Fear and Childhood Trauma – My Story

No parent intentionally screws up their children’s development. Even so, I have never met a human being without issues to overcome. Of course, not all childhood trauma comes from our parents. It may stem from teachers, peers, other relatives, neighbors or even strangers.

Overall I think the vast majority of us learn our patterns from our parents. Some of those patterns may be positive, but many will be negative. These unhealthy patterns can last a lifetime because most of us don’t realize that they even exist, much less, that the patterns need correcting.

It’s important to remember that each of us is only doing the very best we can at any given moment, that includes our parents while they were raising us. That being said, I picked up some pretty undesirable stuff from both my mom and my dad. I love them with all my heart, but these are things I must face if I truly want to heal.

I guess a bit of background is in order before I really get started. My parents were divorced when I was five years old. My sister and I lived with our mother and spent every other weekend with our father, for the first few years, anyway.

My father remarried almost immediately after the divorce. He and his new family moved to another state when I was about eight years old. I didn’t get to see my dad again for six years.

Not only did my mother not have any skills required for a career, she also suffered from Multiple Sclerosis which prevented her from working full-time. My sister and I were raised on a welfare disability check.

The entire situation created some intensely difficult and conflicting emotions. Emotions I really had no good way to deal with as a child.

My mother had become very ill by the time I was eleven years old. Her disease progressed from that point, taking more and more of her livelihood until we were forced to move her into a nursing home when I was sixteen years old. She was just forty-five at the time.

During those five years preceding the nursing home, my sister and I cared for our mom the best we could. It was a lot of responsibility for two young girls to handle.

We certainly learned many useful skills of household management we otherwise may not have mastered at such an early age. We also rebelled against our situation every chance we got.

Always searching for that opportunity to be free of our responsibility and feel like children again, we both tended to “adopt” our friend’s parents as our own.

I grew up viewing my mother as a saint and my father, well, he bolted and I was very angry. Let’s just say I wasn’t very fond of my dad back then. I wanted to hate him, but I couldn’t. He was my dad and I loved him. So I blamed him instead, for pretty much everything.

No matter how much I admired my mother for what she endured and her determination to raise us, our relationship was upside down and backwards. The parent is supposed to care for the child, not the other way around.

This type of family dynamic can, and in my case did, create some codependency issues. I am a caretaker by the nature of my upbringing. I have always struggled with setting boundaries and taking care of myself. Everyone else’s needs always seemed to come first.

We were also very poor, living below the poverty line. My mom did a fantastic job with what little money we had, but there was never enough. Two undesirable lessons came from this unfortunate situation.

My mom always went without so that my sister and I could have what we needed. So, of course, my sister and I learned this strategy from her and brought it with us into our own adult lives.

The second was the lesson of lack. When a child grows up knowing, or being told, consistently, that there isn’t enough money, safety, food or anything else, that child will learn lack. It is a lesson that is extremely hard to let go of.

Although I am educated, I have a career, and I make a decent wage, it still feels like a struggle to make ends meet. It always feels like there just isn’t enough. I feel lack as an adult because that is what I learned as a child.

My father and I didn’t have much of a relationship when I was young. Between the ages of eight and twenty-three, I spent two weeks with him total and that’s it. We would talk on the phone and occasionally write letters. I always wanted him to be proud of me, even if I was hating on him.

My mother passed away when I was twenty-five and I realized I only had one parent left. I decided I wanted to make the best of that and try to repair my relationship with my dad.

So for the last twenty-five years my dad and I have been okay. We still live in different states, but we see each other more often. He is proud of me and he says so. Yet, I am still fairly uncomfortable around him.

Why? Because he doesn’t really know who I am. He has some strong beliefs and opinions about life and so do I. The problem? Our values don’t match, in fact, they probably couldn’t be farther apart.

I’m fine with his views and who he is, it’s all good, but my childhood fear of being abandoned by my father still exists today. I am afraid to be myself with him for fear he will reject me.

And the cherry on top is I really don’t like that I feel this way. The admission alone took a tremendous amount of effort. And I know, on some unconscious level, that I am beating myself up for not being able to overcome this fear.

My hope is that by putting this out into the world I will release some of my fear and begin to heal. Begin the process of forgiveness. Me forgiving my dad, for only being able to do his best at any given time. Me forgiving me and treating myself with kindness when I am not as far along my path as I would like to be.

Peace and love.

 

 

 

 

Love Yourself Awake

Once upon a time, I was easily wounded by what I perceived as another’s rejection. I was all too willing to take everything personally. The slightest comment, or lack thereof, could be considered a deliberate attack.

My ego was, and still is, capable of creating scenarios completely blown out of proportion and based on events that have not actually taken place. I lived my life from a place of fear.

I was afraid of being abandoned, not being good enough and winding up alone. I was so consumed by my fear that I stopped speaking my mind. I kept my mouth shut, acting as if I had no opinions whatsoever.

I had been avoiding conflict for many years in an effort to keep the peace and be likeable. I had become everyone’s doormat! And no one knew the real me. She was hidden from the world.

On the outside I was strong, smart and capable. On the inside, I was a crumpled mess. That is the story of how ego works. The ego is your self-image, the you that you present to the world, and it is an excuse making machine! Here are some of the things my ego told me:

Strong, confident women don’t wear their emotions on their sleeve.

I am better than they are, so there is no need to argue.

I am patient, tolerant and kind. There is no need to hurt someone’s feelings by expressing what I really think.

Everyone has a right to their own opinion and views. It is not my job to judge.

Now, that might not sound so bad, right? Not if it is your ego doing the talking. The ego tells you what you want to believe to keep you in your place. The ego is afraid of change.

Inside of me was a mountain of repressed emotion that was about to become a volcano of spewing anger, judgement and self-loathing. I had embraced becoming the victim.

It oftentimes seems, that as human beings, we gravitate toward the negative. Rather than take responsibility for our actions, feelings and emotions, we want to blame, complain and stay the same.

I am not the same person I was six months ago. In fact, I am dramatically different. I have discovered the “bigger voice” inside of me. My soul-self is awake and I am allowing her to take charge.

Everyone wants to know what the “one thing” is, the key to happiness, the secret to life. I know that secret. The “one thing” is self-love. There is no stronger force for creating joy than learning to love yourself.

 

You can consciously practice gratitude, forgiveness and self-care with positive results even if you haven’t truly achieved a great level of self-love. My article Soul Growth tells of my journey and some of the tools that got me here.

It’s difficult to explain and I know my old self would have had a difficult time grasping the notion, but with self-love comes clarity. The clarity to see what an amazing creation you are and everything and everyone else is too.

The practice of gratitude and forgiveness takes on a new life as well. It seems to come naturally to me now, without so much effort. There is so much more to be thankful for and so much less that requires my forgiveness.

I now know that strong, confident women are not afraid to show their emotions.

We are all equally perfect in our divine creation regardless of how we express ourselves.

I AM patient, tolerant and kind, but that does not mean I have to keep my mouth shut. My opinions matter. The feelings of someone else are their responsibility and, quite frankly, none of my business.

Just as I believe everyone else has a right to their opinions and views, so do I. It is not my job to judge anyone else on what they believe and it is not their job to judge me. My feelings can only be hurt if I believe what is implied.

 

My journey has been amazing and I look forward to all the future holds for me. A word of caution, however, would be that although I love the changes that have taken place and I am deeply grateful for the awakening, it is not always a comfortable place to be.

You still have to feel your emotions, in fact, possibly on a much deeper level than before. I know, for me, I have good days and bad days, just like before. Now, however, my good days are fabulous and my bad days are, well, not so tragic.

My ego can still get the best of me. My soul-self usually prevails if I use my tools. I always have to keep working. If I let my spiritual practice slide, I will fall back asleep.

So I keep practicing, I keep learning and I keep evolving. With every day I am able to do this, the world becomes a brighter, friendlier place, where we can all be ourselves, we are all connected and we are all enough, just as we are.

Smiles and hugs!

 

 

Gratitude 2.0 – Going Deeper

Being grateful for the good things in your life is one thing, but have you ever considered expressing gratitude for the things you aren’t so happy about? Let’s explore this concept together.

In my post How to live a happy life – 13 actions you can take today, I invited you to take a thirty-day gratitude challenge, where you would list three different things you are grateful for, each day for thirty days. If we look at our lists I’m guessing we will find mostly pleasant experiences and things that make us feel really good. That’s fabulous, but now, let’s go a little deeper.

What happens when we become grateful for those not so wonderful feeling experiences and people in our lives? Miracles happen!! Trust me, it is pure magic.

So you might be asking, how exactly am I supposed to be thankful for stuff that makes me feel lousy? Well, to start out, you don’t have to actually feel it. Fake it, if you have to. The more you practice, the better you will start to feel about it. Eventually, you will begin to believe it and before you know it, miracles!

My belief is that we are spiritual beings having a human experience here on Earth. We are here to learn, however, that part of us that is human, has allowed us to forget our purpose here and even that we are, at our core, spirit.

Spirit wants to know contrast. Without knowing pain, how could you know comfort? Without first experiencing fear, how could you experience courage? Without the feeling of grief, you would not be able to know delight. Without sadness, there is no happiness. Without blame, there can be no forgiveness. This list goes on and on and on.

In the book, The Language of Letting Go, Melody Beattie writes, “One simple concept can get us through the most stressful of times. It’s called gratitude. We learn to say, thank you, for these problems and feelings. Thank you for the way things are. I don’t like this experience, but thank you anyway. Force gratitude until it becomes habitual. Gratitude helps us stop trying to control outcomes. It is the key that unlocks positive energy in our life. It is the alchemy that turns problems into blessings, and the unexpected into gifts.”

In the book, Gratitude A Way of Life, Louise Hay writes, “We even want to be grateful for the lessons we have. Don’t run from lessons; they are little packages of treasure that have been given to us. As we learn from them, our lives change for the better. I now rejoice whenever I see another portion of the dark side of myself. I know that it means that I am ready to let go of something that has been hindering my life.”

Life on Earth will know conflict and opposition as long as we are still learning and growing. Cherish all of your moments, good and bad. Every one is required to make you who you are, and you are amazing!

Below is a great quote on opposition. I am not positive of who actually said it. It has been attributed to Winston Churchill, Henry Ford, William Wrigley Jr., and Ezra Pound. I suspect each has said it, in one form or another.

Love yourself, love your brother, love your life. Everyday say Thank You. Thank you God, Thank you Universe, Thank you Life, for everything, all of my experiences, because I know everything is a blessing, even those feelings, thoughts and experiences that don’t look like it at first.

When you are done being grateful, say “Something wonderful is going to happen today.” And it will.

Smiles and hugs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 things cats know about mindfulness and awareness

I have loved and been owned by cats my whole life, starting at age two. I have come to some conclusions after all these years of studying their antics.

I think we humans can learn quite a bit about living life to the fullest from the cats we share our homes with. Cats are truly mystical creatures and seem to have mastered the art of just being.

They seem to know that their presence in the world is enough. Their only responsibility is to exist and share their glory with the rest of us.

So here is my list of six things cats know about mindfulness and awareness that we humans have yet to learn:

1. Cats know how to live in the present moment.

Cats aren’t worrying about their futures or reliving their pasts. They are present, right here, right now, in this precious moment. The only moment that really matters.

Cats eat when they are hungry, sleep when they are tired and are perfectly content to be still, quiet and simply observe life as it is.

Cats know how to receive love. They are blissfully there, in the now, revelling in the act of receiving your touch. They are not afraid to show you how wonderful it feels for them. What if we could that?

2. Cats know how to forgive.

Cats don’t hold grudges. I have never known a cat to withhold her love from me because I went on vacation that one time and didn’t invite her to go along. Or because I forced him into that little crate and made him go to that place where they poke him with needles. Or because I forgot, that one day, to scoop her litter box.

Cats forgive and forget. They have the ability to move on with enjoying life because their own pleasure is important to them. What if we could do that?

3. Cats always follow their joy.

Cats love to play and amuse themselves and they are capable of creating fun out of nothing at all. They don’t require expensive toys or other beings to enjoy themselves.

A cat will chase a shadow, jump at a flicker of light on the wall or hunt and capture a scrap of paper found hiding behind the chair. They never grow out of this playful nature. Cats love to play throughout their entire lives.

If you have ever spent time watching one of these incredible happiness machines in action, you know they give their all to every playtime they create and they couldn’t be enjoying themselves any more, in that moment. What if we could do that?

4. Cats trust their instincts.

Cats do not spin their mental wheels pondering what their next move should be. They instinctively know and they immediately act on those instincts.

The mind of a cat is not cluttered with thoughts of “I should” or “what will the other cats think about me if I do that?” A cat knows what he wants, in that moment, and he goes for it.

A cat has no ego, she can only be her truest, most authentic self, by instinct. And so it is.

5. Cats know the benefits of spending time in nature.

Many pet cats these days are “indoor only”, meaning they live exclusively indoors and are not allowed to go outside. There are many reasons for this, including keeping them safe from motor vehicles, if you live in the city, keeping them safe from predators, if you live in the country or keeping birds and other wildlife safe from them, which has become a concern for some.

My cats do spend most of their time indoors, however, I find it important for them to have time outside as well, sometimes to the dismay of my neighbors.

Cats are considered to be domesticated, but I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that cats are their best natural selves when outside enjoying all that nature can offer, just as we are.

My cats are not allowed to roam whenever they want and I am diligent about having them inside after dark, but they know that even a short spell outside can contribute to their overall happiness. And they are not shy about asking for it.

6. Cats embody the concept of self-love.

Cats know their worth and demand that the world take notice. You will not find a cat with self-esteem issues.

The one-eyed cat acknowledges his beauty is equal to that pure bred Persian down the street. The three-legged cat knows his power to be equal to the four-legged felines next door. And the stray, homeless kitty knows she is just as worthy of love as the pampered pet inside your home.

Oh what we can learn from our feline friends. I hope you enjoyed this post.

Smiles and hugs.

Split Yourself Open…Letter To An Old Friend

True self-love is all about forgiveness. The first and most important person to forgive is yourself. It’s important to open yourself wide and look deep inside to the shadows of your soul. Accepting and even embracing the parts of yourself that you would rather hide from the world. These parts are your true blessings. Your flaws and fumbles are what make you human and they also make you, you. This is a letter I wrote a couple of months ago.

Dear Old Friend,

I saw you in my dreams last night and today I am inspired to write this letter to confess and confide in you some truths about our past. You may never read this because I may never send it, but it must be written while I have the courage and motivation to do so.

You have always held a very special place in my heart and I believe you always will. I am so grateful to have had both the pleasure and the pain of sharing a little bit of life with you, as your friend and otherwise. I want to tell you two things. This is difficult for me to admit, even today.

Maybe you remember coming to me one night when we were in our early twenties. I was in a relationship with Russell (name has been changed), our mutual friend at the time. You were hoping for an intimate connection and I turned you away. It wasn’t because I was in love with Russell and it wasn’t because I didn’t love you. I had a secret.

I had contracted the genital Herpes virus from Russell. Of course, I wanted to protect you from that, but I was also protecting myself. This was not something I wanted to share about myself, it would have been too painful. So I chose to hide my truth. Forgive me.

Believe it or not, my next confession was even harder for me to accept. Very deep breath. I lied to you once before and it was a much bigger lie. A HUGE lie. I am so sorry. I have managed to forgive myself and hope, that in time, you can too.

There was no baby. There was no miscarriage. I am tearing up even now as I write this. I made the whole thing up. I recited this lie so many times and for so many years that I may have actually believed it myself.

The first time I admitted to fabricating this story was in therapy about eight years ago. My therapist helped me understand that I was trying to cope with how messed up my family life was at the time. My Mom was put in a nursing home at the age of forty-five and I was being shipped off to another state to live with a father I barely knew.

I loved and admired your family very much. I desperately wanted to be a part of that. So my sixteen year old mind created a family of my very own. A child that didn’t actually exist, except in my mind. A child that gave me a connection to you and to your family. Something for me to cling to when my world got turned upside down.

It was never my intention to cause you pain. I have only ever felt a very deep love for you, your siblings and your folks. I miss you all and think of you often. Finally, at age fifty, I am finding ways to heal my old wounds and get peace. I wish the same for you.

With love, your old friend,

Trish

 

 

How to live a happy life – 13 actions you can take today

I originally intended for this article to be a list of fifteen actions you can take today to live a happier life, but with today being Friday the thirteenth, I thought a list of thirteen might be more appropriate. Enjoy.

1.  Practice Gratitude

It is so easy to take the beauty in life for granted. It seems sometimes that we are built for negativity. Practicing gratitude can be a powerful way to realize how wonderful your life already is. It’s not always easy to feel authentically grateful, especially if things aren’t going your way. The good news is that gratitude can be learned. You can fake it until you make it.

I challenge you to practice gratitude for thirty days. Start a gratitude journal and each morning, for thirty days, list three new things in life that you are thankful for. It can be something huge like divine guidance or something small like warm socks or anything in between. If you would like to see my gratitude journal, it will be posted weekly, for a limited time, on this blog. At the end of your challenge, I would love to know if this practice improved your life and how.

2. Practice Forgiveness

Forgiveness will set you free. Holding a grudge only hurts the person choosing to hold it. Why spend your precious energy all worked up over something you can’t change. The past is done, there is no undoing it. You can’t change the fact that you have been hurt and you can’t force anyone else to change their mind or behavior. What you do have some control over is your own thoughts and actions. Rather than wallowing in your own hostility, why not change the way you think about the situation. Wish your adversary love. Pray for them.

The most important person for you to forgive, is you, and this is often the most difficult task to accomplish. If you can forgive and love yourself, you will find it much easier to forgive others in your life as well.

One good way to get started is to send love and blessings to one person or thing that is irritating you each day. This can be yourself, someone else or not even a person at all. I list mine right after the three things I am grateful for in my journal. Repetition is encouraged on this practice as it may take some time to truly forgive the hurt that runs deep. You will be training your brain by doing this practice daily and it does work.

3. Write your stories.

Start a journal. Writing can be a very powerful tool for healing. Spill your emotions and fears onto the pages in whatever way feels therapeutic to you.  Write poems, write stories, write letters you will never send. Try writing a letter to God, the Universe or your higher self. If you can’t take the chance of someone finding your written words, feel free to burn the page when you are done. What is important is that you release what is bottled inside of you.

4. Learn to say no and yes.

It is time to start saying no to people, events and things that drain you of your life force. It is not your responsibility to deal with other peoples issues. Take care of yourself first. Ask yourself “Am I doing this out of love or out of fear?” For example, are you doing someone a favor because you love them and are happy to help or are doing it because you are afraid the person will think less of you if you don’t? Choose love.

It is time to say yes to your life. Yes to contining to learn everyday. Yes to new experiences. Yes to change. Yes to the things you love. Yes to your intuition and yes to the power of believing in you!

5. Meditate

Start a daily meditation practice. I cannot tell you how much this has helped me to be present, see clearly and remain calm. We spend most of our time either dwelling on the past or looking to the future. The past is over. The future doesn’t exist yet. Now is all that matters. Meditation can teach you to focus on now. A large commitment of time is not required. You can experience the benefits in as little as ten minutes a day. There are many phone apps available for guided meditation. Play around and find something that fits your style. Give it a try.

6. Get out in nature

Go for a walk, or a run or maybe just sit under a tree. Feel the force that connects everything on this planet. Look with wonder at all that you see. Get grounded by walking barefoot on the sand or the grass. Get your toes, or your hands, wet in the stream or the lake. Listen to the wind, the birds, the gravel beneath your feet. Drink it all in. Unplug for just a little while each day. It will be worth it.

7. Do nice things for yourself

Make your happiness a priority. It isn’t selfish to take care of you for a change. In fact, I think it’s necessary if you want to stay healthy. Take the time you need to do the things on this list. You are worth it. Treat yourself to a massage or a little gift, something you’ve had your eye on. Take a class or go out with friends. Indulge in a bit of self-love.

8. Give

It is better to give than to receive. It has been proven that people tend to feel better about themselves if they give to others in need. I personally believe that the more you give, the more you get. The time is always now, even if you feel like you don’t have enough to spead around. No matter what my situation is, I am generous with what I have, there is always someone else who needs more than I do. So donate your money, your time or your stuff. Feel those good vibrations!

9. Spend some time alone

This is never a problem for me. I love my time by myself. Some of you may feel the same way. There is a trick to this, though. You need to be alone without distraction. Yep, that means no television, no texting, no social media. Most people will find it extremely difficult to just be still and quiet with themselves. The reason we are uncomfortable with this is because we will be forced to listen to our own thoughts. When you engage in this practice, be kind to yourself. Remember to practice forgiveness as you do this as well.

There is no better way to become aware of your thoughts and what is truly important to you than being alone without anyone else to influence what is on your mind. If you want to expand on this experience, take a trip by yourself. Go away for a couple of days and only do what you want to do. If this scares you, you may want to ask yourself why.

10. Trust your instincts

Many of us are not willing to act on our instincts or intuition.  We don’t trust ourselves. We may be afraid of failing or of what other people might think of what we are doing. Your intuition is what your soul wants, what your heart desires, it is your higher self giving you inspiration. When you ignore your intuition, you turn your back on your authentic self. Don’t feed your fears. Trust your intuition.

11. Embrace your demons

Have you hugged your demons today? We all have a dark side. If you have taken some of the actions listed above, you may be seeing some of yours by now. This is key to learning self-love. There are parts of ourselves that may be difficult to love, like, or even admit to.  The first step here is awareness. What are you ashamed of? What makes you angry or sad? What are afraid to talk about openly? It may be uncomfortable to acknowledge at first, but it will become easier with time.

The next step is acceptance. No one is perfect. We all have flaws. These perceived imperfections are necessary to the human experience. They are something we all share. Without our darkness, our light would not shine. To experience wholeness you must accept all of yourself.

Finally, it’s time to embrace. Release your shame, your anger, sadness and jealousy by gently trying to see it’s source. Where does it come from? Do not judge yourself. Treat your demons with compassion and understanding.

12. Chase your joy

One of my definitions of joy is watching my son grow, learn and develop in his own way. Another is being curled up with a great book, hot coffee, a blanket and a vibrating cat on my lap. I feel calm, at peace, like everything is right in the world.

What brings you joy? Once you define what that is, start using your energy to chase your joy. My home is rarely as clean as it used to be. Cleaning does not bring me joy. My time is better spent on things that do.

13. Walk into your fear

Whatever you are most afraid of, is what you should be paying the most attention to. Our conscious mind will always choose fear to block us from true awareness. Your authentic gifts can be revealed by facing what scares you. Walk into your fear. Walk into your greatness!

Happy Friday the thirteenth to you!!