Navigating Trauma and Feeling Worthy & Respected in Relationships

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Everything bothers me.
Dramatic. Correction: Most things bother me.
I have an oversensitive nature that gets consistently agitated and a spirit that feels burnt out. Maybe you can relate? Aside from my closest friend relating, I’ve always felt a bit alone in this experience. When I have my own space I don’t feel it so much, but when others are around, things become accentuated.
 
A few years ago I was in therapy and a big part of my story that I was working through was “People treat me badly and the universe gives me just enough to get by.” So my work since then has been setting up healthy boundaries. People only treat you as badly as you let them, and some don’t even realize that they’re doing it, perhaps to give you the experience of speaking up for yourself. We need to take care of ourselves. As Aretha Franklin puts it, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to me!”
 
When feeling disrespected by another may be unintended and therefore is subjective and open to interpretation, why am I so sensitive to feeling it? Why do I care? Why do I attach a meaning to something that makes me feel anything less than awesome? I am secure in myself; I know better than to take things personally; And to be honest, I feel sorry for someone that isn’t able to treat others respectfully. So then it must be that there is another part of me that’s running the show. An issue in a relationship is not the problem; it is a symptom of a deeper issue. We need to get to the root. 
 
When I travel into the murky waters of my subconscious, there’s a little girl that’s been convinced that she is not worthy of being treated any better. As children, we’re these radiant, confident beings, but when we consistently suffer any form of abuse or violation, we begin to question our own radiance. We start to believe the things that people say about us, the voices of our parents become our own, and we define ourselves by the way people treat us. We let others determine our worthiness and our lovability, and then we spend our entire lives playing out this story- believing all of it, and taking it on as our own. We take on illnesses, financial issues, unhealthy relationships all because of the way people led us to believe about ourselves.  
 
But she is worthy. YOU ARE WORTHY. As children, we are victims to our circumstances deemed powerless to change them. Spiritually, it can be seen as a benefit of working through the karmas of past lifetimes to gain the raw materials we’ll need to grow in this one. But when we don’t recognize the ability we have to regain our power once we reach maturity, then we carry our stories as victims with us. We unconsciously use them as excuses to explain why we’re not the radiant beings we started off as, and why we’re not worthy and deserving of everything we desire. Some people spend their entire lives doing this. 
 
To gain the self awareness to finally recognize how we’re sabotaging ourselves is one of the first signs of waking up. Waking up is the unlearning of all the programs from the past. It’s waking up from the lies. Adyashanti says, “[Enlightenment is] the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.” To return to the old programming, the old stories, is to go back to sleep. 
 
I know that trauma is being activated when my reaction is a bit dramatic and isn’t logically warranted. Someone could say something without any ill intention at all, but I’ll still feel sad, hurt, want to cry or I’ll completely lose my shit. I will lose control over my emotions. I may feel it in my body as well, like getting punched in the gut, or I’ll get dizzy as I disassociate. I’ll create drama from my trauma. If I am in conflict with someone when this happens, I may be projecting a whole lot of unconscious emotions onto them. In these moments, I am NOT being respectful. 
 
Respect is a two way street– yes this is a bit cheese and we’ve all heard it a million times, but really absorb it. Two way street, the cars are going both ways- respect goes both ways. Whoops, was I doing this? I was so deeply involved in my own shit that I didn’t even have the awareness to realize how my actions were affecting others. Typical child completely obsessed with herself, right? 
 
What matters most is what I do differently now that I know. Know better, do better. The truth is we’re all on the same side. We all want the same things- love, peace, happiness. There is no need for us to go to war with each other because the irony is that in war there are no winners. You can’t fight someone for love or peace. If someone is intentionally out to get you, leave immediately. But when we love each other and we’re having a difference of opinion, it’s because we don’t understand where the other person is coming from. There can be love without respect because respect is subjective. We can only do our best to nurture each other’s boundaries, and then we need to keep the conversation open. 
 
Especially in an intimate relationship, your responsibility is to study your partner. Pay attention to what they like, love, want more of and want less of. When we first fall in love, we see the bright light of a soul that we can’t help but indulge ourselves into. And then we get to know them a little better and we see all of the areas of their ego that are still in development. We may become critical or worse use them as reasons not to be with the person. But how vicious to condemn a masterpiece before it’s completed. Could you imagine how La Pietà looked like before Michelangelo completed it? A big ‘ol hunk of rock that’s what. 
 
Remember the soul that you are in love with and treat each other like your church. Worship them. Study to understand them and then play the role that they need you to be. Forgive their blindspots and be patient. If this person is still the one you want to journey through this life with, not because of attachment but because you genuinely enrich each other’s lives, commitment is what will get you through the trauma drama and periods of healing and growing into healthier ways of being.
 
“Commitment is like a womb in which a new life can grow. It is hermetically sealed so that nothing extraneous can enter into the process. No projections can be made upon it, no introduced doubt or criticism can reach it during its critical formative stages. But it’s also sealed for our own good, so that we don’t have an easy out. This is what’s meant by ‘holding the tension.’ So in times of exhaustion and suffering, fear and frustration, we remain committed long enough for the process to complete itself…
 
So when we place limitations and boundaries around something we care about, it isn’t meant to be a prison which keeps us stuck or stagnant, but rather to create a paradoxical freedom which allows us, through restraint, to fully explore the relationship, the craft, or the experience in all its subtle dimensions. Commitment in these terms is not an obligation but a deep devotion to that which you love. In your devotion to it, the very thing you are committed to is set free.” (Toko-pa: Commitment: The of Creativity) 
 
When we are free to be ourselves and we get triggered by an unintended moment of disrespect, we don’t want to throw that disrespect back at our partners, but we also can’t suppress or dismiss our emotions. So what do we do? 
 
We need to emotionally take care of ourselves. We need to tend to the upset child. We need to give her what she needs. You can do this alone with yourself, or with your partner. 
 
When your partner does this with you, they need to be able to hold space for you and be able to shelve any ego reactions that come up for them. It’s not their time. They’ll get their turn once you feel heard, understood, and nourished. This becomes much more complicated when they’re also going into their own trauma. A therapist or a healer is helpful for navigating this. Or, you can do it for yourself and share your experience and insights with your partner once you’re done.
 
How do you emotionally care for yourself when you’re hurt by something someone’s done? Ask your inner child, “what do you need to feel worthy?” Listen to what she responds with. It will be something that an innocent child would say like, “I need a hug.” Give yourself a hug! Or let your partner hug you! Maybe you’ll feel into what she’s craving like a sense of love, belonging, being wanted. Talk to her like you would talk to any child. Use your voice to give it power. 
 
Say out loud three times, “you are worthy.” 
 
Keep talking and say everything that she needs to hear. You’ll feel it when something lands; Something inside of you will shift and the release will cause you to emote- cry, scream, or laugh. 
 
This was my list when I did it, but make your own. You may want to experiment with using “you” and using “I” to see which resonates best.
 
You are lovable.
You are deserving.
You are worthy of respect.
You are to be honoured.
You are to be worshipped.
You are Divine.
You are needed.
You belong here.
You are wanted here.
Mommy loves you. (This made me weep!)
Daddy loves you.
The whole planet loves you.
The entire universe loves you.
You are beautiful.
You’re special.
You’re unique.
You’re so cute.
I am so thankful to have you here.
How others treat you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Don’t take anything personally.
 
 
When you’re done you’ll know. You’ll feel a sense of peace wash over you; Your body will take a nice, deep breath and relax; And you’ll feel happier, calm, back to your regular self. You’ve filled up your cup and now you need to maintain this state by continually filling it up. You are responsible for your self care, your partner isn’t going to do it for you. Your knight isn’t coming. He got stuck at the border trying to smuggle over some shrooms for you both. As Mama Gena puts it, keep yourself “Turned on.” What your partner does is a bonus on top of all that you already do for you. Stop running on empty. Don’t wait for the car to break down. Nurture yourself so you can give from your overspill. Spa. Nails. Oranges. Whatever you need to feel spoiled. Ask your Inner Child what she wants as well- ice cream perhaps? Lactose intolerant? Get cashew ice cream- find a compromise. You absolutely deserve it ♥.  
 
When you’re taken care of/turned on/in your flow/radiating, those silly little things people do tend to fall away. They don’t stick. You’re flying high and whatever sticks and stones they throw can’t even reach you. From this state, honouring and respecting both yourself and your partner effortlessly becomes a part of your nature; You become partners in every sense of the word- joining forces on the same team; And You’re acting from your heart in a state of unconditional love. 

When The Future Isn’t Certain

The other day I became hyper aware of the duality that’s existing in my mind at all times. While most people see happy, optimistic Erika, there’s also my shadow side that’s incredibly self critical, doubtful, and careless. The majority of the time I feel pulled by both sides– both screaming at me, telling me what I should do, that I’ll amount to nothing, but also keep going you’re doing great and it’ll all work out! It’s overwhelming and nauseating. So I’ll numb myself out- shut it off so it’s finally quiet. But that’s not a solution, it’s an escape, and isn’t serving me at all.

According to Tantric philosophy, all pain, suffering and sickness comes from duality. The solution then is to pick a side. Henry Ford said: “‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’”

I can’t believe I’m about to make a sports reference- but by entertaining both my healthy and self defeating thoughts, I am playing for both teams. It’s confusing as hell because imagine watching a soccer match where the players suddenly switch teams to shoot on their own nets. It would be chaos! You’d probably get bored and leave. And I feel that way. It becomes so chaotic in my mind that I numb out and become careless out of survival- opposite of my natural, deeply empathic and considerate way of being.

We need to choose a side. It takes self awareness, to notice our thoughts, our self criticism, doubts, worries, fears and say no, I’m not playing for that team. Because if we don’t choose a side, we’ll never win. So when we wake up in the morning and we don’t want to move, or when we’re looking at the workout bag and soo lazy, and when our thoughts are screaming at us that none of this is worth the effort, remember to play for the team that you’ve committed to playing for. Over time, the strength of this team will grow and we’ll start to reach milestones of success that the other team always told us were not possible.

Choose a team soccer match photo