Dealing with Invalidation when Sadness Fits the Facts

My favorite DBT skills lesson is Emotion Regulation Worksheet 8A – Examples of Emotions That Fit the Facts. It’s one of the first worksheets I share with my new clients.  I tell them to go home and make flashcards, do whatever they need to do to memorize this page.  Because this is one that will begin to change their life. 

Very few of us have actually ever been provided with much information about our emotional experience.  Even though emotions are a universal aspect of being human – we don’t have a designated place outside of therapy for learning about them.

(Side note: Want to think about truly changing the world? Go talk to your local Jr/High School about incorporating DBT skills instruction. Let’s teach kids about their emotions and how to control them effectively!)

The worksheet provides clear definitions for when each of 9 primary emotions is “justified” or “fits the facts.”  This is hugely important for 2 reasons:

  1. It helps you to self-validate your emotional experience. Instead of relying on outside reinforcement that it is “OK” or appropriate to feel the way you feel, you have a framework to objectively assess your experience.   
  2. When an emotion doesn’t fit the facts (or is way more intense than the situation calls for) than it’s a clue that you’ve hit on some old stuff.  You know you’ve got some lingering damage that needs to be addressed because it is affecting your current emotional state.  That’s ok – because now you have awareness which means you are ready address the old trauma and break its grip on you.

I recently ended a fairly tumultuous relationship.  By all accounts it was far from healthy.  However, the care and love I had for this person were very, very real.  The grief I have experienced this past month has been all permeating for me. 

So today, I thought I’d share some thoughts about sadness, grief & validation.

According to our Fit the Facts Worksheet
Sadness is a justified emotion when:
You have lost something(one) permanently
or
Things are not the way you wanted or expected and hoped them to be.

By this definition sadness is almost always a “justified” emotion in DBT terms.  Because hope, expectations and wants are all very personal and subjective experiences.  

However, sadness tends to be one of our most invalidated emotions culturally.  I think there are two main factors at play that contribute to this.  

Many of us were conditioned to be uncomfortable in the presence of any suffering.  Can you recall a parent or teacher telling you to wipe your tears? Often it is because they did not want to be in the presence of a person that is hurting – crying makes people uncomfortable.  Lots of us have had literally zero modeling of how to be with another person in distress.  

Some people believe that using logic to invalidate your sadness can help to alleviate it.  For example reminding you of all the negative things that happened in a relationship or telling you to think on the positive side that you now are free to seek better opportunities.  

Coincidentally both of these approaches tend to have the effect of actually increasing emotional distress because they are invalidating.  They do not express understanding and acceptance of your current state of suffering.

I am lucky (ok more like deliberate) that my tribe is composed of incredibly validating individuals who have delved deeply in their own journeys of self-awareness.  I am surrounded by those who are willing to just be present with my sadness.  They have not passed judgment for the time I chose to spend with this person but have seen that it was a necessary chapter in my journey last year.  

I am beyond grateful for the support I have received.  And often do not feel like I am deserving of it.  I know that my period of post relationship wallowing has been shortened because these individuals have been willing to witness me in all of my raw grief.  

I also understand for many this is not the case.  There have been times in my life where I did not have this amazing network of support lean into.  What if you’re tribe isn’t inherently validating like mine? For sure that it is harder path to be on!! AND (as we say in DBT emphasizing the additional) it is an opportunity to find even deeper levels of growth through your sadness!!  

This is a chance to connect with your voice and clearly express boundaries about acceptable communication.  This can be especially hard in close relationships (parents, significant others) or when you believe the person is truly acting out of good intentions. If you are having anxiety over expressing your needs try using DBT’s DEAR skill.

Describe the situation – I can tell you are trying to ease my sadness about the end of my relationship by reminding me of the negative things I have shared about it with you in the past.
Express what you are feeling – However, this makes me even more sad because you are not seeing how much I am missing him right now.
Assert your needs – It would be more helpful to me if you could just give me space to share my feelings of disappointment and frustration without trying to change how I am feeling at the moment.
Reinforce – I appreciate you being a supportive friend and loving member of my tribe.

Practice self-validation.  Only you know the extent of your hopes, dreams and wishes regarding this loss. Often times it is not the person themselves that we are grieving the hardest, but our idea of what the future could have brought.  Practice sitting with your sadness and allowing it to pass over you like waves.  Emotions come and go naturally like the the tide in ocean.

We have been so conditioned to run from emotional pain –grab a drink, a cigarette, numb into TV IG or gaming, or maybe a quick fuck.  Anything to get away from the pain.  But what happens when we can be present in our sadness?  Usually, when we actually give our self space to experience it, it will dissipate fairly quickly.  It is when we try to stuff it down that it continues to seep into every aspect of our lives. 

It can be helpful to say validating statements out loud.  
It is ok that I am grieving.  This fucking hurts Jamie!
 It won’t always hurt this bad.  You are strong enough to handle this pain.  
All of these have come out of my lips in the past month. 

Remember to practice non-judgmental stance as you go about your journey.  We each grieve on our own unique timetable. Acknowledge that your spirit needs time to heal.   Give yourself space.  Allow the tears to flow.  Even in the loss of things we know are not good for us, the pain can still be devastating. 

It will pass.  It always does.  Post nubile maxima, Phoebus.  The sun always returns after the darkest clouds.

Sending you love and light and strength to face your sadness on the dark days!
xoxo,
Jamie

If you are interested in learning the DBT skills, I offer DBT skills coaching in a variety of formats.  Head over to jamieschmidtlpc.com to get more info or schedule a consultation. 

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Are Judgments Keeping You Down?

Originally published December 15, 2018 on jamieschmidtlpc.com

How do you motivate yourself to do better? For years whenever I felt like I was falling short on something, I would call myself as a “Stupid B****.” For many of us, that’s just how we’ve learned to talk to ourselves. Those who shaped us (parents, teachers, coaches, etc…) used pointing out our failures and shortcomings as a way to get us to try harder. Over time we develop patterns of using those judgments on ourselves when we need a little motivation boost. 

A group exercise during my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) training, opened my eyes to how a large percentage of our thoughts tend to be judgments and the negative emotional impact of relying too heavily on them. We define judgments as evaluative statements that do not include description of observable facts. This includes opinions, assumptions, beliefs, and guesses about other’s emotional state or thoughts. 

As human beings we use judgments all the time. They are quick shortcuts, and our brains are programed to like shortcuts. If I can put a person (or a behavior or group of people even) in certain box, then I don’t have to take the time to learn any further information about them. From an evolutionary standpoint this can be helpful. In situations regarding survival, it is beneficial to be able to make quick decisions without having to sort through all of the facts. 

There are consequences for relying too heavily on judgments though. They contribute to heighted emotional states by adding connotation. They can keep us looped in unproductive thought patterns. Also when we place judgments on ourselves, they tend to be global self-judgments. Thinking about yourself in this type of all encompassing way can leave you believing you are powerless to change things. 

If you think judgments are contributing to feelings of low self-esteem, you can use the DBT mindfulness skills to combat this thought process. The first step is to become aware of when you are using self-judgments. This means observing your thoughts and self-talk. When you catch a judgment, you want to rewrite it with a descriptive statement. For the description stick solely to observable facts – again this means letting go of assumptions, beliefs, and emotional labels. 

For example – you have trouble with procrastination and find yourself stressed about an upcoming deadline. When you feel the urge to throw out that “Stupid B,” instead describe the situation using only the facts. “I waited to begin my project the day it was due and now I am feeling stressed about it.” Substituting the judgment for a description of behaviors, then gives you space to see where there are actual changes you can make. And it opens you up for a whole slew of other behaviors that also contribute to self-esteem: problem solving unhelpful patterns, gaining mastery and a sense of competence, and increasing engagement in life. 

It takes time to make these changes. Remember you are working against patterns that were laid externally but have been internally reinforced since childhood. As you become more mindful of your thoughts, you may realize you relied upon judgments way more that you had initially thought. Be patient and keep rewriting the thoughts when they appear. It may seem overwhelming. Mindfulness is a skill, thus it requires deliberate practice to gain mastery. The more time you spend observing your thoughts, the more control you will gain over them. 

Put it into Practice: 

Step 1: Observe when you are using self-judgmental statements as motivators. It is likely you have a couple of go to ones. Practice being aware when those statements run through your mind. It may be way more often then you had originally thought. 

Step 2: Acknowledge the emotions behind your judgments. Usually when we are talking to ourselves in this way you can find one of these negative emotions  – anger, disappointment, shame or fear. By labeling the emotion, you are practicing self-validation and reducing emotional activation.

Step 3: Rewrite your judgment statement using a fact based description. Focus on behaviors. Once a behavior is identified you can move to problem solving to avoid the situation in the future.

Step 4: Repeat. Remember, we are often working against years of conditioned behavior. A statement we often share with clients is “avoid judging your judging.” These thoughts will likely resurface, continue to rewrite it each time you are aware. 

Jamie Schmidt, LPC

Houston, TX 

#walkurhuman #soulpreneur #lensbiofeedback #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #effective #neurofeedback #alternativehealth #counselorlife #therapistwhogototherapy #lifecoach #healing #mymentalhealthjourney #higherconsciousness #tomballtx #mentalhealthblog #dbt #anxiety #awareness #screwthesystem #holistic #goodvibetribe #speakyourtruth #notyourmamastherapist #nonjudgmentalstance #mindfuless #selfesteem #confidence #selfconfidence #selftalk #houston

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When Touch is Scary after Trauma

So I am not a touchy-feely person.   Another wonderful side effect of being a trauma survivor. 

My energy is sacred to me & my body is my vessel for that energy.  Since it has a history of being violated, I’m extra protective of it.  I avoid big crowds where I cannot control people bumping into me.  I’m not a hugger.  Pretty much unless you’re my mom or the person I’m sleeping with – hands off. 

            That being said I do believe healthy touch is important.  The fact that I still struggle with it, is just one more example of how trauma work is a lifelong journey.  I have 25 year’s worth of feelings regarding others encroaching on my physical boundaries.  Those feelings have laid some pretty strong neural pathways.  My default response to someone approaching is still to clench up and tense my entire body.  

            This Saturday, I attended my favorite yoga class – a vinyasa flow that used to be a regular part of my weekend routine.  It’s taught by the most amazing woman, Emily, who I have always found to be a kindred spirit. 

            We were winding down our practice with balancing poses, when Emily gave me the most amazing opportunity to do a little in vivo trauma work to rewire these neural pathways.  

In Warrior III, she asked us all to outstretch our hands over those next to us and connect in what I’ll call a superman pose.

            Here’s the dialogue in my head (all in less than 15 seconds):

  • Oh shit!!!  I don’t do this.  I don’t touch people.  Can’t handle it!!
  • OMG its going to be so embarrassing if I have to ask to be the person in the room who doesn’t participate…
  • Oh I don’t want to be that person.
  • Maybe you can do this Jamie.  
  • Breathe Jamie.
  • This is a safe space.  You consider this room to be a sanctuary.  Do you think there is anyone in here whose energy is not safe? 
  • Ok you’ve run out of time.  Got to participate NOW.
  • Whoo this isn’t so bad. 

It is only due to my mindfulness practice and years of DBT that I was able to have that conversation with myself.  I immediately identified that I was experiencing a wave of anxiety when she suggested touching.  As soon as it began, I tuned into my thoughts.  My initial urge was still my trauma urge – touch is unsafe, don’t do it.  But I was able to check the facts in the moment, and then respond in a way that allowed for new neural connections to be made.  Safe touch can occur from strangers in safe environments.  

So when we have experienced touch as traumatic how do we begin to let go of that fear?  Some of my favorite physical exercises for trauma come from Dr. Peter Levine’s somatic experiencing approach.  Since trauma and dissociation are highly correlated, many trauma survivors lack attunement with their own bodies.  This approach focuses on retraining your brain around touch by first acclimating you to your own sense of touch.  

Somatic Experiencing Exercises:

Grounding: Found in all meditative philosophies, grounding is practice of connecting your body to the physical world.You can practice grounding by sitting, standing (mountain pose) or lying flat. Intentionally balance you weight between the sides of your body, allow your spine to straighten and feel the pull of gravity connecting you to the earth then…

Mindful breathing: Focus on the experience of inhaling and exhaling.  Noticing the changes as air fills and expands your lungs.  When we take a few seconds to slow down and follow our breath, almost immediately we experience boosts in mental clarity as our brain is receiving more oxygen.  

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: PMR involves deliberately clenching, holding and releasing the muscles throughout the body. Start at the feet and focus on one muscle group at a time.  First clench the top of your foot, hold it in flex for five seconds and then release.  Notice the change as your body builds the tension, holds on to it and then lets it go.  Notice the difference in muscles groups as some naturally hold more tension than others.  There are tons of great guided PMR audio clips that you can download if you prefer to have someone cueing you.

Shower Exercise: Using a hand held nozzle, start with the feet and experience the sensation of the water hitting them.  Slowly move up your body, just like in the PMR exercises noticing sensations and emotional reactions.  Often when we have trauma we have areas of our body that are “No Go Zones” places that we only associate with the bad stuff.  In the safety of your shower, can you allow the old to release and experience the trickle of water as pleasant? 

Push/back Exercise: This requires a partner.  Start by facing each other and placing one hand out in front of you touching your partner.  At the same time, both slowly begin putting pressure in the hand.  Notice as your muscles react to the force exerted upon them. Move on to both hands.  Then try sitting on the floor back to back.  Again beginning in neutral and then slowly applying force, building up and then backing down to neutral.

Many of these exercises involve the push/pull of tension and release.  Trauma alters some of our CNS responses.  By getting into the physical body and experiencing the control you have over it, you can begin to reset it back to a healthier way of functioning.  

What are some techniques you have used to overcome your hangups around touch and trauma? We’d love to hear your helpful experiences!!

Love & Light,
Jamie


& big shout out to Emily Williams @efwilliams on IG for providing me with this opportunity for growth!!!

P.S. I’m in the back row – my form isn’t great but you know what I PARTICIPATED!!!

#trauma #ptsd #recovery #cptsd # hypervigilance #mentalhealth #wellness #treatment #insomnia #anxiety #depression #healing #healingispossible #shadowwork #facethedarkness #psychology #counseling #dbt #dialectics #selfcare #bpd #nonjudgmental #compassion #kindness #ego #hope #lifeworthliving #thrive #evolve #phoenix #resurrection #rebirth #life #holistic #metamorphosis #transform #transformation #lettinggo #nonattachment #jamieschmidt #awakeshegoes #jamieschmidtlpc #goodvibes #growth #selflove #selftalk #appearance #hair #dreadlock #dreads #dreadhead #redhead #selfconcept #love #thisisme #takeitorleaveit #journey

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When Love Doesn't Fit the Facts: Part II Opposite Action

Originally posted February 7, 2019 jamieschmidtlpc.com/blog

So what do you do when love does not fit the facts? When you realize the love you feel towards a person or relationship is not actually in your best interest? Of course DBT has a skill for that as well!

Opposite action is rooted in the awareness that there are specific action urges associated will the expression of each emotion. When you love a person or thing – what behaviors do you want to do as an expression of that love? Usually love means an increased desire to spend time with someone plus a willingness to be cooperative and weigh their needs against your own. In romantic relationships it likely also includes engagement in intimate contact. 

When love is justified, these behaviors nourish the relationship and keep the interpersonal connection strong. When love in unjustified these behaviors can keep us emotionally tied to someone we know is not healthy for us. 

Once you have determined love is unjustified, you can use knowledge of how emotions function to help you break from the relationship. In the simplest form, there are 5 phases in the expression of an emotion. 

Prompting Event ⇒Biochemical Changes ⇒Action Urges ⇒ Behaviors ⇒After Effects / Retrigger

1) An event occurs that prompts the emotions to begin. This can be external or internal (a thought).

2) Biochemical changes begin to occur in the body. Hormone levels fluctuate in response to the evolutionary demand of the emotion.

3) Action urges appear. These urges are universal and tied in with the primary evolutionary function of the emotion. Think most basic needs – survival and procreation.

4) Behaviors & outward expression of emotion. Where you do the action of the action urge. Includes behaviors, facial expression, dialogue and tone.

5) After effects or retrigger emotion. Many emotions are self-perpetuating. When you act on their action urge, the behaviors create a loop, which keeps the emotion continuing to refire in your brain. 

Opposite action works by hacking this chain between links 3 and 4. If all of the action urges of love are motivated in increasing interpersonal connection, than choosing to act in ways opposite to that will help decrease emotional connection.

How To: Opposite Action to Love 

The first step is to determine that love is unjustified. I want to emphasize that this should not be a rash decision. I encourage you to meditate on it, read about justified and healthy vs unhealthy love & use the DBT framework to check if it fits the facts.

Once you are committed to severing ties, identify the action urges associated with love for you. What behaviors do you want to do that would keep you tied to this person? Is it a yearning to see them and be in their presence, calling or texting, staying connected on social media or maybe checking in through another person they are close to? Take the time to list out and identify all of the behaviors you can. The more you think of, the more you have time to cope ahead for and the more likely you are to withstand those moments when the emotional urges are highest.

Commit to behave opposite to love urges when they appearCreate plans of action for situations you feel are most likely to occur or that you are most vulnerable to. Mentally rehearse behaving as your most effective self and staying strong no matter how intense the urges become.

When the urges arise, commit to acting 100% opposite. You do not want to simply just avoid doing it (i.e. just withstand the urge until it passes). You want to throw yourself in the opposite direction. Want to send them a DM on IG when you see a post they are tagged in? Not only do you not do it, you unfollow and then block them so you are less likely to see triggers of them in the future. 

Continue to implement your opposite actions, every time the urges arise. As with all DBT skills, your mastery increases with practice. Each time an ineffective urge appears and you choose to withstand it you are proving to your brain that your Wisemind is stronger than any emotional pull. Over time you will notice a decrease in intensity and frequency of the urges. 

The ending of any relationship is hard because it involves the severance of emotional ties.  Though it is often a necessary step towards building the life we dream of, I know how extremely painful this can be. If you are currently in the process of letting go of an unhealthy love, I wish you the best as you continue upon your journey. I know opposite action can be a helpful addition to your skills repertoire! 

Namaste,
Jamie

#love #relationship #couples #therapy #dbt #opppositeaction #checkthefacts #copeahead #mindfulness #effectiveness #authenitc #lifeworthliving #BPD #NPD #trauma #survivor #recovery #healing #holistic #mentalhealth #neurofeedback #tomball #femaleentrepreneur #skills #beyou #happiness #healthyrelationships #ptsd #complextrauma #yourbestlife #walkurhuman #synergy #personalitydisorder #wellness #alternativehealth #couplestherapy #marriage #wisemind

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When Love Doesn't Fit the Facts: Part I

Originally posted February 5, 2019 on www.jamieschmidtlpc.com/blog
I started doing some website maintenance today & realized I wrote this exactly a year ago. Whoo life sure is cyclical!

February is upon us. With Valentine’s Day just a little more than a week a way, I thought I would do a short series of posts about love from a DBT standpoint. Starting with the idea of justified/unjustified love.

This concept comes from our Emotion Regulation module, which I like to refer to as “Emotions 101.” This module covers all the basics of emotions – why we have them, how they interact with thoughts & urges, how to determine if they are justified & then how to change them if they are not.

In DBT we often talk about the validity of emotions. Basically we are looking to answer the question – Does it make sense to feel this way in this situation? When we grow up in chaotic or unpredictable homes, often times we develop conditioned responses to feel emotions under certain situations, even though it is not necessarily an effective or helpful response. 

This can be especially true in regards to love. As a child, we are dependent upon our primary caregivers to meet our survival needs. We also develop many of lifelong attachment patterns before the age of four. This means if you had parents who struggled with mental health issues, substance abuse, financial insecurities, homelessness, health concerns or incarceration, just to name a few, your schema of love was impacted by this.   Many of your deepest beliefs about love are likely still centered around the events and feelings that were occurring in your family at that time. 

You may notice, that no matter how far you are removed from your childhood you find that your engagement in close and intimate relationships still mirrors the relationships in your family during your early developmental years. The details may not all be the same, but the feelings are. You recognize the same patterns of chaos or unexpressed needs or even abuse. But you continue to reengage in these relationships because they are what feels comfortable. This is what love has always meant to you!

This is where the skill comes in. This simple 2-sentence description will give you a framework to check the facts for any situation regarding love. If you cannot answer yes to either of these questions in regards to any relationship, then it is not justified love. Aka it’s not Healthy!! Knowing this is the first step in making changes to your love patterns. 

In DBT we say love is justified when loving a person, animal or object:

1) Enhances quality of life for you or for those you care about.

2) Increases your chances of attaining your own personal goals. 

Now take a second to think about the healthiest relationship in your life. I bet you can think of concrete examples of how that relationship fits both of these categories. On the other hand, do you have relationships you have been unsure of? What happens when you check it against these? 

The goal of this exercise is to provide clarity. Once you determine an emotion does not fit the facts, you are then ready to move on to problem solving. What is the most effective step to take moving forward? Of course the answer to this is specific to your situation. For some it means, ending the relationship and letting go. For others it may mean asking your partner to participate in couples therapy together. 

For those who are ready to cut ties completely, check in later this week for a post on opposite action for unjustified love. 

Happy February,
Jamie

For the full list of unjustified / justified emotions see Examples of Emotions that Fit the Facts ER Handout 8A (p 229 in DBT Blue Book)

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Letting Go of Toxic Love Schemas

A common byproduct of growing up in a toxic environment, is that you approach life with all these assumptions about people and relationships that are just flat out wrong. 

As children we are constantly taking in data from our lives and using it to build schemas.  These schemas are basically blueprints – step by step instructions on how to handle the various themes & situations we regularly come across.  Our families tend to be the single biggest factor in shaping these schemas, because we are exposed to them the most while we are still developing our beliefs about the world.

Love and Respect.  These are two highly important concepts that build the foundation for many of our schemas.  Our personal understanding of these two words sets the tone for how we interact with every single person we come into contact with.  And sure they seem simple at first glance.  We all know what these words mean right? Wrong! Even though they are intricate aspects of the human experience, we each define them in our own unique manner.  

Lets look at love.  Here are some things I know about love from my study of psychology, philosophy, spirituality & metaphysics.  The primary dialectic in life is love versus fear.  Every second in life gives us an opportunity to choose love.  Love is the highest energetic force.  Love is not jealous or possessive – it is accepting and unconditional.  True love is a universal force that we can all tap into.  Those who reach enlightenment do so by embodying the oneness of love. 

I believe love is the answer to all of the world’s problems.  When we can collectively reach a place where the majority consistently choose love over fear, then I believe mother earth will begin to heal. 

Did I come out of my childhood knowing or understanding any of those things? No. Let me share a glimpse into my pre-therapy schema for Love with you:

  • Love is conditional and only reserved for those who have earned it by proving they are exceptional and performing beyond their peer group.  Since it must be earned, it can be lost at any time if performance is not up to par.
  • Love is about ownership and subservitude.  Women are innately less than men due to actions of Eve in the first chapter of the Bible. Expect to belong to your husband and defer to him at all times even if he’s a complete fuck up.
  • When people love you, it’s ok for them to hurt you in the name of care, motivation, or protection (ie: you’re going to hear this from the outside world its better you get it from me first)
    • “You shouldn’t be eating that cake.”  “If you would just exercise…” “Change your top it makes you look fat.” Thousands of jabs over the course of a lifetime destroyed my self-esteem – each and every one made in the name of love. 
  • And while I won’t get into the details here, I also personally know the whole gamut of beliefs around love that come from being a CSA survivor. 

If you’re like me, you probably see yourself recreating the schemas of your childhood in every important relationship in your life, especially romantic ones!!! So how to you stop that cycle? You have to be willing to let go of your current understanding of love (because it’s toxic) and deliberately construct your own healthy blueprint. 

Here’s 4 activities you can do to begin to re-map your love schema:

  1. Study love.  You can choose to look at it from a religious, psychological, or philosophical standpoint.  Find a viewpoint that you connect with and start bringing it into your life – via books, podcasts, youtube, documentaries, etc..  You know the basic understanding you grew up with is off.  Find someone whose views you respect and begin to examine the differences between their thoughts, assumptions and schemas for love and your own. 
  2. Meditate or journal your personal definition of love.  You may need to start by listing all of the things you know love is not, but you want to make sure you do not just stay in that place.  It is not enough to know what we want to avoid in life, we must know to some degree what we are looking for.  For your complete definition think about sensations, emotions, thoughts, relationship dynamics, actions, beliefs & urges you associate with love.
  3. Practice mindfully saying to yourself “I choose love over fear” each time you make a compassion-based decision. Neural plasticity baby! Adding a deliberate thought with each love based action helps create those new love focused neural pathways twice as fast. 
  4. Many people who have been truly violated by humans find it easier to love animals. Think of the love you have for your favorite furry companion and try showing that love in other areas of your life.  Whenever Harlow gets into something he’s not supposed to, I remind myself that he’s just acting on instinct.  It’s not an affront to me – it’s in his wiring as an animal. This allows me to let go of the frustrations of having a mess to clean up and not hold resentments towards him. When we practice giving everyone in our lives the same benefit of doubt, we are cultivating a life of love. 

Have you struggled to let go of the love patterns of a toxic childhood? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.  We’re all on this journey it’s great when we can connect on our commonalities and not feel so alone.

Sending out lots of love and light today!

Jamie

P.S. If you’re looking for someone to work with on your journey of letting go of toxic childhood patterns, I’d love to chat. Check out info on my coaching services at http://www.jamieschmidtlpc.com and don’t hesitate to reach out!!

#trauma #ptsd #recovery #cptsd # hypervigilance #mentalhealth #wellness #treatment #insomnia #anxiety #depression #healing #healingispossible #shadowwork #facethedarkness #psychology #counseling #dbt #dialectics #selfcare #bpd #nonjudgmental #compassion #kindness #ego #hope #lifeworthliving #thrive #evolve #phoenix #resurrection #rebirth #life #holistic #metamorphosis #transform #transformation #lettinggo #nonattachment #jamieschmidt #awakeshegoes #jamieschmidtlpc #goodvibes #growth #selflove #selftalk #appearance #hair #dreadlock #dreads #dreadhead #redhead #selfconcept #love #thisisme #takeitorleaveit #journey

#love #relationships #sexualabuse #survivor #narcissistic #NPD #narcissism #toxic #schema #patterns #meditation #lettinggo #respect #boundaries #healthy #heailngispossible #betterlife #newyou

Speak your Truth! (& clear your throat chakra)

One of my goals for the year is to work on opening my throat chakra. For those of you who don’t speak metaphysics, this is really just a whoo-whoo way of saying – I’m working on the skill of speaking my truth more freely.

I like to think my verbal communication skills are on point. One of the things I do for a living is teach people how to be more interpersonally effective. But we all have our blindspots. Even though, I know the steps to effective communication and am skillful in many domains, I have never developed the skill of authentic communication of my story.

I’ve always played the role of confidant and emotional support. As an elementary aged child, I was a sounding board for the emotional distress of an important loved one. In my trauma work last year, I realized how many emotions of my own I had to set aside as a little girl to fulfill this role. This had left me with some deeply internalized beliefs about my worth (I was only valuable when providing support to another person) and my needs (were absolutely the least important in the room).

It makes sense that I then choose a career that actually reinforced both of those beliefs. As a therapist, I have genuine love for my clients. I see the struggles they fight every day. I know how draining the battle is, and I am honored to have been chosen to to be a part of their journey. I am 100% in the trenches with them. But my story is never supposed to be part of the dialogue.

To me this is one of the biggest shortcomings of the Western mental health model. Throughout history the role of life guide (shaman, clergy, medicine women) has fallen to a trusted elder of the community. This person taught generational knowledge through metaphor and shared culture.

They also freely shared their experience, to help others along their path.

Our model doesn’t account for that. For the most part we still function as if a Freudian “blank slate” approach is the interaction style for healing. Let me tell you – that’s bullshit. Healing is much more likely to be found in a relationship rooted in real connection over one of cool, professional distance.

Censoring our stories perpetuates the current cultural climate of shame. It is estimated that over 1/3 of women worldwide will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. The current US prevalence rate for mental illness is 1 in 5 adults meet criteria fro diagnosis with a mental illness (in a given year). These are common experiences for large portions of the populations. We don’t share these parts of our stories because of shame, because we have been taught these things makes us icky. It is only through owning the ICK, that we take the power away from the stigma and we can begin to collectively heal.

I am well aware I chose my career because I was extremely wounded as a child. The protocols for this profession continued a cycle of silence and shame deeply rooted in my trauma.

My trauma experience and the work I have done in regards to it are my greatest asset to my clients. I firmly believe the only way you can truly understand the depth of this work, is to have traversed this journey on your own.

I was trained to believe my trauma and resulting mental health concerns were a liability. For years, I blunted my voice and toed the line. That’s not how I want to live any longer.

At the end of the day, I’m not a therapist, that’s just what I trained to do in my 20’s. I respect the clinical understanding I have of diagnostics and western approaches to healing. I am grateful to have an insider knowledge – I would not have the confidence to move so fully into the coaching world if I did not understand how truly the therapy world fails.

What I am is a healer. It’s what destiny set me out to be. My life, my story has come with great pain. I’ve spent years facing my darkness in that pain. What I have been through allows me to act as a sherpa for other’s journeys. The process of healing trauma – it isn’t taught in a textbook. It’s lived.

For me this blog is a throat chakra clearing exercise. Each time I log in and share a bit of my story, I feel my personal voice growing clearer.

There are all sorts of exercises you can do to work on open throat for authentic expression. Some focus on physically opening the throat while others aim to clear the psychological grasps on it. Here are a few you can try!

Throat Chakra Clearing Practices

  • Sing! Sing in your shower or your car. Find a song your spirit is attached to and belt it out as loud as you can. Pitch and tune are not important – the focus in on reconnecting with your voice!
  • Scream. Ideally you have access to a location in nature, a place where you can release and return all of the pent up energy to the universe. You can also scream in your car, a closet, the shower, the garage or into a pillow if you don’t have any private space (though be sure to do a cleanse afterwards to release the energy from your living area).
  • Recite a poem or the lyrics to a song out loud. Practice verbally connecting to the emotions your spirit feels drawn to.
  • Reduce mucus. Physiologically our throat chakra feels closed when our bodies produce too much mucus. Inflammation is a cause of mucus production and many foods can are specifically tied to this – especially dairy, fast foods & soda. Commit to switching sodas for water with lime or hot tea for a week of Throat Love.
  • Share your story. Start small and with someone you trust. Listen to who your intuition encourages you to open up to. You might be amazed at how you grow from each other when true dialogue begins to occur.
  • Chill out in camel, fish or cobra pose. These animal inspired yoga poses all involve tilting the head back to elongate and open the throat.
  • If you’re not ready to speak out loud, try journaling it. Nobody in the world has to see it but you. There is power in taking your story out of your head (where it is totally abstract) and moving it to paper (where it has physical representation).

I’d love to hear your throat chakra clearing techniques! Or what chakra you’re focusing on aligning right now! Drop your best tips in the comment section below!!

If you’d like to get to know a bit more about me, check out my very first throat opening blog Adios 2019 Post, to get a glimpse into my journey last year!

Love & light,
Jamie

#trauma #ptsd #recovery #cptsd # hypervigilance #mentalhealth #wellness #treatment #insomnia #anxiety #depression #healing #healingispossible #shadowwork #facethedarkness #psychology #counseling #dbt #dialectics #selfcare #bpd #nonjudgmental #compassion #kindness #ego #hope #lifeworthliving #thrive #evolve #phoenix #resurrection #rebirth #life #holistic #metamorphosis #transform #transformation #lettinggo #nonattachment #jamieschmidt #awakeshegoes #jamieschmidtlpc #goodvibes #growth #selflove #selftalk #appearance #hair #dreadlock #dreads #dreadhead #redhead #selfconcept #love #thisisme #takeitorleaveit #journey

#throatchakra #chakra #clearing #opening #findyourvoice #voice #speakyourtruth #truth #communication #willingness #selfimprovement #selfhelp #metaphysics #loveandlight #namaste #cleansing #sage #burning #journal #yoga #meditation #singing #voice #findyourvoice #speak #talk #communicate #love #connection #inflammation #mucus #scream #letitout

Progress over Perfectionism – Letting Go of All or Nothing Thinking

I am a recovering perfectionist. Like I was the classic GT kid. I graduated from high school second in my class. I was 16 when I started at A&M as a sophomore. Those are things you just don’t accomplish without being highly motivated to do the best.

Once I was past the regimented world of academics, I found my need to have everything done just right, often to be more of a hinderance than a benefit. My perfectionism, also meant I often quickly gave up on things I did not possess innate talent for. Instead of working to develop skills that I was interested in (but not necessarily gifted at) I focused my attention on tasks that would garner praise from my environment.

In CBT, perfectionism is tied in with the cognitive distortion of black & white thinking. This tendency to evaluate things in extremes can lead to a pattern of all or nothing engaging in life. When I knew I could produce top quality work I would be respected for, you bet I’d spend hours making sure every detail was spot on. But in arenas where I knew I was unlikely to shine…. HA! Good luck trying to get an effort out of me.

As I begin 2020, I am pretty much rebooting my life from scratch. Since today is the 15th, I did my first mid-month self assessment. I have big goals for where I want to be a year from now. Because of all the bullshit that went down in my life last year, I feel like I’ve got several years worth of work to catch up on.

I’m looking to set new healthy patterns in every domain of my life – financial, career, relationship, physical health. While I can see growth in each of the domains I am focused on, my first thought today was I should have been further on everything. I could have done more.

I began having the thoughts, if I had just focused on one domain. What could I have accomplished in that time period? If I had just prioritized health & fitness could I have lost an additional five pounds already?

Whoa Jamie!! Your distortions are creeping in.

Sure, you can see quick gains by zoning in and focusing all your energy in one arena. But usually those results are short lived. One of the biggest reasons for this is they aren’t sustainable to your regular life.

Balance is key. My approach to rebuilding my life is a balanced approach. It focuses on holding me accountable each week to making small, necessary changes in a bunch of different areas. By doing this, I am building a foundation for my new life that I am already actively creating. This all/or nothing approach may have gotten me in the past, but this time I’m walking the middle path.

If you’re struggling with Black & White thinking (or really any of the distortions) here’s four steps to start letting go of those thought patterns!

Be Mindful
The first step to changing any thought pattern is to notice you’re having it. Go ahead and take a few minutes to think about how you speak to yourself. What are your most common all/nothing thought patterns? What situations are you most likely to find yourself having these thoughts? Identifying them now, will make you more likely to spot them later on when you experience them with heightened emotions.

Re-Write
What are some other ways to look at this situation? Distortions come from our negative inner critic and are usually based in fear. That critic doesn’t want you to succeed. It doesn’t want you to be the best version of yourself. Because if you were, you wouldn’t have place for it anymore. It can be helpful to tie your re-write into a goal or value that you are focused on right now. Show that critic who you’re going to be!

Commit to Follow Through
When you mindfully catch yourself in one of these thought patterns, the first thing you want to do is label it for yourself – Hey I’m having a all/or nothing moment! This takes you out of the thought loop and is the first step to creating a new neural pathway. Now use your re-write skill, focusing on a goal or value. See your ideal self following through in a balanced manner. Imagine the positive feelings of living as this new version of yourself.

Repeat
There are tons of categories of cognitive distortions. We all tend to have our “favorites” that we rely on. For the ones you are most prone to using, you’ll likely find that re-writing once isn’t enough. You may have to go back again several times to tell yourself your new thought. That’s totally normal. Our brains are wired to defer to the pathways that get the most use. Every time that you engage the mindfulness and re-write skills you are strengthening your new pathways.

Getting over perfectionism is hard. I feel like I finally let go of all this old baggage that has gotten in the way in the past. I want to be the best version of myself so badly and to embody this fully formed new me – TODAY!

I know it’s all about re-wiring though. The goal is to embrace the journey and take each challenge step by step. When things aren’t going fast enough, I just remind myself that all/nothing approach was the Old Jamie. It’s just not the way we do things around here anymore!!

Are you a recovering perfectionist? What are some of your tip for combatting all or nothing tendencies? Share your story in the comment section below!

Namaste,
Jamie

#cbt #distortions #cognitivedistortions #allornothing #blackandwhite #thoughts #thoughtpatterns #balance #mindfulliving #observe #describe #label #nonjudgmentalstane #cognitivebehavior #cognitive #selfhelp #growthmindset

#trauma #ptsd #recovery #cptsd # hypervigilance #mentalhealth #wellness #treatment #insomnia #anxiety #depression #healing #healingispossible #shadowwork #facethedarkness #psychology #counseling #dbt #dialectics #selfcare #bpd #nonjudgmental #compassion #kindness #ego #hope #lifeworthliving #thrive #evolve #phoenix #resurrection #rebirth #life #holistic #metamorphosis #transform #transformation #lettinggo #nonattachment #jamieschmidt #awakeshegoes #jamieschmidtlpc #goodvibes #growth #selflove #selftalk #appearance #hair #dreadlock #dreads #dreadhead #redhead #selfconcept #love #thisisme #takeitorleaveit #journey

PTSD 101: Fight, Flight & Freeze – Surviving a Freeze

I had a full-blown PTSD Freeze moment yesterday.  

I’ll be honest, it caught me off guard.  For the past month, I have not experienced any of the physical effects of my C-PTSD.  A change I contribute that to reaching the apex of my trauma work mid-December.  Physically I’ve felt the difference. I am no longer fighting night terrors or slugging through endless days dealing with the effects of chronic insomnia.  I feel my internal systems recalibrating after years of being in overdrive.  

I’m not actively engaged in trauma work, and I feel pretty healthy.  So this freeze yesterday was a unique experience for me.  I was much more mindful through the episode than ones in the past.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still a completely shit experience.  I was just slightly removed and able to better observe the entire phenomena.

When it was over, I realized that it could be broken down in a very similar manner to a DBT behavior chain.  This process can help you identify important patterns and build resilience against triggers. 

Vulnerability Factors

            When we talk about emotion regulation – vulnerability factors are ANYTHING that make you less likely to be the best, most amazing version of yourself.  This can be –

Physical: you have a headache, you didn’t sleep well the night before 
Relational: you’re fighting with your partner so you feel less confident in all interactions 
Intrapersonal: (self-talk) you’re late to work, so you spend the morning beating yourself up in your head

Be mindful of vulnerability factors. They can add up over the course of the day. The more psychological stress we are under from these, the closer trauma moves to the surface making you more VULNERABLE to triggers.

            Yesterday was not a great day in our house, so there were plenty of vulnerability factors at play.  My boyfriend had an interview today.  He found out Friday evening, which left him all weekend to be anxious about it.  Plus, I totally struggled with my depression this weekend, thanks to a migraine earlier in the week.  While I am incredibly grateful to have an effective medication that does eliminate the headaches, the side effect is usually a couple days of being pretty down afterwards.  It’s just part of the tradeoff.

            I had struggled with Z’s irritability throughout the day. Usually we are pretty in sync.  For the life of me yesterday, I couldn’t figure out what to do or say not to frustrate him. I had recognized that it was pulling up some childhood stuff.  I felt this tension a lot in my younger years.  I knew my main objective was not be a cause of more distress in my environment, but things were erratic enough that it seemed like no matter what I added fuel to the flames. 

The Trigger

In trauma work specifically, triggers can be sneaky to identify.  Often times we subconsciously connected the trigger to trauma but aren’t yet consciously aware of this.  For me, one of the tricks I’ve learned – when I have a strong emotional reaction to something that doesn’t really make sense based on the current situation, then it’s likely tied into my trauma.  

            We were in the bathroom talking. Out frustration Z said something along the lines of “I’m never allowed to get angry, so I just won’t be.”  He then forced a smile.  The disingenuousness of that smile was the trigger.  It literally turned my stomach.  There’s all this other stuff going around, but suddenly I know I am experiencing emotions that are directly related to my trauma work.

Emotion Label

            There are 8 primary emotions – anger, fear, sadness, joy, love, disgust, guilt, & shame. All emotions fall under one of these.  Most people are fairly skillful at identifying when they are experiencing a single emotion.  However, often times with trauma what we experience is a whole tangle of negative emotions.  We each have a specific trauma constellation, when you can separate and identify the emotions you gain power over them.

From months of doing this work – I have learned that I experience two emotions in tandem when I am triggered: Disgust and Terrified. A big aspect of my work was being able to recognize when I experience this cluster of emotions, I am hitting a trigger.  

Flooding & Freeze

We have all heard of fight / flight response.  The third response in this system is the freeze response.  Freeze is often the go-to response for those with C-PTSD.  If you were regularly placed in a situation you had to survive and fight/flight were not realistic options, your nervous system becomes predisposed to rely on freeze. 

            Within a second of experiencing the initial sensation of these emotions, I was engulfed in the flooding.  No longer a 30 year old woman with a Master’s degree in psychology who can clearly articulate what is happening.  I am frozen in a corner, crying and unable to verbally communicate.  I could very clearly articulate in my mind what is occurring, but in the freeze, the ability to come out of my internal world, to explain or connect it is not there.  I become too far removed.

            I also observed the feeling of the adrenaline/cortisol changes associated with this episode.  I felt the slam of energy coursing through me, even with my feet were frozen to the ground.  Even after I calmed my crying, it took a full hour to get my breath regulated.  I was exhausted and immediately ready to call it a night when it was all over. 

Aftereffects

            These events do not occur in a vacuum.  Thus, when it happens, it’s not only about surviving the moment but also being prepared for what may follow.

I cannot immediately tie that smile to an event in my abuse story.  What I have learned, is when I experience this intensity trigger/flooding, the memory will likely expose itself to me in the upcoming weeks.  It sucks, because the memories are always painful.  But I know that choosing to engage in the work, it’s what give me my power back. 

Taking an episode and breaking it down into these smaller aspects can be an incredibly helpful process.  For most of my trauma journey, life felt out of control.  I regained my control by facing my trauma head on.  

This freeze episode got me for a bit yesterday.  But it didn’t pull me down.  Being mindful throughout it, allowed me to understand the layers of it.  This episode was a reminder – even as far as I’ve come – I’m not 100% in control of the process.   I AM in control of the direction I am going in.  The path I have chosen is healing.  Thus I take each episode for what it is, an opportunity for learning and growth.  

Nothing is strong enough to derail me!!

How have you managed freeze response in your own trauma journey? Share your tips, tricks, love & support in the comment section below!

Much love,
Jamie

If you’re at the beginning of your trauma journey, I encourage you to head check out some of my other Trauma 101 posts. Before You Start Your Trauma Journey is a great starting place!

#trauma #ptsd #recovery #cptsd # hypervigilance #mentalhealth #wellness #treatment #insomnia #anxiety #depression #healing #healingispossible #shadowwork #facethedarkness #psychology #counseling #dbt #dialectics #selfcare #bpd #nonjudgmental #compassion #kindness #ego #hope #lifeworthliving #thrive #evolve #phoenix #resurrection #rebirth #life #holistic #metamorphosis #transform #transformation #lettinggo #nonattachment #jamieschmidt #awakeshegoes #jamieschmidtlpc #goodvibes #growth #selflove #selftalk #appearance #hair #dreadlock #dreads #dreadhead #redhead #selfconcept #love #thisisme #takeitorleaveit #journey

Healing thru Hair?!? How my Dreads became Part of my Trauma Journey

My first semester at Texas A&M I regularly crossed paths with this beautiful red-headed woman with dreadlocks.  From the moment I saw her, my spirit was excited by her.  This lovely hippie soul STOOD OUT in the conservative, deep-south of the early 2000’s.  In my mind, she is embodiment of health and self-confidence.  For many years she has acted my personal template of who I could have been, if I had not been so damaged by life.  

Inspired by her courage to be herself and ready to live my own truth, I began having my hair set into dreads last spring.  Though I knew that embarking on this dread journey was a part of my larger trauma journey that had already been unfolding for months, I wasn’t expecting how much it would teach me about myself along the way.  It’s been a process. For a good while I was in the ugly duckling stage.  Being in that place revealed some deeper truths.  

I had grown my hair out for years in preparation for getting dreads.  It took five sessions (about 25 hours) to have my natural hair fully set.  At the end, I was not loving it.  Shrinkage is real!!  Even though my hair had been almost to the small of my back, I was left with barely more than shoulder length dreads.  I felt I had lost all of my femininity. Compounded with the other events in my life at the time, it took a toll on my self-confidence. 

I had spent a decent amount of money already and didn’t feel I could justify chucking out another couple hundred for extensions.  So I practiced acceptance: “This is my hair right now.”  During this period, I began to meditate on the meaning I had placed on my hair.  In those meditations, I was able to see the full picture, the role my hair had played throughout my story: icky compliments from my abuser, battling against my moms attempts to tame it, begging to dye it self-expression in my teens, and eventually the pride/attachment I had developed to it as an adult.  So much meaning placed on ONE aspect of my physical appearance.

As women we are taught to place special value our hair from a very young age.  My mother (like most in her circle) was fairly image conscious.  Having a daughter with properly tamed hair was a reflection of her abilities as a parent.  I was not to leave the house or be seen in public with unkempt hair.  Some of my most distinct school age memories include battles to detangle and control my curly mess. 

I also remember a lot of talk among my aunts and grandmother about the texture and color of my hair – how lucky I was to be born with good hair.  It was an attribute that was highly valued. Not that I thought it was good hair.  Nor did anyone care that I hated the fact my hair was red or that I would get incredibly embarrassed whenever it became the focus of attention. 

When I was younger, I assumed my distaste for my hair color was due to the fact that it made me different.  It is easy to recall examples of kids poking fun at me for having red hair.  I now realize it was much deeper than that. I hated my hair because my abuser loved the color of it. It reminded him of someone long ago.  Subconsciously all of these years I have blamed my hair.  If I had just been born a brunette or a blonde, I wouldn’t have looked like her.  Maybe he wouldn’t have wanted me? Trauma touches us in all sorts of ways.

For Christmas, my boyfriend made and installed amazing blonde dread extensions for me. While, I do not currently have the all-natural dreads of my dreams, I am really happy to regain my length and femininity.  Plus it has even more meaning since they were custom made by my LOVE. For the first time in my life, I love my hair.  

It’s taken a lot of courage this past year to begin revealing my actual self to the world.  I had spent so much of my life, trying to live up to other’s expectations.  It had never made me happy.  One of the biggest themes of my trauma work was an unwillingness to rebuild the same unhappy life I have always had. 

Taking the plunge and expressing who I truly am.  It’s been a big deal for me.  

Not everyone has to like my hair.  Actually the truth is – Nobody but me has to like my hair.  For the most part I get positive comments on it.  I have yet to have a stranger share a negative opinion with me.  (Though I’m betting writing about it on the internet opens me up for that right?)  My mom hates them.  I’m ok with that.  I’m ok with saying

This is who I am.  Take it or leave it. 

I would love to hear your stories of growth through self-expression!  How have you taken the plunge and decided to live as your most bold, authentic self? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

Want to read more about my trauma Journey? Check out my Goodbye 2019 post.

Ciao,
Jamie

#trauma #ptsd #recovery #cptsd # hypervigilance #mentalhealth #wellness #treatment #insomnia #anxiety #depression #healing #healingispossible #shadowwork #facethedarkness #psychology #counseling #dbt #dialectics #selfcare #bpd #nonjudgmental #compassion #kindness #ego #hope #lifeworthliving #thrive #evolve #phoenix #resurrection #rebirth #life #holistic #metamorphosis #transform #transformation #lettinggo #nonattachment #jamieschmidt #awakeshegoes #jamieschmidtlpc #goodvibes #growth #selflove #selftalk #appearance #hair #dreadlock #dreads #dreadhead #redhead #selfconcept #love #thisisme #takeitorleaveit #journey