't overtax ourselves

Feel the anger; throw rocks at the mountain, pound the sand, scream, run...then be open to the tears and the grief at what was lost and what will never be.  

Journal, write, draw....whatever comes to mind to tell your story and allow the pain to escape your body. 

And be willing to do it over and over...

Until it is done.

I learned to not expect myself to be able to just "get over it" without attending to this pain. 

Avoiding it and attempting to go on as if nothing has happened was likely to cause this wound to become bigger; in time the untended wound may fester, take over our lives and cripple us as a physical wound left untended might.  

Or perhaps we go along, thinking all is well and the wound has healed, unaware that it was not completely healed from within and that we unwittingly left ourselves fragile. The next storm might toss us back into the throes of the original pain - or much worse as the waves of hopelessness overtakes us once again.

I found that this is the healing journey; the hard work and the healing path. 

Sometimes a physical injury hurts as it heals. 

Emotional healing is very similar. There is no short cut. There is no easy way around it. 

To heal from the wound, I learned I must go through the pain in order to finally get out of it...

and live free from it. 

**Note: the complex issues of child abuse create the additional need to address not only the trauma experience, but the interpersonal/developmental issues/life skills that are often related to the trauma experience. For more information on Developmental Trauma issues visit the Trauma Center developed by Dr. Van Der Kolk.

For more information about the unique issues faced by survivors of parental abuse and neglect visit my friend Amy at Guess What Normal Is 

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Natural Elixir of Emotional Healing


Too often trauma survivors, regardless of the source of trauma, are expected to somehow magically be "ok", as if there were a clock, ticking and saying "hurry up; aren't you done yet?"

And if they aren't, they are somehow "disordered"; their very normal response to trauma is seen as something being "wrong" with them. The natural emotional healing process is too often seen as a character defect, we are conditioned to simply see ourselves through the lens of "illness" and in need of someone or something that will somehow make our pain go away. 

In reality, we are often experiencing a very justified anger at the loss of control and the physical, emotional and mental injury of the trauma experience and grieving the losses around it.

It is in the validation of our experiences and the emotional and mental fallout from these experiences that we begin to heal. Compassion, a kind ear, a hug often do more than any elixir that could be prescribed. 

(See this note and comments at Facebook)

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Friday, January 7, 2011



The process of de-traumatization begins with validation....IT IS NOT NECESSARY to analyze every event. It IS necessary to be heard and listened to and to tell your story. But not over and over to everyone who will listen. Validation is critical. ~Dr. Frank Ochberg

This is the website where I found this quote; I have not read the entire site and cannot vouch for its content and publishing this statement in no way suggests an endorsement of this persons entire body of work. 

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lissa Rankin


Tune in to Empowering Solutions! this Thursday January 6th!

Click here  to listen live at 8EST/7CST/5pm Pacific time on Thursday January 6th or download the recorded broadcast to listen later!

This month on Empowering Solutions! we'll be chatting with Lissa Rankin, practicing gynecologist, best selling author of the book “Whats up Down There”, blogger, mother, artist and owner of the Womans Center “Owning Pink. 

We’ll be chatting with Lissa about how very often those who don’t want to talk about their unique woman-ness may have experienced some sort of sexual trauma or abuse - as well as offering some empowering solutions to help you reclaim your unique power!

Visit Lissa's website Owning Pink to get a preview of this months conversation!

Check out Lissa’s book:  WHAT’S UP DOWN THERE?: Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin’s Griffin; ISBN 0-312-64436-1; $14.99)

Click here  to listen or download the recorded broadcast!

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Anger and Acceptance



Anger and Acceptance is a big deal in the healing journey.

At some point I was able to piece together that my initial anger or irritation at others and circumstances - past or present - was connected to that sense of powerlessness that had ruled my life for such a long time. 

This served a couple of purposes....

In focusing on what others "should" do or "should" have done I had a sense of power over the behaviors of others as I judged them and their actions and often got lost in "story" and being that perpetual victim as my focus was on the power others seemed to have over my life. This kind of rumination was like pouring salt in a wound and reliving the injury or offense over and over.

And - focusing on what I thought others should or should not have done or be doing....successfully kept my feelings at bay and allowed me to avoid shifting from that "fight or flight" response of stress or conflict to the more vulnerable state of feeling the feelings behind my personal boundaries being violated and the "Story"  that would enable me to find healing.

It took some practice but eventually I was able to recognize that my anger was not a bad thing thing, needing to be managed. But that this feeling was the starting place for recognizing the difference between accepting what I truly had no power over - what others do, think or say - as well as the things that I DID have power over - my own thoughts, feelings and choices  today.

And slowly I made that shift from rumination to resolution of past injuries and learned to no longer tolerate the intolerable and embrace the power within that would allow me to create the change that would change my life.

Related Posts...

Fighting Forgiveness

I Held the Key to my Freedom

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!