CHILDHOOD TRAUMA TRIGGERS & HOW TO MANAGE HEAVY EMOTIONS PART 1
by Lisa A. Romano
Namaste everybody, today we're going to be exploring how we can process an emotional trigger, what we can do to help ourselves emotionally regulate, how we can respond when we have been triggered and how to better regulate our emotions.
Regulating Your Emotions As Children:
In my own personal life, I didn’t know that I had deep emotional wounds. I was taught that what I thought and felt was irrelevant. There was no healthy mirroring, neither my mother nor father taught me how to regulate my emotions. Parents who understand the needs of their children know that they have to help their children regulate their emotions.
How do they do that? For example, when you come home upset after school, your parents are inquisitive, asking you what happened today, why you look upset – they give you a platform to express yourself.
“Feeling validated allows you to feel loved, it allows you to feel nurtured and just having someone be there for you helps you regulate your emotions.”
But if you came from a home where this wasn’t your reality, where you were taught that your emotions were irrelevant or that what you felt was ridiculous and you were mocked, then you had highly narcissistic parents, emotionally immature, and undoubtedly you experienced childhood emotional neglect.
If you have pain in your body, if you have emotional pain, it’s the parent’s job to help you soothe it and make it feel better; that's why a hug and a kind word helps regulate your emotions. But those of us who grew up in less than perfect homes that were very often neglectful and traumatizing; don’t know how to do that.
Consequences Of Being Emotionally Neglected:
So when we are triggered and have these very heavy emotions come up, we don't have the life skills to regulate them. It's what CPTSD is about. We have a difficult time navigating our emotions, so I think the first thing to understand is why so many of us have difficulty regulating our emotions.
When I was dating my first husband, I shared something very sacred with him, and he told a bunch of people, especially one of his sisters-in-law and I was devastated. The emotions welled up in me where I couldn't manage them, and I didn't understand what was happening. I felt so violated, so betrayed, and he just didn't know how to say I'm sorry; it didn't even register in his head that this was something that he should have never shared. So we were a mess of a couple, and I didn't know how to regulate my emotions at the time. I remember that event specifically because it was so painful that I didn't want to feel the way I felt, but I had no life skills for managing, regulating, and making myself feel better.
He didn't know how to make me feel better because he couldn't relate to why I was so upset, which was mind-boggling. Then years later, I realized that he didn’t have the ability to empathise with how I felt; it was a mirror to what I experienced as a child. There were people in my life who didn’t have empathy and the life skills to help me regulate as a child, and here I was attracting the same type of person into my life.
I was unaware as a young 20 something-year-old woman on the path to recovery that it related to codependency. I realized that over the years, my sense of self was reliant upon how other people viewed me, so I felt the need to be needed that made me feel like I had a purpose. If I didn't feel needed by someone, I would panic a little bit because that's where I, at least subconsciously, gained my sense of self or my sense of purpose in the world. I got purpose out of seeing myself as the person who was needed in the group. Over the years, I realised that I was attracting people that needed to be fixed, and I was the perfect enabler; I was the peacekeeper. I was just someone who sat back in a room, and I could sense what people needed, and I would jump up to fill their needs because I didn't feel worthy enough. I was very much reliant on them to make me feel like I had a sense of purpose, and I was very reliant upon their validation. If I didn't get validation, it was very difficult for me to regulate myself in the world and my emotions. It was far too easy for me to spiral downward and develop shame. Codependency, fawning and chasing after people's approval was how I tried to keep the shame monster away.
It was very dysfunctional, and it landed me in one toxic relationship after the other, attracting people into my life that were self-focused, whereas I was other-focused. The co-dependent narcissistic relationship is very much a ‘hand in a glove' relationship for a codependent to act out their codependent tendencies.
For instance, the loss of selfhood: when you’re codependent, you don't have a healthy sense of self. How can you have a healthy sense of self if you were never taught that the self you were was valid? If you didn't have healthy mirroring from your mother, your father, or your environment? How do you have a healthy perception of self if the self was mocked, neglected, harassed and devalued? How does a child develop healthy ego boundaries in a home with no boundaries? How do you become an adult, trying to adult in relationships from a healthy sense of self with necessary boundaries when you never learned that the ego you were the self you were had boundaries?
The Importance of Learning to Regulate Your Emotions:
I think it's important that as we learn to regulate our emotions, we recognize why we have such a difficult time regulating them in the first place. If you’re on the healthier end of the spectrum, you will take this information, apply it to your life and see the value in exploring self-awareness. You'll see the value in actually implementing these exercises as well because none of us ever really want to get stuck being triggered for the rest of our life.
What kind of a life is that? If we have to walk around on eggshells? If we're reactive? If we're pushing people away? If we're clinging to people in response to feeling pushed away? What kind of a life is that? It's certainly not a life of liberation or healthy autonomy; it's certainly not a life of self-empowerment. So we have to make a decision that we are going to really try to regulate our emotions.
“The thing with regulating your emotions is it takes practice.”
It’s overriding the natural response to react to heavy emotions the way we always have. For instance, if you retreat when you have a heavy emotion, that’s going to keep you on this karmic wheel; it's just the law of cause and effect.
“Nothing changes until something changes,”
And with self-awareness, we are able to step into this doorway of potential, which is amazing!
If you would like to learn more about childhood trauma triggers and how to regulate your emotions better, look out for Part 2 of this blog, or watch this video on my YouTube Channel, where I dive into each step of the process.