IFS therapy San Diego

You Are Not What Happened To You

“I feel like I’m damaged goods.”  This statement and other similar statements can come from people who have experienced trauma.  The trauma may have been a sexual assault or other crime, it may may have been a toxic relationship, it may have been a near death experience.  Why so often do survivors believe these events leave them forever damaged?

Trauma does change us.  Some of what it can impact includes how we think, the emotions that we feel, our behaviors, our physical response to stimulus, and more.  This is a normal response to an event that has shook our world. In time, many will return to their previous (or similar) way of functioning.  Some may do this naturally on their own and some find their way back with the support of others.  

There are people who hold the belief that what happened to them has left them “damaged.”  Trauma impacts our view of ourself and our place in the world.  It’s not uncommon to have thoughts like “I’m bad”, “This was my fault,” or “I have no control.” 

I think we like to believe that awful things can’t happen.  When something awful does happy we try to figure out why.  We want to know what we can do to make sure something awful never happens again to ourself or to loved ones.  We start to come up with reasons and justifications like “If only I had…” The amount of victim blaming that we hear in society, especially around sexual violence, further compounds the blame that we place on ourselves. 

Through the support of loved ones it is possible to begin changing the way we think about our trauma.  When someone says to us “it’s not your fault” and “I’m here for you” it goes a long way.  We no longer feel alone.  Their statements of support start to counter the self blame statements that are in our head.  The more we hear these statements of support the more we start to believe them.

Therapy can also help us to heal and to shift those negative thoughts about ourself.  EMDR therapy helps the brain to process an event.  Instead of having a negative thought about ourself we have a positive thought like “I’m good,” “It wasn’t my fault,” and “I have control.”  IFS therapy helps us to release the negative energy, thoughts, and emotions about an event.  Once that unburdening happens it invites us to take in other positive qualities like calm, confidence, connection, and courage. EMDR and IFS are two of the therapeutic approaches that can help individuals to heal from their past trauma.

Through support and therapy a person can reach a different understanding of the event(s) and the meaning can change.  It no longer defines the person.  It is part of their story but it’s a matter of pages and not the whole book. Experiencing trauma does not mean that a person is damaged. The person may change in some ways or their path may change. Life changes us in all sorts of ways.

“Yes I have been through awful things.  It wasn’t my fault though.  I’m strong.  I’m going to do amazing things.”  This type of statement and other similar statements have come from people that have worked through their trauma.  I have heard these statements from clients in my office.

Are you ready to start your healing journey? Contact me to make a therapy appointment.

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The Love Within

Happy Valentine’s Day!  This day can bring up a range of emotions for many of us - excitement, sadness, numbness, anger, disappointment, tenderness, ambivalence and much more.  This can change depending where we are in our life.

What I’ve come to realize over the years, is that how I experience this day (and relationships in general) is largely related to where I am in relationship with myself.  

Many of us have core wounds related to lovability, worthiness, and/or our value.  These wounds were often created early on in life.  Maybe by a message we heard from a loved one, maybe it was the absence of a primary care giver (literally or due to mental health or substance use), maybe it was because of another early negative experience or trauma.  That wound can be raw for a very long time.  Sometimes we don’t even realize it’s there.  

We often move through life trying not to acknowledge that wound.  Sometimes we are trying to avoid it through distractions like overworking or binge watching our favorite shows.  Sometimes we try to people please or try to be “perfect.”  Sometimes we try to numb it through using food or other substances.

There are times we try to find something or someone outside to assure us that this fear we hold about ourself isn’t true.  If I win that award… If I date this person… If I get that job… If that person loves me…

Sometimes this may help us short term.  Eventually something changes.  Then, we are again questioning our lovability, worthiness, or value.  

There is another option though… What if we could give ourselves the love we deserve?  Take some time to sit down, get to know ourselves better, get to know the different aspects of ourselves, and in time help heal those wounds.  Then, we wouldn’t be needing someone or something from the outside to give those things to us.  Then, when we meet another person we won’t have the same expectations.  Yes we have standards, we have goals, and we have hopes for relationships.  But how we feel about ourselves is no longer dependent on these outside factors.  

I invite you to take some time today or over the next days to get to know yourself.  Be curious about why you do all the things you do.  Connect to the different aspects of yourself.  Thank them for getting you to where you are today.  Make a plan to spend time with them again.  When you’re ready, set an intention to take steps towards healing any wounds that are there by participating in therapy.  You deserve it.  

Let this Valentine’s Day be a day you give yourself the love you deserve.  If there are others in your life whether they be friends, family, partners, or pets that you want to send love to, take moments to do that too.  When the love starts within, the rest is icing on the cake.  Make the day one full of love, appreciation, joy, and connection.

Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous.
— Carrie Bradshaw
San Diego Therapist

Year End Review

Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution?  Have you ever seen it through?  Maybe some of you strong willed and determined people have.  However, some of us have likely made resolutions that have fallen to the the wayside by the end of January.  Then maybe we got down on ourself or made an excuse like “new year’s resolutions are stupid.” I’m proposing something different this year.  Do a year end review instead.

Get out your journal/computer/tablet/smartphone. It’s time to to reflect on the past year and to make a plan for next.

  1. What were your favorite moments of 2018?  Make a list of the things you enjoyed about this year.  This is when you can get nostalgic.  Maybe a trip you took, a memory with a loved one, or a book you enjoyed reading… list the good things that you want to remember.  

  2. What were your accomplishments?  When we make resolutions we are often focus on what we wish we could do differently.  I want you to take some time to recognize all the things that YOU DID DO.  Maybe you had a milestone in your personal life or your career, maybe you set a personal record of some kind, maybe you took a class… give yourself some darn credit!

  3. What were your challenges?  Now it’s time to acknowledge what you didn’t do so well.  Try not to be too hard on yourself.  We all have things to list here.  Life is about growth.  Try to see if there are any themes that may relate to something you want to work on.  

  4. Make a SMART Goal (or a few) for 2019:  One of the challenges about New Year’s Resolutions is that often we make grand goals with no plan on how to achieve them. Don’t make a resolution just because you think you should.  That’s how we set ourselves up to not seeing them through.  Use this graphic to help you format your goal(s).

This image was found on Pinterest. I love Pinterest. It says the graphic originally appeared in an article from ReignitingIt.

This image was found on Pinterest. I love Pinterest. It says the graphic originally appeared in an article from ReignitingIt.

Yes I know this may feel like a self evaluation you’d do for your employer.  When I worked in higher education, we had to set SMART goals for our performance reviews every year.  To be honest, I often dreaded that time of year.  Emotions were on high at the office.  Probably because we were being evaluated by other people and that they sometimes had a different perspective on what we did well and not so well.  Plus, it was tied to potential salary increases and money can bring up a lot.  What I’m asking you to do here is different from that type of review.  Here, you’re doing a self evaluation for your most important boss… You.

The goals you set for yourself and how you feel about yourself are most important.  Our relationship with ourself sets the groundwork for our other relationships.  Also, the only time we are going to change is if it’s change we are choosing for ourself.  That’s when the change has a chance to last.  

This year I’m asking you to sit down and really take a good look at the past year.  Acknowledge all that went well and what you want to improve.  Then make a plan.  If you really want to take it to the next level, take that review out in June to see what kind of progress you have made so far.  Adjust as needed.  Stop setting unrealistic New Year’s Resolutions.  This year, do a Year End Review instead. Then watch yourself grow. 

Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
— Natasha Beddingfield, Unwritten