Many of the people in the ACEs Connection Community are inspired to do this work as a result of their own Adverse Childhood Events. Many of us (me included) do this work as a source of healing for ourselves and also to pay it forward and heal our community. So much of the suffering in our world can be prevented through education.
Through my training with IFS Institute as an IFS Informed Coach and my own experience getting past Complex-PTSD, (ACE Score of 7) I’ve learned that anxiety and depression are these young parts of yourself showing up and taking over agency of your thinking and actions. Loving them through release of the pain is the best way to allow those child parts of you to heal so you can feel more at ease and create the life you want and deserve.
You wouldn't let your 6-year-old self make choices that require adult decision-making skills. Yet, this is often what is happening when anxiety, panic attacks, and depression or angry outbursts happen. There is nothing wrong with you when this happens. It's just that this is happening below our level of awareness. Afterward, we are often wishing we had handled something much differently - only to find ourselves in the same boat a few days or weeks later.
I’ve learned how to break the cycle. Not just the long-term cycle that happens in families but the cycle that happens as part of the human experience. This cycle is one of being triggered by something, having this immense anxiety or depression show up, leading to some super toxic thinking that could result in me napalming everything I’ve built to be solid in my life. I know napalm. I’ve napalmed. It wasn’t good.
Here are some basic steps that I coach people to use when anxiety, toxic thoughts, panic attacks or depression shows up. This isn't a magic bullet, and it's one of the many tools I teach in my classes and coaching sessions. Coaching is "present and future focused" with specific intent on giving you the tools and discipline to create the life you want and deserve.
First, slow down. Walk slower, talk slower. Get in your body and become aware of where you are right now. Get grounded in RIGHT NOW.
STEP 1. NOTICE THAT THE TOXIC THOUGHTS AREN’T REALITY.
For me, often what I was thinking was so far off the mark and sometimes – batshit crazy – I had to literally fight with myself to not napalm my life. I’ve described it as feeling like I have to invert myself. Like turning a balloon inside out. There’s this tiny little hole that you have to squeeze the entire balloon through. The trouble is, the balloons pop. The discipline is in inverting the balloon over and over and over again every day. The good news? Each time I turn that balloon inside out it’s easier than the last time. After you’ve moved through this process, often you’ll look back at what you were thinking and realize that it had no basis in reality. Remember that recognition for next time the toxic thoughts show up.
Examples: "I do not matter." "I am stupid." And my personal favorite, “Who do you think you are?”
🔥Imposter Syndrome, anyone?
Or even: This worst possible thing might happen if I step into what I want. This worst possible thing is happening RIGHT NOW. If I don’t do x, y, or z, this worst possible thing WILL HAPPEN.
🔥I like my Imposter Syndrome with a side of Catastrophizing. Oh, and can you supersize that?
STEP 2. FEEL THE FEELINGS.
If you have a panic attack, the BEST THING TO DO is to find a way to feel the root emotion that is leading to the panic. The panic is actually being triggered by a feeling in your body, that then has you creating toxic thoughts that creates a self-feeding system which results in chronic anxiety and even depression. You might want to resist feeling feelings. Please, trust me. Let go. Feel sad, mad, angry, hurt.
By the way, yes, even happiness can cause a panic attack. If you stop to notice where the feeling is in your body, the stuck energy can be released. Give yourself just a little bit of space to allow the tears to flow. If happiness causes you to have a panic attack, it’s quite possible you have a belief that the rug will be pulled out from beneath you because of a lack of stability in your childhood. Also, if any sense of calm and happiness in your childhood seemed to result in punishment.
🤯 Don’t get caught up in the thoughts and refuel the feelings. This is the self-feeding system that can keep you stuck here. This process should only last a few minutes and you should feel relief on the other side. (If that is a struggle for you, I can walk you through it in a coaching session. Also, grieving is a different process altogether.) The meditation at this link is also a good resource that walks you through deliberately feeling feelings.
STEP 3. FIND THE ORIGINAL TRIGGERING EVENT. (OPTIONAL)
A lot of times, the thoughts that show up to accompany a panic attack have absolutely nothing to do with the reason why the panic attack started to begin with. If you can find the beginning trigger, you can be pretty confident that many of the thoughts you had since that original trigger are a child part of you trying to protect you with distractions that remind you, “don’t get close, don’t get comfortable, don’t get vulnerable, because it will only hurt when things go wrong and you can’t afford that.” This part of you has good intentions but is no longer serving you in living the life you want.
Take On Me from a-ha
So needless to say
I'm odds and ends I
'll be stumbling away
Slowly learning that life is OK
Say after me
It's no better to be safe than sorry
For as long as I can remember I thought the lyric was “Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry”. It was quite a shock when I realized that the lyric actually said, “It’s no better to be safe than sorry.”
Instead of keeping yourself safe by not jumping into life and living it – my old narrative – I realized that what this song was really saying is that if you don’t jump into life and live it, it’s the exact same thing as being sorry, so you might as well take the risk! Go for it! You know that you can handle anything because you already have. Let down your guard. Connect. LIVE.
I believe that healing yourself heals the world.
All of us has experienced trauma, some more than others. We as a Western society have no idea how to connect with what our bodies naturally do to protect us from the harmful effects of trauma. This leads to disease and major systemic problems in our world.
If you or someone you know needs support during this time of collective trauma, reach out. Forward this blog post to them.
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