Many years ago, I was struggling to set my world upright after a devastating emotional earthquake and the relational aftershocks. As the flashbacks of abuse came like a foreign invader into my world, I didn’t know who to trust. Or, how to trust.
As I worked with a counselor to steady myself, I found my capacity to perceive my experiences were not 20/20. My counselor was kind, patient, and skilled at knowing how to reset my equilibrium.
She once gave me this homework: Whatever you would normally think, do, or say this week, do the exact opposite.
As I walked through my week, I was able to observe the extent to which chaos ruled my mind. What was the opposite? What were my feelings? I became aware that the rumblings inside weren’t mine at all.
All of my thoughts, feelings and needs were filtered through my dad. I was still filtering every ounce of my personhood through how I believed he would react. He was no longer in my life, but my system was perfectly attuned to what he would have found acceptable.
There was a point early in my life when I stopped having my own feelings.
I began only to consider what would please him. As a little girl, it was easier to resign to what he wanted than to feel rejected or dismissed for having a separate thought. Over time (I don’t know at what point), I simply considered his choice mine. My truest Self got lost at sea in the riptide of self preservation.
Now, as an adult, it is my responsibility to set my world upright. It is my job to begin taking responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings.
Many studies show that our first gut response is often the best choice. However, if from an early age we’ve been taught not to trust our gut, decision making becomes muddy. Our innate instinct gets disoriented.
For example, many brave young women (and now men) have come forward sharing their stories of sexual abuse at the hands of the infamous Dr. Nassar.
As one after another testified in his trial, they stated that they felt what they experienced at the time was wrong and “icky”. However, as young, elite athletes they’d been programmed not to trust themselves. They were taught to ignore their own instincts and fully rely on those in authority. As top gymnasts, they were used to doing what they were told without the right to question, even when it hurt or they had a deep sense it was wrong.
This is the quintessential set up for victimization and gut disorientation.
When we have been victimized and abused, the need to get back in touch with our gut is essential. It takes time to establish a trust between one’s body, heart, and mind when those in authority chose to negate your inherent sense of knowing. The capacity is still there, it’s just been covered up.
When recovering from a traumatic past, giving ourselves extensive space and time to listen to ourselves again is essential. Your most perfect Self is highly discerning and innately in tune.
If you’re struggling to trust yourself, give yourself permission to move slowly. Seek wise counsel to support you in rediscovering your own Internal deep knower. It’s still in there. Give yourself all the time you need to find her again.