Coping patterns

“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. Their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” —Don Miguel Ruiz

For many years after traumatic, chaotic, emotionally and mentally abusive events occur, your body goes through the motions of post-traumatic effects. Your body and you create what I call coping patterns. My brain tells me the daily abuse is over and I am healed, but my body doesn’t care where the attacks come from. All it know is it is time to ride out the storm for a few days if something happens that is not part of a normal day. Even one person, or a group of people in a meeting talking over me loudly ignoring what I have to say, will set off an episode of what I call hunkering down. These are big triggers for me. Your body has a way of remembering how you got through the abuse. It gets tired, slowing you down, making you sleep a lot. Maybe you eat your way to comfort, or drink yourself to sleep. You cocoon. You repair. You sleep.

Your body will hold onto past trauma, this has been scientifically proven. That’s why doing body work such as yoga, Tai Chi, breath work, meditation, and other physical techniques are beneficial. Doing these activities can help your body release old trauma. Also simply recognizing you are having an episode can help bring you out of it and help you cope in a better way.

For me any trauma would have me laying low for three days. I would experience a crushing tired/exhausted feeling near the end of my body’s processing of the perceived trauma. I knew from experience it would take three days for my body to adjust to something my mind was okay with. I call it ‘perceived trauma’ such as a verbal attack or challenge. In my marriage, I was constantly belittled, verbally attacked, torn apart, and mentally and emotionally abused on a daily basis. After a while I did not know up from down. Just getting through a day with no bumps in the road was a small miracle. I kept trying to please my husband and I would work my tail to the bone and still he was unhappy about some part of his life. He took it out on me. He told me, it was always my fault! Almost anything would set him off, and it was usually nothing to be upset at. Nonetheless he would batter me and badger me and make my life miserable. That takes a toll on a person. 

Years after the divorce was final and I had my new, wonderful life, these episodes would occur from time to time. I was not sure if I was being super sensitive, cranky, or if I was justified in what I felt was going on. For someone that suffers emotional and mental abuse for years, you get very used to continually being picked on and battered. It eats away at your self esteem, your self image, and your sanity. But after the abusive environment was gone, once I recognized it was my body that was betraying me and thinking it should shut down for a few days until the storm had passed, I had a clue about how to get out of this old way of behaving. Remember you can know something in your mind, intellectually, but your body takes a lot longer to catch up. Give your body time to make the big changes it needs to, in order to be healed. This is key. 

When I first discovered this body-lag, I decided to drop a few bad habits from my life, in order to help me get through the episodes of my body shutting down. Hey, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired! I didn’t open a bottle of wine to cope. I didn’t eat my way through it. I did not sleep or stay indoors too much. I did not dump my frustrations on others. I did not tell my story of ‘the incident’ to anyone. Telling your victim story to others, over and over, in hopes of sympathy, is only spinning more negativity and is a way to validate you were done wrong. This is not a good way to live, let me tell you! Having a better attitude, one of openness and love. An outlook of you being fully in charge, and managing your life from being open to Spirit and being totally okay with you being fully in the driver’s seat will get you where you want to go!

I need to stress, give your body time. But don’t spiral into the old patterns either. You will need to walk a tightrope of the new, while acknowledging the old. You can also imagine a pendulum, and strive to strike a good balance of noting how your body reacts, almost pushing your mind aside, and getting your mind to take over some of those habits that don’t suit your situation anymore. Note what you are doing in a detached way so you are aware that your body may want to hunker down. Get to know what triggers you. Do not overthink this! Don’t ask why something happens and play psychotherapist. Instead concentrate on healing. Try and not go into your normal mode of behavior, but understand your body is doing all it knows how, in order to end the perceived trauma.

Gently, slowly, you will change to a set of new coping patterns. Put new habits in place. Instead of opening and drinking a bottle of wine, get into a new beverage and make it fun. I love tea, and have many obscure types and brands, almost all loose tea. I’m a tea-a-holic! It’s a more refreshing habit. I no longer overeat for instant gratification and comfort. I eat one square of ‘designer’ chocolate at the end of the day. A good release of pressure is to walk my dogs or play kick ball with them. I gradually noticed that getting outside in nature is a really great way of grounding myself and being instantly refreshed. One great piece of advice I got from many outside sources is, when you are feeling down about yourself, give of yourself to others who are in need. It gets you outside yourself in a very healthy and rewarding way. Keep working on it, and you will get better. Baby steps!

Please let me know in the comments section if you have any personal experience with this or any stories to share that may benefit others. I’d love to hear from you.


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