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Endless Trauma Loops Pt I: Why... and how to forgive ourselves?


If you'd rather listen to my words than read them, I can't blame you...

so I've been recording my writing into audio for your ease of consumption.

This blog post exists as a podcast episode, dontcha know.

Check it out if that's something ya dig. Or, just search your favorite podcast platform.

We're streaming at "Complex Trauma; We Are Traumatized Motherfuckers."



Pre-ramble


Now, I started this post back in Atlanta several weeks ago, so you're going to see some syntax errors, if you're following along with where I am now (Illinois, with my silly mom).


The problem has been committing and concentrating. Endless Trauma Loops is a big topic and I wanted to "Series" it, which immediately makes it a large, cohesive effort that requires maybe too much thought at times.


I say that, because I got distracted with everything else going on. You know, political and social unrest... viral explosions... being back in my childhood dynamics and losing my mind a little...


I had other things I wanted to write about nearly every day, but also felt guilty for "abandoning" this post. Silly, self-critical, self-defeating thinking.


Well, we're back on track. Getting around to it, bit by bit.


Meanwhile, I'm giving myself the freedom and kindness to write other shit in-between instead of demotivating myself, creating crazy obstacles, and restricting my progress. It's fucking silly, and it shoots my own self in the foot.


Truthfully, I've been halting my own writing - the thing I love most - and wondering why I don't feel inspired or excited anymore as I stare at intimidating projects that need a lot of "high level" planning or slave through tasks I hate (social media). Hmm, big mystery - why are you so overly serious and tense, ya bumfucker?


Guys, tell me if I'm wrong, but I think I don't need to be such a perfectionist or limit my creativity with self-imparted rules. My inner critic does enough of that for me. If I'm working on something I care about and putting my shit out there, that's what matters. Not all the restrictions I'm making for myself.


Wouldn't you know, that's just another one of my loops.


So here we go! It's finally happening! Part One of Endless Trauma Loops.





endless trauma loops



Do you ever get the nagging sense that somehow, you’ve been here before?


These feelings, these thoughts, even these circumstances seem… familiar? Too familiar. “Comfortable in chaos” – sort of familiar?


The fight you’re having has been hashed out before, but with a different partner. The job that’s torturing you feels like your past employment experiences, but in a totally unique industry. The financial uncertainty you’re approaching is similar to last time, but the causes felt unpredictable. The answers to manage your mental illness and life stagnancy feel like lightening bolts, but you feel like you’ve thought about them before.


Personally, I seem to live in these endless loops.



I forgot what I always knew


A few hours ago, in the middle of trying to snap pictures for this TMFR Instagram effort (please follow, I hate it so much and I’m doing it anyways; gimme some love), our power went out, like usual. In Atlanta, it’s a minor inconvenience that you get used to. Too many trees. But, the lack of lighting did effectively halt my photography activity.


And it forced my attention to something more interesting than the shitty drawing I was looking for; the endless rises and falls of a mentally ill brain experienced throughout my life. A smattering of the times I’ve struggled, fallen, failed, and stood back up with clear insight on how to make lasting change. Only to do the same damn thing again. And again. And again.


And it forced my attention to something more interesting than the shitty drawing I was looking for; the endless rises and falls of a mentally ill brain experienced throughout my life. A smattering of the times I’ve struggled, fallen, failed, and stood back up with clear insight on how to make lasting change. Only to do the same damn thing again. And again. And again.

See, I had just picked up an old journal, searching for one little doodle that I wanted to snap. Without power, I forfeited my photograph intentions and started reading the entries in front of me. I lit a candle and plopped down on my bed, messy notebook in hand.


The result was shocking.


In front of me, I saw the same battles and successes I’ve been living day after day as a grown ass adult… only written from the perspective of a young person. A 20-23-year-old who (I would now assume) wouldn’t know the first fucking thing about real life, real struggle, or real progress.


But here I was, penning the most insightful and uplifting messages whenever my stupidly busy schedule allowed. And it shook me.


Ten years ago, I generally saying the same shit that I still say to this day. Experiencing the same rocky relationships, coming to grips with my past, running myself ragged on anxiety and obligation, and stating with amazing confidence that I’m in control of this motherfucking ship – if I can just keep my head above water long enough to man the wheel.


Ten years ago, I generally saying the same shit that I still say to this day. Experiencing the same rocky relationships, coming to grips with my past, running myself ragged on anxiety and obligation, and stating with amazing confidence that I’m in control of this motherfucking ship – if I can just keep my head above water long enough to man the wheel.

This discovery just left me speechless.


Realizing that my past 2-3 years of "newfound" trauma clarity, insight, and ambition have just reflected everything my younger self already knew really pulled the rug out from under me. Or, at least, it really shone a revealing light on my current narrative of proudly growing wise through decades of bullshit.


Sure, I was always an experienced kid when it came to rough roads, and that counts for some early insight… but it’s remarkable to see that I’ve had the motherfucking answers to trauma recovery all along. Even before I had my PTSD diagnosis, it appears I knew what to do.


“Take a broad look at your world. Absorb the lessons you’ve learned. Appreciate the shit you’re going through. Have faith in your story. See the possibilities for good things to happen for once. And take care of yourself, your relationships, and your life.”So, why the fuck have I continued to live these endless trauma loops for another 10 years?


So, why the fuck have I continued to live these endless trauma loops for another 10 years?


“Take a broad look at your world. Absorb the lessons you’ve learned. Appreciate the shit you’re going through. Have faith in your story. See the possibilities for good things to happen for once. And take care of yourself, your relationships, and your life.” So, why the fuck have I continued to live these endless trauma loops for another 10 years?

Why have I repeated the same mistakes so many times?


Why have I given up on myself after passing through the gates of hell on repeat?


Why has everything I’ve learned felt like epiphany moments?


Is my trauma brain destined to re-enact history until I finally break the pattern?


In 20 years am I going to be digging out my 2020 journals and saying the same things while wistfully wishing I hadn’t wasted so much time?


Maybe not… if I can learn my lessons and score all the ways I repeatedly fuck myself every time around.


Let’s talk about endless trauma loops.



Trauma brain, fucked up core beliefs, and inner critics keep you stuck


It makes perfect sense that this buggy programming in my head produces the same results time and time again. I know most of my decisions and thought patterns are sneaky artifacts from early childhood; they’ve been with me all along, somewhere under the surface of my consciousness.


The motherboard is still making the wrong connections. The result is a lifetime of running the same flawed code in similar environments and expecting different outcomes.


The motherboard is still making the wrong connections. The result is a lifetime of running the same flawed code in similar environments and expecting different outcomes.

Stimulus – programmed brain response – resulting chaos -- mental health downfall – system rebuild. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.


If you don’t change the inner operations, you won’t change the outer experiences.

Thanks trauma brain!


The inherent response I have to stimuli is obviously a huge problem; it’s often completely subconscious who you’re attracted to, how you feel about yourself in workplaces, how you experience attachments, etc. These aren’t exactly decisions you’re making for yourself, so much as pre-recorded pathways in your survival-focused brain. Is there even such a thing as free will? Somedays I’m willing to debate it.


But there are also conscious decisions in my life that cause equal amounts of chaos. Things I sneakily tell myself that often lead to downstream fuckery. Thoughts I could be aware of… if I were paying attention and had baseline knowledge to identify the blatant lies I tell myself.


But there are also conscious decisions in my life that cause equal amounts of chaos. Things I sneakily tell myself that often lead to downstream fuckery. Thoughts I could be aware of… if I were paying attention and had baseline knowledge to identify the blatant lies I tell myself.

Yep, I’m talking about fucked up core beliefs and shit inner critics. The biggest dicks of the complex trauma symptoms, IMHO.


“I’m just not meant to…”

“I’m one of those people who…”

“I guess life is just always going to be this way…”

“I wish there was something I could do…”

“I’m just waiting for something to happen…”


When you’ve had a life determined by other folks’ trauma (your parents, their parents, your siblings, your classmates) you don’t have much of a chance at seeing the world accurately. Growing up with a household of sick humans, you pick up where their mental illness left off.


When you’ve had a life determined by other folks’ trauma (your parents, their parents, your siblings, your classmates) you don’t have much of a chance at seeing the world accurately. Growing up with a household of sick humans, you pick up where their mental illness left off.

And, unfortunately, this trauma foundation doesn’t usually build you up to believe in yourself or others.


The things you see every day, the words you’re told every day, and the events you can’t wrap your tiny brain around become lasting influences for the way you view existence. The framework through which you interpret life.


When your early life is tumultuous and painful, riddled with traumatized ramblings, and dangerous, you probably don’t expect great things. You develop fucked up core beliefs about your value, your safety, and your future that ultimately shape your decisions…. You know… forever.


When your early life is tumultuous and painful, riddled with traumatized ramblings, and dangerous, you probably don’t expect great things. You develop fucked up core beliefs about your value, your safety, and your future that ultimately shape your decisions…. You know… forever.

Fucked up core beliefs are no joke. They’re concrete, definitive, specific rules about what is possible. Life IS this way or that way. That’s it. No two questions about it. Adjust your decision making to match the potential.


Fucked up core beliefs are the assumptions and expectations that we rarely question, because they feel solid. We likely haven’t known “any other way,” besides living with these limitations, so we can’t begin to imagine that they’re falsehoods. Think of the Truman Show.


Core beliefs are nasty, but inner critics might be nastier. They’re just as sneaky, they’re unshakably effective defeatists, and they sound just like you. In a way, your inner critic is you, because it merges so thoroughly with your mentality.


Where’s this internal naysayer come from? Through subconscious deductions about your self-worth and place in the world at an early ago, you form a picture of yourself in your mind. Over years of validation, the unflattering portrait grows up into an animated internal guide, of sorts. Their voice could be healthy or hellish… but either way you’re living with a character who’s capable of making or breaking you from the inside out.


When you develop a nasty inner critic, you befriend a sociopath who whispers sour nothings in your ear about insignificance, shame, and incapability that determine your ambition and autonomy. The worst part is, you GET STUCK with this asshole for the rest of your life if you aren’t careful about how convincing they are.


When you develop a nasty inner critic, you befriend a sociopath who whispers sour nothings in your ear about insignificance, shame, and incapability that determine your ambition and autonomy. The worst part is, you GET STUCK with this asshole for the rest of your life if you aren’t careful about how convincing they are.

Piecing it all together, between inherent trauma programming, fucked up core beliefs, and a rude inner critic, it makes sense that early experiences and the conclusions your brain draws in their aftermath can effectively determine your destiny for the next 80 years or so.


Maybe I haven’t been running the Jess Show all my life. Maybe human evolution, family trauma, and my earliest experiences have been dragging me through rerun episodes. I just didn’t pay enough attention to call bullshit on the old material.



Should we call it resilience or selective mental programming?


Even the most conscientious learner, careful planner, and accurate autobiographer probably misses the mirrored mishaps that have brought them from Point A to Point B a dozen times over. Why? Because that shit masquerades as novel experience and your brain can be an idealist at the worst moments.


Similar to the way that women are programmed to forget exactly how terrible childbirth was, so they’ll trick themselves into doing it all over again… my brain seems to have selective overwriting capabilities.


The question is… why?


Thanks to this unique failure for pattern recognition, apparently, I’ll make the same mistakes again, have the same epiphanies again, and eventually start digging myself out of the same stinking hole again.


Thanks to this unique failure for pattern recognition, apparently, I’ll make the same mistakes again, have the same epiphanies again, and eventually start digging myself out of the same stinking hole again.

In the manner that you tell yourself “I’m doing pretty well,” when you’re still acting the same, feeling the same, and quickly headed for the same gutter as always… your brain wants to negate the similarities of past experiences. It desires for you to prosper. It hopes that you’re making progress and having new experiences.


So, your brain ties a blindfold on you in tangential moments. It focuses on the novel details. It fails to recognize all the pieces that are the same within you, like your oldest motivations and insecurities.


So, your brain ties a blindfold on you in tangential moments. It focuses on the novel details. It fails to recognize all the pieces that are the same within you, like your oldest motivations and insecurities.

Why do you always date the same kind of guy? Why do you sell your soul for jobs you hate? Why do you repeatedly feel trapped and helpless in perfectly controllable situations?

What the fuck, brain? Why are you dooming me to forget my prior journeys through hell? Could you stop hiding all the familiar signs?


I have to think this pattern recognition failure/selective amnesia is some sort of well-intentioned survival mechanism in my head. Biologically, it’s the only thing that makes sense. My brain doesn’t want me to be trapped in a groundhog’s day loop, and there’s no evolutionary advantage to being a terrible learner.


Your physiology wants you to live and thrive.


There’s no reason to burn your hand on the stovetop day after day… except… if you developed a long-lasting fear of the stove, you might starve.


So maybe you have to experience similarity dissonance and forget in order to persevere and ultimately learn.


So maybe you have to experience similarity dissonance and forget in order to persevere and ultimately learn.

Back to my stovetop example. If there was absolutely zero hope that this time cooking an omelet would be different than the last, would you ever keep trying at all? Or, would you draw definite conclusions, “using the stove burns my fingers, so I don’t use the stove.”

If you weren’t able to forget painful experiences or blur the lines between similar circumstances… would you be able to keep showing up and trying at life? Maybe not.


Maybe I never would have gotten out of bed again if my brain effectively identified every experience as a reflection of a prior event.


SO, instead, it selectively forgets. And you do it all again.


You convince yourself that this person is totally different than your ex(es) even though they have the same hobbies, shortcomings, and names. This job is going to be a shining new opportunity where you’re respected in the same role as you were shat on before. This relationship is going to be all about love, respect, and stability even though you met the dude at an AA meeting, again. This move is going to bring a fresh start and a healthy new lifestyle, even though the financial, environmental, and social outlook is bleak.


Thanks brain. I can see what you’re trying to do, but we’ve all heard that shit about repeating the same experiment and expecting different results.


Thanks brain. I can see what you’re trying to do, but we’ve all heard that shit about repeating the same experiment and expecting different results.

I like to think that with awareness, I’ll be more ever more adept at pattern recognition in the future and save myself the vicious cycles. We’ll fucking see.


Is The Universe out to get me or just waiting for me to catch the fuck up?


I’m going a bit Woo here, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that The Universe serves me up the same challenges on repeat for a reason.


The timing of events in my life has been ultra-strange at many points, including having an apparent “breakup weekend” when I’m destined to end abusive relationships (Mayday, Mayday!), anniversaries of being completely fucked at work landing on the same day as quitting a year later, and revelations about toxic friends occurring on historically important milestones in our relationships.


I don’t know man, call it coincidence, but all three of these things have happened to me in the last MONTH. Maybe I’m extra woo-centric right now (I definitely am), but the timing is deeply on my mind.


Shit like that at least makes you stop and consider if there is a grander plan.


Maybe there is an underlying program that we usually aren’t privy to, with our narrow views of life, lack of documentation, and general distraction of the day to day. It makes you ask, is this pesky Universe trying to break me with ironic comedic timing, or trying to point out the flaws in my prior actions?


Maybe there is an underlying program that we usually aren’t privy to, with our narrow views of life, lack of documentation, and general distraction of the day to day. It makes you ask, is this pesky Universe trying to break me with ironic comedic timing, or trying to point out the flaws in my prior actions?

I have to lean towards the second option, Alex.


When I read my old journals and see similarly-focused entries landing on dates that would later become super significant… I’m not sure how to take that as plain old happenstance. It does make me sit back down and wonder if there’s something deeper to process before I skip on out the door, running the day on my usual operating system that leads to usual results.


If I weren’t forced to notice the synchronicities due to notable calendar days, I would definitely continue to miss the pattern. The timing holds the mystery.


But the reality is, there have been hundreds or thousands of times that the timing hasn’t been queued up so perfectly (or I didn’t notice). As a result, the same-old-same-old has perpetuated itself through 3 decades of attempted living.


But the reality is, there have been hundreds or thousands of times that the timing hasn’t been queued up so perfectly (or I didn’t notice). As a result, the same-old-same-old has perpetuated itself through 3 decades of attempted living.

The evidence is right here, in my on-again-off-again recordings in my journal. When you sometimes pay attention to what’s happening, I guess you sometimes spot synchronies.

So, the million-dollar question is… is this all coming from within – patterns that exist only inside of my head? Or is there something to be said about the influence of something larger (the thing I agnostically call The Universe)?


Depends on your belief system.


Mine lies somewhere in between the two – where psychology and Woo collide.


Have I been programmed with a certain set of software thanks to nature/nurture? You betcha. Have there also been unexplainable coincidences and reverberating circumstances that point to a puppeteer pulling at least a few strings? In my opinion, yesh.


I have a lot to say about the woo world, but briefly, there are events in my life that have been hard to write off as complete randomness. And I choose to believe in The Universe as an abstract force that puts me in certain places at certain times. But why?


Maybe I missed the point the first time around. Maybe things aren’t as straight forward as my fucked up core beliefs and inner critic make them seem. Maybe they’re wrong and I’ve been responding based on lies the whole time.


Maybe I missed the point the first time around. Maybe things aren’t as straight forward as my fucked up core beliefs and inner critic make them seem. Maybe they’re wrong and I’ve been responding based on lies the whole time.

If you don’t have a Woo bone in your body, I understand that perspective too. In that case, let’s say your biology is driving your experience. It’s better than believing some force is out to getcha.


All those times I made the same decisions and fell into the same disservice to myself – I believe I wasn’t paying enough attention. I guess it doesn’t matter if that ignorance was aimed at myself, my past, or at whatever message I’m supposed to be receiving from the universe (or my evolved monkey brain).



Contextualize and forgive your loops.


I could be upset with myself after having this accidental epiphany. I could shame myself for being so dense and blind that I’ve relived similar struggles without an ounce of recognition. I could tear my “enlightened self” apart, for being no more insightful or wise than I clearly was 10 years ago.


Or I can use this as evidence of how hard the daily maintenance of complex trauma, anxiety, and depression truly is.


Even when you have the right answers and instincts, you’ll fall short time and time again if you don’t keep up with mental health management practices every day and do the hard work of integrating your experiences with your larger narrative.


Even when you have the right answers and instincts, you’ll fall short time and time again if you don’t keep up with mental health management practices every day and do the hard work of integrating your experiences with your larger narrative.

Wisdom and insight only work if you’re reflective, accountable, and willing to show up day after day after day.


Those traits are much harder skills to cultivate than the inherent realizations we might journal about at age 20.


Maybe I had wisdom beyond my years from an early age. Maybe I’ve been making the same errors for a decade or two. Maybe old news feels like an epiphany moment on repeat.


But I wasn’t capable of putting my fucked-up core beliefs and inner critic in their place back then. As a result, I wasn’t capable of playing the long game. I didn’t see my circumstances as systemic issues. I wasn’t addressing the underlying operational errors.


But I wasn’t capable of putting my fucked-up core beliefs and inner critic in their place back then. As a result, I wasn’t capable of playing the long game. I didn’t see my circumstances as systemic issues. I wasn’t addressing the underlying operational errors.

It doesn’t help to be upset with my younger self. It will only get me off track and further doomed to repeat the same trauma-driven mistakes.


This time around, self-forgiveness might be the lesson for me to learn.



Wrap up


How about that spontaneous, circumstantial discovery becoming the catalyst for this next series of posts? Weird or Woo?


Loops have been on my mind for a while now – especially in this past month of May 2020, with events from one year ago basically hitting Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V in my life.


But finding my old journal and reading my nearly identical words during a random “fuck it, what else am I going to do,” moment as I vaguely considered where to take this blog for the next month…. Pretty significant, amiright?


Maybe not. Maybe I’m just looking extra hard for patterns and meaning. Maybe I want the universe to send me secret messages and force me to learn important lessons. (I do.)


At least it’s on my mind now so I can be more conscious of what I’m doing.


Hopefully I won’t be saying the same thing in another decade.


Later, fuckers. I gotta go drive to Illinois.




Yoooo, Part One and Done!


If you didn't see it yet, there's a Podcast page these days. And, good news, that shit is being published on 8 different streaming services.


If you'd rather listen to my words than read them, I can't blame you... and so I've been recording my writing into audio for your ease of consumption. Check it out if that's something ya dig.


Search your favorite platform! We're streaming at "Complex Trauma; We Are Traumatized Motherfuckers."


Please gimme a follow and a 5-star. I need all the help I can get!


Peace, and hail yourselves!



Traumatized Motherfxckers

Not doomed. Not damaged.

Not dead yet.

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