October 7, 2020

From Trauma to Thriving: How to Embrace our Normal, Messy, Imperfect Human Selves.


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There’s an important phase that comes in the middle of the journey from trauma to thriving.

It’s the normal, average, good enough but not yet fabulous, physically embodied, messy, imperfect, human phase.

This “average” phase is a huge obstacle on our path, but it’s also the key to unlocking the thriving part.
When we’ve undergone significant early traumas of any kind, whether they be abusive, neglectful, physical, sexual, or emotional, these experiences fragment our inner sense of self.
We no longer feel whole, worthy, and deserving. We may feel like we don’t even have a right to exist in the world. For us to be treated so painfully as innocent children implies to us that there must be something inherently wrong with us. Like we must have been born broken.

This inner feeling of fragmentation occurs because at the time of trauma, certain parts of ourselves are pushed into what I call the shadow closet.

The emotional and physical pain from our experiences as a child were too much for such a tiny human body to endure. Or if the trauma happened in adulthood, fragmentation happens if we don’t stay in our body with the emotions long enough to reach resolution.

The emotions and pain that haven’t been fully resolved get pushed into the shadow closet.

And the parts of ourselves that we blame for causing the trauma also get pushed into the shadow closet.

For example, if there was a part of us that was carefree, bold, questioning, curious, or innocent when we were a child, we may blame that part of us for causing the trauma. It’s easy to place blame on ourselves to feel like we have some control and understanding over what happened.

Then that inner quality of innocence, for example, gets pushed into the shadow closet as well. And the more traumas we experience, the more parts of ourselves get pushed into that same closet.

Since these parts of us, the pain and the innocence, include physical and emotional sensations, then in shutting them down we are no longer fully embodied in our physical body, preferring to live in our minds with varying levels of dissociation from reality.

The inner feeling of fragmentation comes from these parts of our authentic self being in the shadow closet, inaccessible to us. This leads us to feeling unworthy, undeserving, depressed, anxious, and like we can’t control our emotions or keep ourselves from overreacting. The parts of us in the shadow closet keep trying to come out in darker and twistier ways the longer we keep them locked up.

What’s interesting is that we actually don’t know these parts of our personality that we’ve locked away very well, especially if we locked them away at a young age. So, it’s like we literally don’t fully know ourselves.

In order to cope with this inner feeling of fragmentation and a lack of fully knowing ourselves, there’s an inner equilibrium that we keep trying to reach.

In order to reach this inner equilibrium, many of us overcompensate for the parts of our authentic selves that we don’t fully know by projecting them out onto the other end of the worthiness spectrum. We start to believe that we’re actually better-than or more special than other people.

The deeper our feelings of less-than, the greater our overcompensation into better-than. If this is you, don’t fret. This is so common. And I believe it’s because it’s almost necessary to reach any sense of inner equilibrium.

You can imagine it like a polarity spectrum of worthiness, with wholeness being the center point. To the left is the direction of feelings of less-than worthy, while to the right is the direction of feelings of more-than worthy.

Wherever we fall on the left side, we will overcompensate to the same degree on the right. And what we’re really doing is placing our projections of who we could be onto the parts of our authentic selves that we don’t fully know because they’ve been placed in the shadow closet.

The reason we do this is because we can feel intuitively that there are parts of us that haven’t come online yet. We know that there’s more to life than what we’ve lived so far and we know that there’s magic inside of us that’s waiting to be unleashed.

But because we can’t access those parts of ourselves and we’re seeking to cope with our inner fragmentation, we convince ourselves that those parts of us in the shadow closet hold a better-than greatness.

A better-than greatness that one day will lead the world to recognize just how amazing we are, that will lead us to be the next chosen one, to have more magic than others, to finally be recognized as the best at something, or that our life will someday be transformed into our greatest fantasy.

We believe this because we can’t handle believing anything else about our lives when we feel deeply unworthy. Otherwise, we feel we may not survive it.

And we just keep waiting for the day that it will happen. The day when our greatness will finally be bestowed upon us. We know it will; we can feel it in our bones.

This is how we attempt to bypass the average, normal, human phase.

Except it never works. We can never get to truly authentic, joyful thriving by continuing on this path in this way.

This desire to bypass is really a desire for the universe to bestow these gifts upon us. It’s a desire for us to finally receive what we’re owed, which means it’s tied up with resentment and longing.

We’re waiting for someone on the outside to finally give us the happiness, recognition, and greatness we feel that we deserve after all that we’ve been through.

The problem is that those parts of our authentic selves that we hid away are still in the shadow closet. And no one is going to open it for us. No one is going to feel the emotions and the pain that are stored in there. And no one is going to get to know and embody the parts of our authentic selves that we’ve locked away in there.

The truth is that we’re all normal, average, messy, imperfect humans that are inherently whole, worthy, and deserving. We’re not better-than anyone. And we’re also not lesser-than anyone.

But you know what else? Humans are also made of unique greatness.

Humans are amazing, they are magic, they are recognized for greatness, they create real life fantasies every single day. And every single one of us has our own unique greatness waiting inside of us. It’s just not better-than anyone else’s.

So, why can’t we just continue believing in our better-than greatness, waiting for it to be bestowed upon us?

Because, there’s a difference between being entitled and being worthy.

Being entitled is feeling lesser-than inside, which means we’re creating life from a place of feeling broken. We’re projecting out our overcompensation of better-than greatness onto our shadow parts that are hiding in a closet we’re too afraid to open. And we’re waiting for something outside of ourselves to bestow our greatness upon us, instead of bringing our greatness out from within us.

Being worthy is feeling whole and deserving, just like everybody else. It’s creating life from a place of embodied wholeness. It’s getting to know all of our inner parts and what makes them truly great. And then creating greatness from the inside out, fully embodied in this physical world.

Why is this so hard for us to do? Because it requires doing three hard things:

  1. Letting go of our projections of special-ness or better-than-ness tying us to resentment and entitlement.
  2. Opening the shadow closet door and feeling all of our past pain and emotions fully through to resolution.
  3. And allowing ourselves to be fully embodied in our physical bodies, just like everybody else.

Step one requires letting go of what we’ve held onto like a security blanket for most of our lives—that our traumas don’t make us more special, more gifted, more unique, more rebellious, or more anything. But they also don’t make us unworthy.

Step two requires feeling very big, very painful emotions and physical sensations. Truly seeing this step through requires staying with emotions for long periods of time through points where we feel like we may not survive because it’s too painful, too uncomfortable, or too heartbreaking. Getting trauma-informed support that feels good to us in this area is crucial.

Step three requires embodying our physical, human bodies that have limitations just like everyone else’s. It means loving every inch of our bodies, leaning into the discomfort and pain we feel in our imperfect bodies, releasing emotions that are trapped in our bodies, and no longer escaping the body into the mind to live in projected fantasy.

And here comes the ultimate paradox.

What happens after we’ve completed these three steps?

We get to know ourselves in truth and authenticity, and we realize we really do have incredible, unique, greatness within us.

We realize we’re just as normal and average and imperfect as any other human on this planet, which means we belong and we are deserving of love and connection and prosperity.

And we gain an ability to create a life of unique greatness from the inside out because we’re creating from a place of inner wholeness.

We get to visualize our desired future, accept ourselves as we currently are, and create the fantasy life of our dreams.

The paradox is that we have to let go of our projected feelings of better-than greatness in order to allow ourselves to feel pain and be “normal.” And in return, we get to actually embody our unique greatness.

The more I learn about the universe, the more I realize that all the greatest truths lie in paradox.

So, let’s embrace our normal, average, messy, imperfect, human selves, and get on with embodying our uniquely magical greatness in this world.


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