Healing the past layers of wounded-self:
Many people have had experiences that make feeling vulnerable or intimate with some more overwhelming than it needs to be. In order not to feel this way, we develop coping strategies to avoid feelings and appear normal. These unprocessed experiences form layers inside us, a bit like the rings forming inside a tree as it grows. Being naturally highly resilient, we continue to develop despite our minor or major traumas, forming new and usually healthier future layers which enable us to appear relatively 'normal' but leaving the deeper layers of anxiety and anger to fester. We can appear highly functional on the surface and yet experience inexplicable discomfort when facing a situation that resembles the one that overwhelmed us, even though our memories may have faded or been blocked out. These memories are carried in the body and can become separated from conscious thoughts.
Experiences such as being bullied, having parents who were narcissistic, abusive or simply unavailable for emotional support, having a shocking heartbreak or death of a loved one can leave us numb, reeling and at the same time, doing our very best to appear OK. When we don't get enough support to process these things and fully return our bodies to safety, we create a myriad of ways to distract, not feel or displace our emotions in order to cope. As a result, we don't react objectively to the here and now in triggering situations, but to some part of us that is trapped in the unprocessed past. Disruptions can happen at any age and we all have different levels of sensitivity so what doesn't overwhelm one person can totally overwhelm another. If we have disruption at a very early age, we may not even have the words to describe what went on inside us but be left with a perpetual sense of mistrust.
These trapped layers of feelings still long to be expressed and processed as we strive to live our 'normal' lives and often can be ignored for years under our new layers of growth until we want to get past simply coping and avoiding feelings and really move forward. We may want to achieve things such as career development, getting married, having children etc, and this can can cause underlying emotional interruptions to arise. Although it may feel confusing, in my experience, we only allow our traumatic emotions to surface when our environment is stable and safe enough to do so. So please consider it a positive point of growth if this is coming up for you. If you are able to seek support, that is also incredibly healthy and goes to show that your basic instincts are intact.
In order to allow our lives to move forward and for our emotions to feel safe and flow again, it can be helpful to seek counselling as a way of revisiting these layers of often young, wounded and disrupted- self, learn to experience the emotions safely with the support of someone who is also safe and trustworthy. We also need to learn to offer ourselves the kindness that was required from other people at these traumatic times. We may think that because we were injured by a caregiver, or not protected by one, that they are the only person who can offer us healing and this may never be possible. However I believe, and research supports, that although having consistent, supportive care through our lives is associated with good mental health, a big part of what we would have gained through that process can be repaired for ourselves through curiosity, exploration of emotional layers and offering ourselves kindness.
I would like to let you to know, with compassion, that if you are experiencing old emotional wounds, that there is nothing 'wrong' with you although you may feel that way and you are not crazy. We are not born alone in this world, we are born entirely dependent on others and our relationships to those closest to us impact us greatly whether we like it or not and for better or worse. If your past environment was not safe or supportive in the specific way that you needed, you would have had to invent incredible ways to cope just to get as far as you have. The possibility for healing is always there no matter how bad you feel and can be facilitated by someone trustworthy. Reaching out to someone to communicate, even if not a therapist or counsellor is often the first step.
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My deepest respect,