During our lifetime, we experience many new beginnings. New beginnings can feel awkward and unsettling, whether it is a new school, job, program, team, or membership program. For the trauma survivor, however, new beginnings can trigger old messages of not being good enough, fear of rejection, and a knot in the pit of their stomach. While those are pretty normal reactions, even for those without trauma, the experience for the trauma survivor is amplified and intensified 100 times over.

In this article, I will address the contributing factors of the intensity and how to get through new beginnings.

Contributing Factors

Legacy rejection. Trauma survivors often have experienced multiple situations where they have been rejected by the ones closest to them, many at a very early age. When you experience this at a young age, you develop a sense that there is something inherently wrong with you and that no one will like/accept you. This “old recording” plays on a loop in the survivor’s mind and causes them to seek the safety of their armor.

Armor. I don’t know of any childhood trauma survivors who do not have a rather sophisticated set of armor that they’ve developed over the years to keep themselves safe. The armor creates a barrier between ourselves and other people so that we will be safe no matter what their responses are to us. The armor usually works great, but it also leaves us feeling really lonely because you can’t just filter the bad out and let the good in. When you wear armor, you keep everything out…even the good.

Core beliefs. Core beliefs are at the very heart of our identity. They are what we believe about ourselves. One theory of identity formation holds that our identity is developed as a child by how significant others reflect back to us who we are. If our caretakers told us we were worthless, unlovable, or not good enough, chances are we will take that in as truth and believe it. Those toxic beliefs are practiced repeatedly throughout our lifetime and become habitual or second nature for us. Changing core beliefs is the most challenging part (in my opinion) of the healing journey.

Helpful Tips to Get You Through the Awkwardness of New Beginnings

  • Stay present. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you will know this is where I always start. As trauma survivors, it’s normal for us to experience triggers back to the traumatic events of our childhood. When we are triggered into those younger parts of ourselves, we lose the adult coping strategies that we’ve developed. The challenge for us is to stay present. Try orienting yourself to the room you are in by looking around and focusing on the details of the room…or you can focus on the sensations of your butt in your chair or your feet on the floor. You can also suck on a peppermint or hard candy, chew gum, or even hold an ice cube. Those are the things that have helped me in the past.
  • Breathe. The nervousness we experience in our stomachs or the intense beating of our hearts can be really distracting and disturbing. Taking some deep breaths can help to bring those butterflies back under control.
  • Suspend negativity. The inner critic inside of us is there to keep us safe; however, you can give that critic a day off. I will literally talk to my inner critic and say, “I hear you, and I know you are just trying to keep me safe, but I’ve got this.”
  • Hold space for the discomfort. When we get comfortable with being uncomfortable and continue to remind ourselves that we are safe, we will be well on our way to managing our intense emotions. Kristin Neff talks about welcoming the discomfort and learning to sit with it. I sometimes find this step difficult because who wants to sit in discomfort? However, the more I practice doing it, the more I expand my window of tolerance, which is a good thing.
  • Tell yourself the truth. Reminding yourself that you are safe, that you belong, and that you will get through this can be extremely helpful. I told you earlier that I talk to myself (maybe not out loud), and the reason I do that is to introduce a new “talk track” to the old messaging that plays on a loop in my head. If I talk “loud” enough, I can drown out that toothless dog’s bark (that’s what it really is).
  • Be you. You are enough. People want to get to know a real person…warts and all. Authenticity or being yourself goes further in establishing healthy relationships than trying to show up perfectly and maintaining that false image for the long haul. We are ALL flawed and imperfect…and that’s OK.

I hope this has been helpful to you. I would love to hear about your new beginnings and how you handled the awkwardness of it.

As always, you do not have to walk this journey alone.

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