Tag Archive: inner healing



Dealing with emotional trauma can be very distressing, and in some instances, very severe. When one has experienced a major traumatic life event – from surviving an abusive relationship, to losing friends or family members to a drunk driver or a hit and run, suicide, to combat, or a terrible break-up, deception, manipulation or mind control, discovering that one’s partner has been unfaithful, or being conned and taken advantage of, hearing painful news of an illness that is debilitating or life-threatening – Anything that leaves a person feeling like the floor has been taken out from under them, and are experiencing a loss of personal power, like their whole world has just spiraled out of control… These people know what trauma is.

My intention is to do a series not so much on the trauma itself and identifying it, but rather to offer some self care tips, advice on grief and grieving, forgiveness, re-establishing safety after one has experienced a betrayal of trust, or how to face the places and things that you avoid that serve as triggers for anxiety and out of control feelings due to a traumatic life event – how to face those situations and re-build safety slowly. When it comes to relationship trauma, it is important to have tools to rebuild trust and I will touch on that as well.

Today I just want to give you a sense of normalcy if you are experiencing the residual effects of a traumatic situation. I personally find that sometimes it helps to know what to expect as you go through the stages of healing to help yourself feel like what you are experiencing is normal for the situation you are going through. I find it helps bring a small measure of stability to an otherwise overwhelming sense of powerlessness over the situation, and the loss of control that causes you to feel like your foundation has been ripped from underneath you. Having a roadmap of what to expect is sort of the first step to laying a new foundation.

It may sound kind of silly at first, but identifying the trauma is a good first step – now some of you may think it is quite obvious to pinpoint, the reality is, sometimes it’s not. For instance, part of experiencing something traumatic often involves some of the same stages of grief, so denial is a normal process, not wanting to, or being unable to accept what is happening is actually normal. Sometimes the shock of what the body, mind or emotions are experiencing that a person simply goes numb and cannot comprehend the reality of the situation immediately. I think this stage of being anesthetized from the initial blow is a little of God’s kindness to shield us from taking in too much all at once. Another good example of why identifying trauma can be difficult is working through your own childhood trauma. Children cannot identify trauma as readily as an adult can. But even as adults who endured trauma as a child, you may not see your childhood as traumatic. If you were constantly exposed to abuse, you may have taken in cues that this is ‘normal’ behavior because it is all you were exposed to. So, identifying what the trauma is, is actually a pretty significant feat for some!

Once you have identified your traumatic injury, or experience, it is important to talk about it with someone you can trust – a supportive friend, a therapist, a support group, because part of the healing process is being able to share our deepest feelings to give them a voice. Sometimes it is helpful just to talk as it allows yourself the opportunity to problem solve, bring awareness to the situation, bring understanding, bring the roots of the problem out into the light to help promote self-awareness or a sense of understanding. It helps you get in touch with the emotions surrounding the trauma.

Some people also find it helpful to write about it to help sort through their thoughts and emotions about the experience. Some people organize their thoughts better through writing than verbally. The most important thing is that you are processing it in order to feel it, rather than avoid. Avoidance is normal too, but studies suggest that avoidance can increase rather than decrease the stress and anxiety, fear and anger surrounding the situation, which can lead to further emotional injury down the road, or even lead to physical health problems.

Taking inventory of what happened and how it affected you is very important, but perhaps been more important than that is moving to the next stage of repair, involving FEELING the pain, sadness, anger, hurt etc that has come up as a result of the trauma. It is common to experience shock, anxiety and depression as well – also stages in the grief cycle. The feelings will take their time to pass, each person is different, but embracing them rather than repressing them will eventually lead to subside the intensity of the emotions. Note of caution: For those experiencing intense anger, this is not code for unleash all your fury, but rather to acknowledge it and try to determine what is beneath the anger, as anger is a powerful protective emotion usually covering over something far deeper -like sadness, pain or grief. If you have trouble knowing how to effectively deal with your anger in healthy ways, you should seek out an anger management group or see a counselor for additional help.

To move forward from the initial process of identifying and feeling the effects of trauma, the stage of acceptance inevitably comes. We must at some point accept what happened. This does not mean agreeing with what happened and somehow ‘making it ok’, rather it involves a willingness to live with the outcome, recognizing that what’s done is done and we cannot change the past, and choosing to go forward acknowledging what has happened. This is a HARD step. But it is essential to begin feeling better.

Forgiveness is almost always necessary for experiencing trauma of some kind. If you lost your son to war, you may need to forgive the man who killed your son, or the political regimes that brought on the war, or perhaps your own son for willingly joining the army.

If you were in a serious car accident that was not your fault and have to live with serious physical consequences as a result, you may need to forgive the person who hit your car.

If your child was abducted or kidnapped, raped or murdered, forgiveness may seem damn near impossible! Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do. And forgiveness does not mean you have to have a relationship with the person who injured you or someone you love, but it does mean that at some point you let go of your hatred and anger and bitterness.

I have heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking a poison you want someone else to drink. Un-forgiveness does us more damage to us than the person who hurt us. They have already caused damage. We cause ourselves further damage by holding onto hatred and bitterness that just fills our souls and consumes us, sending us spiraling down a deep, dark hole of despair, self pity, anger, vengeance, etc. anything and everything that robs us of the opportunity to live life free, full of life and love and hope for the future. But forgiveness takes time. And that’s ok.

Sometimes it is important to confront the situation in order to deal with our anger or to release someone through forgiveness. Sometimes it is ok to address the person face to face or write a letter. At other times, especially when processing your more hostile feelings of anger, it may prove more beneficial to write a letter you don’t send, or deal with those feelings in therapy, until you can face the person without being volatile, being able to say what you need to say constructively. Some people may feel they never have to face the person directly, and walk through that process on their own or with a support group or counselor.

Letting go…. Is just as hard as acceptance, and forgiveness. But letting go of the burden and walking away and moving on are the final stages in the process of healing from trauma. They have identified the truth about the trauma and faced it head on, worked through it through talking, writing about it, finding healthy and effective ways of dealing with anger and confrontation, accepted what cannot be changed, forgiven those involved, and now they must find the courage to move on toward the next phase of life. They must learn to live in the present and let the past stay in the past.

Healing will be easier if you are able to look on the bright side. If you are able to accept the bad, but not only see the bad but look for the good as well. Most people or situations are not “all bad”. If you can find a way to merge the good and the bad, so as not to over-amplify the negative reality, you will begin to see things in a more balanced perspective. You can begin to see alternate ways of looking at the negative experience as well – not to minimize what was done, but to bring balance to your own perspective. If you cannot see anything good other than the trauma, begin to loom for what you have learned from the experience, what wisdom or coping skills you have developed to endure painful and trying times in your future.

Walking through these stages will help minimize your tendency to Medicare or turn to addictive substances to avoid or anesthetize your experience, and help you come out stronger!

Codependency – What is it?


Are you codependent? Take this short quiz and see if you identify with codependency.

1. I am in a relationship with someone who is addicted to a substance or a behavior, or someone who is depressed.
2. I feel responsible for almost everybody and everything, but I feel guilty much of the time.
3. I can’t say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.
4. I can accurately ‘read’ other people by analyzing their facial expressions and tone of voice.
5. I try very hard to please people, but I seldom measure up.
6. I feel that I have to protect people, especially the addicted or depressed person in my life.
7. I live in such a way that no one can say I’m selfish.
8. I vacillate between defending the irresponsible person and blowing up in anger at them.
9. I often relive situations and conversations to see if I can think of some way I could have done or spoken better.
10. I am overly frightened of angry people.
11. I am terribly offended by personal criticism.
12. To avoid feeling guilt and shame, I seldom stand up to people who disagree with me.
13. I tend to see people and situations as “all good” or “all bad”.
14. Though I try to please people, I often feel isolated and alone.
15. I trust people too much or not at all.
16. I often try to get people I love to change their attitudes and behavior.
17. I tend to believe the addicted or depressed person’s promises, even if he/she has broken countless promises before.
18. Sometimes I have a lot of energy to help people, but sometimes I feel drained, depressed and ambivalent.
19. I often give advice, even when it is not requested.
20. I tend to confuse love with pity, and I tend to love those who need me to rescue them from their problems.
21. I believe I can’t be happy unless others, especially the needy people in my life, are happy.
22. I am often a victim in strained and broken relationships.
23. I am defensive when someone points out my faults.
24. My thoughts are often consumed with the troubles and needs of the addicted or depressed person in my life.
25. I feel wonderful when I can fix other’s problems, but I feel terrible when I can’t.

If you answered yes to 5 or fewer statements, you have relatively healthy boundaries, confidence or wisdom in relationships.

If you answered yes to 6-12 statements, your life is shaped to a significant degree by the demands of needy people in your life. You feel responsible for the choices others make, and you try too hard to help them make the right ones.

If you answered yes to 13 or more statements, you have lost your sense of identity, and you are consumed by the problems of addicted or depressed person’s in your life. You have to take steps to get well whether that person does or not.

Codependency involves a habitual system of thinking, feeling and behaving towards others and ourselves. It is a learned behavior, and again, is one of those side effects of a lack of healthy boundaries in life. Codependent characteristics are demeaning and can cause pain, and the habits become self-destructive.

Some of the common characteristics of codependency are:

1. Care taking – This is where one feels as though they are responsible for other people’s thoughts, opinions, actions, choices, beliefs, well being, etc. If you feel like making a choice that would make someone unhappy with you, not only do you wrestle with codependency, but also enmeshment with another person, which I briefly discussed last Friday I believe.
If you feel compelled to solve another person’s problem, or feel anxiety, pity and guilt over other’s problem’s to the extent that you feel you need to be the one who has to rescue or ‘make it better for them’ at great expense to your own well being, you have adopted a care taking role in someone else’s life. Codependency and enmeshment often go hand in hand.
Do you try to please others instead of yourself? Try to anticipate their needs, feel safer when giving? Do you feel sad when you spend all your energy, resources, and life… giving to other people and feel like nobody ever gives to you? Do you feel bored or empty or worthless when you are NOT helping someone overcome a crisis, or a problem in life, or someone to help?

2. Low self-worth – codependents tend to come from troubled, dysfunctional families. They may deny that their family was/is dysfunctional – after all, if it’s all you knew, it WOULD feel ‘normal’. Do you blame yourself for everything – including taking responsibility for someone else’s displeasure with you or your choices? Are you afraid to make mistakes? Do you reject compliments or praise? Do you feel like you are not good enough? Do you fear rejection? Do you feel ashamed of who you are? Do you often tell yourself you can’t do anything right, or other self critical, self destructive, self hatred type of language? Do you think life is not worth living, or believe that good things will never happen? Do you try and prove that you are good enough for other people? Do you settle for being needed, and diminish your own needs?

3. Repression – Do you push aside your thoughts or feelings because of fear or guilt or to gain someone’s conditional approval that if you perform the way they want that maybe you will finally feel the acceptance you desperately need? I am here to say, if you are pushing yourself aside because someone does not approve of your choices, not only are you harming yourself, you are also accepting conditional acceptance, based on your performance, rather than on genuine, authentic acceptance, that loves you and accepts you regardless if your choices, values, or opinions are different than theirs. This is real love. Anything less than that is settling for enmeshment rather than intimacy, and it is not REAL love. You have great worth and value. Are you afraid to be yourself? Have you lost your sense of self because you have become enmeshed with someone else?

4. Obsession – Do you worry about the smallest things? Are you super careful with what you say and how you present yourself to others? Do you feel anxious and/or responsible for other people’s problems? Are you more concerned with other people’s problems while repressing your own needs and feelings? Do you focus all your energy on other people and their problems? Do you lose sleep over problems or other people’s behavior? Do you worry a lot? What are you worried about? Finding the answer to that might just be the root, or at least the door to understanding the root issue.

5. Dependency – Do you feel unhappy with yourself, or lack peace and contentment? Do you look for happiness outside of yourself, in other people or addictions? Do you find yourself latching on to whoever or whatever you think will provide happiness? Did you feel loved and approved of by your parents? Careful now, before you say yes. Was their love and approval based on how well you performed according to their standards? Ie. if you successfully made it through university or picked the career of their choice for you? Or did they still love and approve of you even if you made decisions different than what they would have chosen for you? Do you feel like you need people more than you want them, like you can’t make it without them? Do you find yourself worrying or wondering or constantly making assumptions about whether people love you or like you or not? Do you believe that people are never there for you?

6. Poor communication – Codependents frequently blame, coerce, beg, advise, don’t say what they mean, don’t mean what they say, don’t know what they mean, or how to communicate it. They tend to not ask for what they need, or ask indirectly, leaving it a guessing game for others to try and interpret their needs. They find it difficult to get to the point they are trying to make, gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect, try to say what they think people want to hear. This is where people pleasing comes into play here.

7. Lack of trust – codependents don’t trust themselves, don’t trust their feelings, decisions, or other people.

Many codependents feel very hurt, scared and angry, have weak boundaries, struggle with having allowed themselves to be controlled, and often try to control the outcome of events in their current life. They may struggle with denial, sex issues, be extremely over responsible, or become irresponsible. They may struggle with feeling close to people, or wrestle with depression, among many other symptoms of the same root we have been discussing for the past few weeks -poor boundary development. Many of these symptoms first emerge out of necessity to protect ourselves from harm, and because legitimate needs we had were not met. and
These methods tend to feel like safe coping mechanisms to try and meet our needs indirectly. We think… If I meet someone else’s needs, they will reciprocate and meet mine. But instead, what usually happens, is that they just continue to take what we offer, and do not give back what we are looking for and desperately in need of. We are taking responsibility for them, neglecting our own needs, something we each our responsible for. We need to become safe enough to ask for what we need. We need to take responsibility for our needs and getting them met, rather then expecting others to automatically know, or mind read to try and figure out what it is we need.

This is just to get you thinking. I may need to circle back to this subject at a later time more extensively, but for now, this is an introduction to codependency. The roots of which, stem from, as I mentioned before… Lack of healthy boundary development.

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

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How have you felt impacted by codependency?  What have you done that has helped break this cycle?  What resources can you share with the community that has helped you?  If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to identify and break codependency in your life!

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

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