Trauma-Informed Habit Change

How your subconscious sabotages growth if you have unresolved trauma ::

when being seen // taking up space is unsafe // ‘scary attention’.

AKA :: Research-backed, psychologically-supported trauma informed habit // personality change

For those of us with abuse and trauma in our histories, past protective impulses can derail our growth paths in an attempt to keep us small and safe. For example, in aiding a patient who is wishing to enact changes in their personality who has a childhood trauma history, they recalled getting small and hiding parts of themselves because they did not want to be preyed upon. This patient was experiencing what they thought were ‘irrational’ hesitations // self-sabotage of desired positive growth changes due to fear from the traumatized part of themselves not wishing to risk being seen because ‘being noticed can bring scary attention’.

Holding yourself back due to fear can also occur if you do not have a history of childhood abuse, especially if you are acculturated as female due to pervasive victim blaming culture. You are likely aware of the shame refrain of someone ‘asking for it’ due to their clothing or sensual // embodied personality. Thus, you will blame your behavior on your actions instead of the perpetration.

When attempting to break free of victim blaming // rape culture, reflect that if there were not for the harmful actions, there would be no harm done to those in any type of clothing or its absence.

Keep in mind that these protective impulses arise from an involuntary and well-intentioned past pattern, for when you were young or your body decided that you were not going to be successful in a fight // flight response, your nervous system make the executive decision {outside of your conscious control} to put you into a fawn state to try to appease the more powerful being that was the source of your challenge or fear.

Ways to overcome a self-protective orientation towards fear of being seen // taking up space ::

1. Journal to examine your ‘stories’ around being seen // taking up space : what phrases were told by your caregivers about being seen // taking up space? What formative memories of being seen // taking up space did you experience or witness when you were young? What cultural tales or tropes illustrate this from your background {eg. ‘tall poppies get cut down’; ‘don’t stick your neck out’}?

2. Come up with succinct new phrases // encapsulations to repeat to yourself immediately after the old phrases spring up. Eg. ‘Reach for your sun’ from an movement metaphor of mine : ‘It is of service for me to reach for my sun, as trees do, and in such natural growth I can create an ecosystem for others to thrive beneath my branches.

3. Collect examples in your life of experiences in which your ‘taking up’ space or being seeing was for the greatest good // inspired others, or cautionary tales as to the converse. Write these in a place where you can reference them regularly or when in a moment of doubt.

4. Create a healing team // co-evolutionary community around yourself who holds you to your new intentions. The aid in having an accountabilibuddy cannot be overstated, even if it is just a friend and not professional support.

{This hand-on support, specialized knowledge, and accountability is a large part of why you might choose to hire a specialist // professional accountability force such as a personal trainer, coach, or therapist, so that you have an external person to answer to in holding yourself to your intention}.

{ BONUS : you can replace [ being seen // taking up ] space with any ingrained habit // character change you are trying to adjust, as these techniques will work for most of the deep changes that are hardest to make}