Updated: May 21
Woo boy! Another difficult day here at Traumatized HQ.
For me, the end of the month is a nightmare. I have to deal with company inventory, and I want to die. It’s chaotic and tense all morning - and for some reason my coworkers act as though I’M personally forcing them to go count bottle caps. Get real. Long story short, they get shitty with me, and they say things that make me feel furious, frustrated, and low.
The thing is, in my mind, at the end of every month, my coworkers can GIT FUCKED.
They can be frustrated with the counting task. They can misunderstand my lowly role in the company. But they can’t make me feel like shit for being the unfortunate sucker in charge of managing the unmanaged.
You know who wouldn’t have said these things a year ago?
I would have cried every inventory day. I would have held on to the tension and spite that I feel from my coworkers. I would have chimed in and told myself much worse things about myself - things those motherfuckers couldn’t even imagine.
My old narrative:
I make everyone’s life harder
I’m unwanted everywhere
This is just another thing to hate about me
I can’t do anything right
I’m always an outsider
By the end of the day, I would be a depressed, suicidal, self-hating mess.
Not anymore. These days, I’m more aware of reality.
My new narrative: I’m not a shitty person - but my coworkers can be shitty employees, at times. There is a toxic company culture of “us versus them.” Everyone is insecure. They don’t want to work as a team. They only look out for their egos. They don’t care about the larger success of the company or want to course-correct this meandering oceanic garbage island. As a result, everything is falling apart. Instead of pulling things together, they want to point fingers. As the designated catch-all for all the tasks no one else cares about, I get lots of negative attention. This isn’t about me, this is about a failing company and the employee unrest that necessarily follows non-existent leadership.
Hey, I feel a lot better NOT shitting all over myself. I understand where the negativity is coming from. I understand where my responsibility begins and ends. I don’t extrapolate one poopy area of my life to reveal deeply troubling truths about my personal value.
Cool, huh? Want to do the same?
The Self-Bully... The Inner Critic... Start to notice where you’re shitty.
Right. So, I have a problem with self-abuse.
I think a lot of us do.
Unfortunately, anxiety and trauma seem to be closely tied up with a strong negative inner dialogue. The Inner Critic (not my term) is an aggressive force. It’s born in early childhood and it sticks with us like tar in the lung.
When we’re brought up with critical influential forces, our brains tend to absorb their messages. Even if we don’t agree with them, at first, our brains start to make excuses for the fucked up events happening around us via blaming ourselves.
It’s easy to make yourself a scapegoat when you’ve been pre-conditioned for 20 years. The inner critic will take over where your early family and social experiences left off. Knowing your deepest insecurities and fears from the inside out, it will become nastier than the worst aggressor in your life.
It will bring up the most cutting topics. It will say the exact phrase that brings you to a defeated collapse. It will hold you back. It will never let you thrive.
Everything that happens to me is my fault. It’s because I’m a shitty person. I’ve brought all these things on myself. It’s part of my cosmic fate as a pre-determined Doomed.
Yeah, cool. Really easy to rebuild a cohesive, positive life while hating yourself.
Notice the areas that make you spiral. Quote the voices. Pick apart the thoughts.
Reason it out.
Okay. So, let’s say we have a shitty thought (not hard to imagine). What if, instead of accepting it, snowballing it, and believing it, we tried to question it?
You wouldn’t let a friend sit and stew in their self-hate after a failed interview or minor work fuck up. You would guide their mind back on track by asking pointed questions. By asking for evidence, you prove that their shitty thoughts are based in themselves, not reality.
So, do the same fucking thing for yourself.
Journey to the center of your self-abuse.
With the inner bully in the spotlight, you can finally see his face.
Who did this to you? Where did your negative thoughts come from, exactly? Why are you pre-diposed to taking one negative sentiment and rolling it into a laundry list of reasons why you’re like a tick on the taint of humanity? Fucked Up Core Beliefs time.
When you have logic and clarity on your side, you can form a new narrative for the experience. And you know how I love narratives.
Reality will release you from the inner-hate. You can finally trust your place in the world and start to set personal boundaries. You can stop taking ALL the pressures and mishaps of the world personally. You can feel secure in yourself and your actions. You can trust who you are.
Ex: I’m responsible for A, B, and C. My co-workers reacted with D, E, and F, because of unrelated issues. That doesn’t mean I’m a fucking asshole.
Been a while since you stopped shitting on yourself? Need a little self-esteem? Here’s how I’d recommend getting started.
1) Identify the inner bully. Make a fucking list.
If you really want to do some mental work, you’re going to need to write it out.
YES. You HAVE TO WRITE. (This is the same thing I yell at my mom, my roommate, my love interest… no one wants to do it. DO IT.)
Get a piece of paper. Free-write your shittiest thoughts. All of them. Dig deep, and pull out those sticky dark spots that you normally live with passively. For me, it feels like pulling sticky dark pockets of toxic goo out of my ribcage and chest. Don’t be afraid to be honest. What are your real thoughts about yourself on a real bad day? Get them out of your head and body.
It might be intense just to see the words written on paper, especially if you normally leave them swirling around in your brain. It’s different to see something, solidly in front of you. That’s why you gotta write, fucker. You might have a very emotional response seeing exactly how cruel you are to yourself, on paper. In fact, you might be emotional AS you write. It feels more “real” to see your words materializing.
Here’s some of mine!
I’m fucking stupid.
I can’t do anything right.
I manage to fuck everything.
I thought I was supposed to be a “high achiever.”
I can’t get my life in order because I’m out of order.
I’m so goddamn awkward that people can’t stand being around me.
I push everyone away with the weird shit I say and do.
I can’t control my emotions.
I don’t know how to be magnetic.
I’ve always been alone, for good reason.
I look weird, I’m getting old, I’m not attractive.
I can’t control my body or appearance.
I might as well give up.
I’m never going to accomplish anything. I fucked up my life.
I made mistakes, and now it’s too late.
I’m never going to be happy.
I can’t make anyone else happy.
I should keep my misery to myself.
I deserve all the bad shit that comes to me.
Sucks, huh? Again, I’m a fucking asshole to me.
If you’re similar, probably stop talking that way to yourself. You’d never say those things to another human (or animal, if that’s your jam).
If ANYONE you knew started listing off such a shitty roll call of personal failures, what would you do?
You wouldn’t encourage them, you wouldn’t validate their poopy attitude, and you wouldn’t walk away from the conversation because life was calling. You would make time to deal with it, you would challenge all of their beliefs, and you would give them new thoughts to think about themselves.
I mean, unless you really are a shit-person, you would never abandon someone to spiral into this pit of self-hate.
So, how can you start to be nicer, more comforting, and more reality-based with yourself when it comes to your negative self-image?
2) Reason it out. AKA - at least pretend to be your own friend.
I know, a hokey piece of advice. But this shit works.
If someone you cared about was running headfirst into a self-hate pity party, you wouldn’t stand by and let it happen. Let’s say they started repeating similar sentiments to my disastrous self-burn list.
I’m fucking stupid.
I can’t do anything right.
I manage to fuck everything.
You would never, ever, respond by telling a loved one that they’re right about all their self-doubt and doomed forcasting. You wouldn’t go along with it,nodding passively and agreeing with their anticipated life of well-earned loneliness. You wouldn’t double down and add more fuel to the flame.
“You forgot disorganized, flaky, indecisive, disagreeable, and burdensome!”
Right. Unless you’re a real fuck, that wouldn’t happen.
So why would you tell yourself such awful things?
Don’t worry - I’m not saying you have to wake up every day, congratulating yourself for the privilege of being you. I’m not that into myself, either. BUT, you should start to learn some realistic self-acceptance for who you are.
You can probably see your friends more clearly and realistically than yourself. You aren’t judging them for their inner thoughts and motivators, like you do when it’s just you, yourself, and I.
Can you examine yourself from a similar, outward perspective? Can you learn to treat yourself like a friend in need? Can you ask pointed questions that cut through the self-shaming bullshit and reveal deeper truths?
Can you pretend to be your own friend long enough to reason through all your inner bullying? Write it out. Talk it out. Literally, speak it out loud if you have to. One on one conversations are illuminating, not a sign of insanity.
Pretend your best friend is in a bad mood on a day when you have funner things to do together. Quit crying about work, we have a concert to go to. You want to course-correct their thinking ASAP. You want to lay their worries to rest and improve their outlook. You want to root their shitty attitude in reality, so they can see the lighter aspects of life and go have fun at this fucking show.
Talk to yourself like your friend is in crisis.
Self-hate: I’m fucking stupid.
Are you really, objectively stupid? I mean, I think so, sometimes.
What evidence do you have? I made a mistake at work this week.
Was it a huge mistake? No, and I understand how it happened.
What evidence do you have against being stupid? I’m still alive, I graduated with honors, I succeed at most tasks, I’ve always been told I’m intelligent, I don’t usually make mistakes and this one could have been prevented if management planned ahead.
So, you know you aren’t stupid… what makes you feel stupid? When people point out my human errors and jump down my throat.
So, are you universally stupid, or are you actually responding to one event? One event.
Is this event really due to your incapability? No, not really. My chaotic environment causes chaotic action. Management greased the ball and blamed me for dropping it. Other parties are shifting the blame and I’m eager to accept it.
Nice! You aren’t such a fucking idiot! You found the truth at the bottom of the shit pile!
Hey, you know what comes next?
Figuring out why you’re such an accessible dumping ground for other people’s abuse.
Why do you take everything upon yourself? Why are you so enthusiastic to transform 5 uncomfortable minutes into a lifetime of self-shaming? What makes you the perfect scapegoat?
Get to the bottom of your self-bullying.
In order to understand where your awful personal sentiments are coming from, you’re going to need to figure out where they were born.
Yay! My favorite! Fucked Up Core Beliefs - or FUCBs, if you’re new here - Time!
If you don’t know, most of your inner tumultion is caused by the “truths” you learned a few decades ago. Generally, this happens when your brain forms black and white rules about “your place in the world,” what’s “safe” or what “keeps you safe.” It doesn’t always make a lot of sense, so we’re air quoting here. If you want to learn more about core beliefs, there’s more high quality information available than I could ever repeat… fucking google it.
To start reasoning your way back to your FUCBs, follow me!
Go back to your shit list from step 1.
Sit back, and get comfortable with the words laid out before you. You probably feel a bit of an emotional break writing all this, yeah? It’s one thing to think these things all day, every day, but it’s different when you put them on paper in your own handwriting.
Lots of feels.
Let’s talk about what you might experience when you practice tracing your inner fears back in history towards originating traumas.
Looking at your shit list, you might hear the criticisms in someone else’s voice. You might have a little flashback to the moment when that belief was born. You probably have a wave of poignant emotion wash over you. Whatever you’re feeling, try to let those sensations come and go.
You might not be able to immediately access these root-causes for every shitty belief right now. Don’t worry about it. That memory might be deeply buried, or you simply don’t realize how impactful something “minor” was on your developing brain. It’ll come up, eventually (maybe weeks or years down the line), and possibly with the help of a therapist. Just start to get comfortable being uncomfortable, sitting with all your deepest personal fears.
You’re the only person here saying awful things - no one is presently hurting you, and no one can judge you right now. Seriously, the rest of the world has no idea what you’re working through. This is a safe, one-man exercise. Any shame, anxiety, or panic that you’re feeling is self-determined. It isn’t real. You’re experiencing the remnants of your unhealthy formative experiences.
Nothing will actually hurt you here. It’s okay to feel. It’s normal to be uncomfortable. You don’t need to escape. You don’t need to distract yourself. You don’t need a snack, a cigarette, to check your phone, or to go to the bathroom real quick. You can sit, you can sense your inner landscape, and you can dive deeper into the discomfort. The feelings will pass. You will be fine on the other side.
Cool! Let’s do it.
Remember, if this is too intense, talk to your therapist first. Not everyone can leap into early trauma alone. Get their help accessing your early memories and FUCBs safely.
Examining and Reframing a Core Belief:
I think I’m overly emotional.
I’ve always beat myself up for it and stressed out about what it means to be a hurricane of feelings, in relation to other humans. I think I’m broken. I think people react poorly to it. I think it’s a hindrance to forming relationships and I’m doomed to be alone.
Are emotions really a bad thing? Nah. Kindof need to have them for survival, socialablity, and feeling alive.
Is being “emotional” always negative? No. Oftentimes, being emotional is rewarding for other people in my life. I’m empathetic and able to connect with them. I’m good at emoting. I’m a safe person for other emotional souls, and I sometimes help unemotional folks tap into something new.
Where does this emotion-fear really come from? My family. We were punished for expressing emotion in my house. I was called “too sensitive and too emotional.” I was yelled at for facial expressions, silence in the face of tears, and ultimately crying. I also grew up with two older brothers who saw tears as a sign of weakness and a measure of harassment-success. The women in my family also told me from an early age that being emotional was negative and I would drive my partners away.
Why do you think everyone reacted this way? It was a toxic household. My parents were awful together and any extra stimulus, like me crying, was too much for their own traumas to handle. The abuse at the top trickled down through the siblings. My mom was raised by a cold, distant woman. My entire family is uncomfortable with emotions, besides anger.
Okay, so there’s a reason for all of this. The things you hate about yourself have causations and the negativity you’ve carried with you might not be valid. You were handed a broken baton and you’ve been running with it ever since.
It took a lot of work, but these days, I employ this back-and-forth reasoning tactic to call out my own bullshit. I talk to myself like I’m my own buddy (or therapist). I ask pointed questions. I speak the answers out loud and force myself to integrate them. When I have a negative thought creeping in, I soften my accusatory muscles and try to react with the sensitivity that I have for others.
It’s a learned skill. It’s a go-to practice that needs to become habit. Getting started can be difficult, and I do recommend talking with your therapist if things are overwhelming.
When you understand where your FUCB is coming from and all the ways this negative sentiment held you back… you can probably also start to see the other side of the coin.
Look around. Compare and contrast.
Where has this perceived “flaw” been a strength? How has this negativity held you back? How has it held back the people who imparted their shame and judgement? What have you learned about the world, thanks to this belief? What have they failed to understand? How can you modify your “flawed” thinking to be positive?
Reframing my core belief:
I'm too sensitive, per my childhood.
How has my family faired? Ehhh… not the best. They’ve largely continued denying their emotions for the past 25 years. They tend to isolate themselves, either physically, emotionally, or both. They like to stay busy and rely on distractions, such as overworking, smoking, drinking, etc. They continue to employ anger/annoyance as their major emotional outputs.
How have my emotions and I done? Well, I’ve tried to ignore them at times. I’ve cut myself off from my feelings before… and that’s when my body tends to fall apart. When I integrate emotions into my daily life successfully, I feel more connected, open, and at peace. I feel capable of growth. I establish new friendships and help stabilize other people.
So, are you really overly-emotional and doomed to be alone? No… I’m definitely emotional, energetic, and empathic. But those aren’t bad things. Being in touch with my emotions can be very positive for other people - if they’re open and insightful, rather than threatened and avoidant. I’m skilled in ways other people can’t imagine. I’m aware of energies and emotions that other people might not pick up on. I’m uniquely capable to feel for all living things. The world needs people like me to balance out the emotionless assholes.
So, are my emotions really going to sink this ship? Am I a burden because I can feel for the world? Nah.
I can see the pathway of my maladaptive thought processes. I understand where it came from. I also understand how this part of me could be threatening to others and result in an abusive desire to squash the personal tendency. I can find softness for myself and for my family. I can accept us both and reframe many parts of my life, past, present, and future.
Getting acquainted with your pain points and their historical roots isn’t easy or fun. It hurts like a knife in the side at times. But the relief of releasing your self-shame and bullying is absolutely necessary to move forward.
Your inner critic has to shut the fuck up.
Next time, we’ll work on finding an inner cheerleader. (Eek)
I definitely used a therapy session last year to work through this exact “overly emotional” example. I had to be shown that my personal belief was unhealthy and rooted in family trauma. I was still blaming myself for having emotional responses to the world, because my feelings made my SO uncomfortable. I took his shallow understanding of emotions to mean I was flawed. I wasn’t supposed to be emotional - just like mom always said.
So, I went to therapy one day, asking “how can I learn to be less sensitive?” My wise therapist almost throttled me.
If you’re needing some leading questions to get the sensitive self-examination ball rolling, try these:
What negative beliefs do you hold about yourself? Where do they really come from? Were they ever true, or were they based in someone else’s dysfunction? Are those worries still applicable, at all? Do you have new evidence to contradict your beliefs? Are you putting more weight in the words of others, rather than examining your own perspective? Do you take abuse and dysfunction personally? Are you accustomed to taking the blame? Were you often criticised and used as a scapegoat? What was going on with the people around you? How are those people doing today?
"Step by step" ordering
Like I've said before, I'm writing this "step by step" because this is the most logical order to getting ahold of your trauma, as far as I can tell. But what the fuck do I know?
I need to have a quiet body to dig down into my messy brain. HOWEVER, people are different. If you need to work on step five before you can get to step two - who fucking cares. Do it.
Relieve the discomfort wherever necessary to access the other pain points. In reality, this whole process is flexible, repeatable, and personal. You most likely need to work through the steps EVERY DAY to stay on top of your trauma game... and I mean EVERY DAY. So figure out how it works for you. Take things out of order. Figure out how one step enables another (i.e. exercise triggers examination of FUCBs or realizations about your life purpose) and let it work for you.
My ramblings are meant to be relatable, approachable, and to provide guidance towards thinking in a new way. Do what you need to do.