7 Signs You’re Growing As A Person, Even If It Doesn’t Feel Like You Are

Sometimes, growth is subtle. Often, we only see it clearly in retrospect. Though we often assume that our growth will be completely evident to us, it’s usually the small shifts, done repeatedly, that make the biggest difference. Here are a few signs that you’re really growing as a person, even if it doesn’t feel like you are.

1. You’ve let go of an old dream.

One of the universal markers of inner growth is always a heightened degree of self-awareness, and that can very often come from realizing that what we are pursuing might not really be what we want.

The truth is that we outgrow our dreams and plans more frequently than we realize, and if we aren’t conscious of what’s happening, it can seem as though we’ve lost out, missed an opportunity, or didn’t actualize our potential.

In reality, we let go of old dreams because they were designed for a person we no longer are.

2. You’re no longer content to live a surface-level existence.

Instead of looking good, you are more interested in feeling good. Instead of appearing as though you have a cool weekend, you want to have a fulfilling and relaxing weekend. Instead of trying to earn approval, you’re more interested in digging up your own self-love.

You might still love social media, but you understand that it is a piece of life, not your entire existenceYou might still love to put yourself together well, but you understand that you have to like what you see in the mirror, because trying to constantly mold yourself to other people’s standards is a game you can’t win.

Your life is starting to take on more depth and substance, and it’s because you realize that you can never truly feel fulfilled just existing on the surface.

3. You want to understand why.

You’re no longer content to just accept things as “the way it is,” you want to really understand.

You want to understand why some people react certain ways, or hold limiting and false beliefs. You want to understand why a relationship ended the way it did, and what role you did or didn’t play in how it unfolded. You want to understand why you’re triggered by certain things, why you respond the way you do, why you think the way you do.

This is the entryway to truly changing your life. You’re finally asking the right questions, and beginning to see just how many people live on auto-pilot.

You do not want to be one of them.

4. You might feel embarrassed about past choices.

While nobody ever has to feel embarrassed about their past, many people do, especially when going through periods of more intense growth.

You might look back on what you said, did and wore even in recent history and cringe. This is because you’re starting to realize that a lot of those decisions were actually coming from a place of insecurity, or a desire to fit in, or unconscious beliefs that were never questioned.

While it might be uncomfortable on the surface, being able to look back at your past self and realize that you are different from them is often a huge sign of real growth.

5. You’ve lost touch with a lot of people, or a big relationship ended.

This is almost always one of the biggest signs that someone is changing — when their social circle no longer fits them anymore.

It’s not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with you or them, simply that you might not have anything in common anymore. You are changing, and so the people you attract and “click” with do, too.

On the other hand, you may have lost a close relationship, which shook you awake and prompted you to begin a journey of self-discovery. While this is important, remember that it’s okay to grieve, and know that people phase in and out of our lives (yes, even the ones we care most about) for a reason.

Trust that process.

6. You’re more concerned about quality than quantity.

Work, friends, experiences — no matter what it is, you’re no longer able to sustain a fast paced life with minimal substance.

Now, you’re more interested in having a few really close friends as opposed to dozens of acquaintances. You’d rather do a few projects really, really well than try to fill your days with work and hope it all turns out okay. You’d rather take one or two trips and have them be the exact experiences you want than constantly be on the move but not really being present.

Rather than having a lot of things, you realize that all you need is a few really good ones.

Anything else just spreads you too thin, and never really gets you what you want anyway.

7. You’re rediscovering your soul.

You’re remembering your love for music, art, or creativity.

You’re listening to songs that make you feel again. You find yourself crying with relief, or sadness. You are empathizing with others. You are redesigning all of the details of your life with more heart and care than you ever have before.

This means that you’re coming home to yourself.

You’re rediscovering the essence of who you are, and you’re opening back up to your soul.

Even if you closed off for a while out of self-protection, this piece of you was always there, waiting for you to reach inward again, and allow it to be.

6 Ways To Take Charge Of Your Fear And Anxiety

Fear and anxiety.

You’ve heard these words, and you most likely have experienced one or the other—or both.

These are not interchangeable words. You may have experienced fear and anxiety together, but they are not one in the same.

Let’s look at their definitions. Fear relates to a known or understood threat. Anxiety is what follows an unknown, expected, or poorly defined threat. Another way of looking at the difference is to think of fear as an emotional response to a real or perceived imminent threat and anxiety as the anticipation of a future threat, whether it’s real or not.

For example, you’re on an airplane, flying across the country. It’s a smooth flight, but you can’t stop dreading that the plane is going to crash. Your mind has convinced you that it’s possible you could be in imminent danger. You begin to sweat, your heart rate skyrockets, you feel as if you can’t draw in air, and you’re sure you’re going to pass out any minute. Your symptoms exacerbate because you’ve still got a lot of flight time ahead of you. Anxiety has set in because of your perceived danger and the feeling of being trapped.

Now you’re on an airplane, flying across the country, and the plane hits turbulence. It’s bad, and carry-on bags are tossed around, as are food trays and other objects. You spot the flight attendant and she looks panicked. Fear kicks in because you believe the plane will crash and your death is imminent. There is a clear and present danger.

These are the differences between the two; however, fear can cause anxiety just as anxiety can cause fear.

Almost everyone experiences fear and anxiety together at some point in their lives, be it something minor or something far-fetched. Such as doing a speech in front of the entire school. This is minor anxiety and fear that doesn’t last.

Conversely, many of us have been in fearful situations, such as severe weather, a car accident, an animal attack, or any number of legitimately threatening situations that set our fears in motion.

But when fears and anxieties are amplified to debilitating levels, it’s important to get to the root of the cause. For some people, professional therapy is the answer. For others, it’s about learning how to take control.

The Linguistics of Fear and Anxiety

The emotional vocabulary we use to describe our fears and anxieties are usually code words to describe our true feelings. For example, you’re anxious about your upcoming wedding and you’re displaying symptoms of anxiety. When asked about your visible signs, you respond, “I’m stressed, that’s all.”

As well, you might admit to suffering from “extreme terror” when you see a bee, even if you aren’t allergic to them. You’re definitely terrified of bees, but your emotional response is exaggerated.

How you describe fear and anxiety is not as important as long as you aren’t using other terms as a means of denial. What is important is how you cope with your feelings.

The Fear Circuit

It’s helpful to cope with fear and anxiety when we understand it’s not all in our heads. We aren’t going crazy, and we aren’t going to die. There are logical, biological reasons for our thought patterns.

Researchers have concluded that there are specific neural circuits hardwired in our brains that control fear recognition and the renewal of fear even when the fear no longer exists.

So, what does that mean?

Research has shown there are two areas of the brain for processing fear. Known as “fear circuits,” they split the responsibility when dealing with threats, depending on the type of threat.

Distant threats, such as the above-mentioned scenarios, allow more time for thinking and strategic behavior. These threats are the responsibility of the cognitive-fear circuit. Without getting too scientific, the cognitive-fear circuit has connections closer to the front of our brains.

The reactive-fear circuit is located near the center of the brain and it handles threats that require a quick-thinking response, known as fight, flight or freeze.

Recognizing this will lead to more research into how better to control our fears and anxieties. Until then, there are steps we can take to overcome these emotions.

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

We live stressful lives. We rush here and there, we measure our success by the success of others because social media has placed a figurative and literal filter over how we perceive their lives. We see so many people with “perfect” spouses, “perfect” children, expensive vehicles, new homes, only the best of everything. We begin to question ourselves and doubt our own happiness.

We dwell on our problems, which no one else seems to have, and don’t take the time to appreciate what we have. We compare ourselves to Jane and her super kids under the age of 12 who have accomplished everything but scale Mount Everest. We compare ourselves with John, who’s living the single-stud life, going to the gym every day in his Ferrari as he flaunts his physique.

Allowing this to get out of control is what leads to social anxiety, fear of failure or embarrassment, and panic attacks. This may seem more self-driven than brain-driven, but it is certainly a brain-driven response.

When fear and/or anxiety consumes us, we need to seek professional help before it exacerbates and turns into depression or other mental illnesses.

But when it’s not an everyday occurrence, and you recognize it for what it is instead of suppressing or downplaying it with insincere linguistics, you can control these feelings.

As children, you may have feared the boogeyman or the monster under the bed. These are fears we outgrow. Sometimes as adults we can “outgrow” the causes of our childhood fears, while at other times, it might take more work than simply growing up.

Here are some ways to start working on managing your fear and anxieties:

1. Start Exercising

We don’t need to elaborate on this, as we all know by now (or should know) that exercise is good for us both physically and mentally (or emotionally, in this case).

2. Take up Hobbies

Doing something you enjoy can really take your mind off your anxieties. When you immerse yourself in a craft or project, you can free your mind. It’s very therapeutic.

3. Create Lists

This may sound like the same old advice, but it really does work. Make a list of all the things you appreciate in life. You’ll be surprised at how much better it can make you feel.

4. Get Outside

Take a walk in your neighborhood or find somewhere you can hike. Not only will it have a calming effect, but it will allow you to breathe deeply and relax. You’ll become more aware of your surroundings and develop a greater appreciation for them (and you can add them to your list).

5. Face Your Fear

This might not be as easy as it sounds, but if you can identify your fear and it’s feasible, you can face it. For example, if you have a fear of flying that keeps you from traveling, take it one step at a time. Start by getting onto a plane that isn’t going anywhere. You can check for flight schools or clubs, and there are classes you can take to overcome the fear of flying. Once you’ve accomplished that, the next step is to take a short trip or a simulated flight. Ease into conquering your fear. That’s how you beat it.

6. Be Positive

Negativity breeds all sorts of emotions, but so does positivity, with far better results. Shed your negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Positivity gives us a broader view of our surroundings and our situations.

If your fear and anxiety is caused by severe trauma, then it’s best to work with a therapist. Be sure to make an appointment before it turns into something more severe. It’s already been mentioned, and it’s worth mentioning again. Sometimes, situations necessitate professional intervention.

Conclusion

Fear and anxiety are like the cognitive and reactive fear circuits. They each take responsibility for our emotions and our reactions to those emotions.

Emotions can often offset one another. For instance, love, anger and fear are all emotions of jealousy. When someone we love pays more attention to someone else, we not only become angry, we develop a fear of losing them.

This is an exaggerated response, of course, and this fear can also result in anxiety. It also demonstrates insecurity and a lack of self-confidence, both triggers of fear and anxiety.

Before we can begin to self-healing, we need to appreciate who we are and recognize our worth. We all have flaws. No one is perfect, nor can we expect to be. But we can start to focus on everything that’s good and accept the flaws we cannot change.

We need to stop paying attention to what everyone else is doing, and direct that attention to ourselves. Misdirected attention can lead to low self-esteem and social anxiety.

Take a deep breath and look in the mirror. See yourself for who you are. Appreciate your inner beauty and everything that you are on the outside. Learn to love yourself and be comfortable with who you are.

Take social media with a grain of salt and remember that you are the salt of the earth. You can and will overcome your fears and your anxieties. The first thing you need to do is recognize them, and then you need to recognize yourself.

You can live a happy and satisfying life if you face your fear and anxiety, and if you can’t cure it, learn to manage it.

This Is Why I Will Always Choose To Address The Elephant In The Room

Do you know how many times in my life I have ignored the elephant in the room and pretended it wasn’t there?

I can’t describe the tension that kept building up in the room every single time there was something that was so big between me and someone else that we needed to talk about, yet I just chose not to and pretended like there was nothing.

I hated confrontations so much, and I’ve avoided them for as long as I could remember. They were too difficult to handle and too intense most of the time.

When we don’t address the elephant in the room and decide to neglect it, we leave room for assumptions and space for our imagination to keep on building our own conclusions that are not based on reality. We don’t communicate our feelings or thoughts regarding what’s going on, and we keep suppressing them inside of ourselves, which results in hurting our relationships more than we think. And the thing is, it just keeps getting worse and worse over time. It’s like having this unresolved thing that was initially little, but you let it grow and become bigger and bigger every day than what it really was.

If we addressed things as soon as they happen or even after a little while, it would’ve been better. Because when you decide to address it later, you’re not just dealing with the problem or what has happened, but you’re dealing with it plus all your assumptions, conclusions, fears, and feelings that you and the person in front of you have developed throughout the time you refuse to deal with it. It’s like turning one small thing that could’ve been easily resolved into this one big complex issue, all because you just wanted a temporary comfort from escaping the intensity of a confrontation and decided to trade it for long-term discomfort full of shying away from facing the actual problem.

A Step Forward From The Past

I sit on a hill close to the shoreline, but far enough away to see the landscape in its entirety with the majestic snow capped peaks in the distance; to the right, the grandeur of the mountains is dichotomized by a congested bridge at rush hour. Watching the wind ripple through the grass, the blades of green whip in the breeze. The water ebbs and flows, grazing and lapping the rocky beach, before retreating back into the great expanse of the inlet.

The touch of the sunlight above kisses my skin and reminds me of the simple, beautiful things in life. Through the clouds, the sun illuminates through the darkness that washes over me on my lowest days. It reminds me that I am alive in this moment, that even the most difficult times will pass, even when the challenge seems insurmountable.

In the calmest moments, an inner voice tells me that this is what life is all about—it’s about living within each moment and facing the challenges that continue to push me to be better. Though it doesn’t necessarily guarantee happiness, I do know that it gives me the strength and encouragement to get through another day, another week, and another year.

I start from the beginning—the beginning of my story, what shaped me, what made me into the person I was told to be, not the person I was meant to become. Time encases a continuum of feelings and emotions, and with every moment, it passes by with more meaning and significance as I continue to learn and better myself. It comes with learning to be okay with my past and everything that once broke me. Still, it has taken me many years to put together my broken pieces—but this time, I know that they will stay together. I’m rebuilding, stronger than I was before. Nothing—and no one—can break me the way that my past did, like the way it truly shattered me to my core and destabilized my equilibrium.

I picked apart my ways of life like old, familiar circuits, and then rewired myself from within to be different. The roads I used to go down in my mind will now be the roads less taken as I lead myself down new and healthier pathways. I know that the roads may be tough, but I won’t feel as alone as I did before but rather more resilient and more courageous than ever before.

Through a different lens, I have learned to reframe what it means to deeply feel the happiness that is derived from being at peace with my circumstances. When I put aside the fact that there’s sometimes nothing I can do to change the course of my life, I realize that many of the struggles I battle within my mind are only against myself.

I continue to build a safe and secure home within myself, instead of remaining as a shell of an individual. Even if it means restarting on my own, I know that a fresh beginning is exactly what I need to feel like myself again—however that plays out, it is a step forward from the past.

I No Longer Have The Energy To Fight For Things

I no longer have the energy to fight for things. I no longer have the energy to hold on tightly and try to fix what’s broken. I no longer have the energy to mend what I didn’t break. I no longer have the energy to keep asking for what I want if my requests have been previously denied. I no longer have the energy to be calm around those who tick me off or be understanding with those who don’t consider my feelings. I no longer have the energy to be generous with selfish people or waste my time with someone who’s stingy with theirs.

I no longer have the energy to wait for people. I have learned that those who want something always find a way to do it. They don’t let anything get in the way but those who don’t will always find a way to delay it. I no longer have the energy to blame things on timing instead of people. I no longer have the energy to lie to myself.

I’ve always been a firm believer in fighting for the things you want and I still am but I’ve realized that there are a few exceptions. You can’t fight for things you’ve already fought for a thousand times before. You can’t fight for people who aren’t fighting for you. You can’t fight for things that are not yours. You can’t fight for things that keep getting blocked for some divine reason and you can’t fight for things that could destroy you. You can’t fight for things that you need to stay away from.

I no longer have the energy to spend my time fighting. Yes sometimes it’s necessary but that can’t be what my life is about because I’ve seen the other side of things, the things that kind of fall into your lap effortlessly and seamlessly without any fight. The things that kind of blend in perfectly with who you are and what you believe in. The timing that doesn’t get in the way. The circumstances that are perfectly aligned with yours. The people who don’t drive you crazy with mixed signals and confusing behavior. The things that just come into your life and bring you peace, joy and stability.

I’ve seen the other side and it’s much simpler over there. It feels safe. It feels good. Sometimes we get used to a difficult life and we think that we have to spend the rest of our lives fighting battles and trying to ‘win’ but other times we get tired of this life and we just gravitate towards a simpler one without any battles, without any losing or winning because things just make happen organically. Things flow smoothly when everyone is on the same page.

I no longer have the energy to fight for anyone but myself.

This Is Me Finally Choosing To Do What’s Best For My Mental Health

This is me recognizing you no longer fit into my life. Every relationship lasts for a season, a reason, and a lifetime. It’s time I accept our season of friendship has come to an end. I know you’re confused. I know you’re hurting. I know you will never understand my decision until you step into a place where healing begins and never ends.

This sacred place is where I am now. It’s called self-awareness, and I know you will get here when you’re ready, but I’m no longer letting you pull me back towards a version of me that no longer exists.

This is me accepting I outgrew you. Once I woke up to the power of choice, I wanted to keep choosing a life of peace, joy, and gratitude. I chose to move away from the victim mentality, a toxic trait that bound our friendship as we unconsciously enabled one another’s unworthiness.

This is me no longer projecting my unhealed wounds onto you while knowing you’ll never stop doing it to me. I broke out of an old belief system that held me back from wanting more for myself. Stepping into this new version of myself made you uncomfortable because I could no longer be a mirror giving you permission to stay where you are.

This is me no longer letting you define me by my traumas. I moved on towards a journey where I can let be who I used to be. I moved forward with forgiveness and compassion for my past self. Yet you keep reminding me of her, so I stay stuck with you. I am not my trauma, but I can acknowledge its existence pushed me to become who I am today.

This is me finally choosing to do what’s best for my mental health and let you go. We are both in different places. No one is to blame. No one is right. No one is wrong. It just is. To deny the growing space between us is to stay in a place of resentment, friction, and anticipation of constant disappointment.

It’s not fair for you to make me stay where you are when I am on a path of transformation. It’s not fair for me to pull you in this place of awakening when you’re not ready. What’s safe for both of us is to accept we no longer need each other for the places we’re at in our lives.

This is me creating permanent space between us. Friend breakups are never easy, but there will be peace in the void of where you used to be. I can no longer stay where I’m no longer celebrated. I can no longer stay in places I outgrew. I can no longer stay where I don’t feel safe to be a growing version of myself. I can no longer stay with you.

This is me choosing to love you from a distance. Our history will never be diminished. Our good memories will always remain. My love for you will never leave me, and I will always wish you well because we did need each other once upon a time, and I’ll always honor that.

I’ll always honor us. But the way I now move through life will continuously strengthen your desire to stay where you are, so I have no choice but to let you go for my mental peace and yours.

Don’t Be Afraid To Lose People Who Aren’t Worth Keeping

Don’t be afraid to lose people who weren’t down for you anyway.

You will eventually lose people that are jealous of you. You will eventually lose people that use you. You will eventually lose people that are negatively impacting you. And you will eventually lose people that do not support you.

I chose to keep a safe distance from certain people, and yes, I am grieving that. However, I will grieve that for as long as I need to. Becoming comfortable with solitude is a long journey, albeit a worthwhile one, despite some bad days.

Sometimes you have to walk away from everything you thought you needed to find everything you never knew you needed. And you are now, more than ever, more vigilant and grown to recognize who no longer serves you with a healthy purpose. It’s okay to outgrow people; you should never be made to feel bad for doing what is best for you. Let go of what wants to leave as long as you don’t lose yourself. Solitude is a skill that can never be exploited, and once mastered, it will serve you a lifetime.

If you’re feeling unsure about whether to trust someone, the best thing you can do is to just trust yourself. You can tell who your safe people are when you don’t hold your breath around them. You are the best version of yourself, too, and you will be proud of the person you are around your safe people. How we act is far more influenced by the people who we are around. If you surround yourself with shitty people, then you’re likely to act like a shitty person, then blame yourself afterwards because solitarily, that’s not who you are.

People who are insecure often put others down with the intention to feel somewhat superior to those that they envy. Those who are miserable with themselves do not see your confidence as brilliance and grace, but instead, intimidation. Rather than trying to better themselves, they will try to vandalize the things that make them feel inferior in order to make themselves feel better about themselves. Instead, they just resent themselves for this too. You should be able to talk to your friends in confidence without them sabotaging you, but they will choose their bystanders strategically when criticizing you.

There’s a difference between giving up and putting yourself first. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel like you’re giving up when you’re doing what is best for you.

It’s okay to feel sad after making the right decision—some of the best decisions are the hardest. Someday you will be surrounded with your special people, and everything else around you will make sense.

In the end, we only fight for the things that really matter, and for everything else there is an excuse. Forget about those things that you have lost, because what is coming is better than what is already gone. Things change and friends leave. Focus more on the few who stay.

This Is Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

Being “good” is not going to save you from life screwing you over, because we are all the same, after all—we are all humans in this world who are subjected to the same threats, unfairness, evilness, and bitterness of this life. When something so unfair and awful happens to a righteous person, everyone gets shocked and thinks to themselves, “But they’re a ‘good’ person, they don’t deserve this.” On the other hand, when something like this happens to a person who is supposed to be “evil,” it’s karma. The truth is, whether you’re good or bad, you’re living in the same world despite everything, and the same things apply to both of you. I know it seems unfair that the same shit that happens to a person who’s supposed to be good happens to the “evil” one too, but that’s life.

Being a righteous person is not going to give you immunity against what life throws at any of us most of the time. You be good because you believe in goodness. Staying kind and having these beautiful qualities is about you genuinely wanting to be this way and feeling it within you. It’s about who you truly are. It’s about you going to bed every day with a clear conscience. It’s wanting peaceful and beautiful energy vibrating within you. And it’s not about being good for the sake of not having awful things happen to you.

We often perceive awful things that happen to people as “punishments,” when actually, not every horrible thing that happens to people is a punishment. Maybe you’re meant to live this awful thing to learn something, grow thicker skin, or have an awakening regarding a particular thing. These things could be happening because they are your destiny and part of your story, and you’re just meant to live them for any kind of reason, or maybe these awful stuff are a test of your goodness in this life.

Life is not 1+1=2. Being righteous is not going to make you immune to the horrible things that could happen to you in this life. It’s not going to prevent you from getting cancer, losing a loved one, losing something dear to you, or getting fired or bankrupt. It’s not going to save you from getting dumped or being cheated on or getting scammed or conned.

I know how we all keep repeating the phrase, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but the truth is it happens to all of us, good or bad. We just pay extra attention when it happens to the noble ones because we always believe that they don’t deserve what’s happening to them, or we might say, “Why is this happening to the good ones and not the bad ones over there?” But life doesn’t work this way; it’s not going to save the bad things for the bad people and just leave the good stuff for the good ones. This way of thinking is just us being naive. Life is never that simple and it never will be.

Sometimes God Waits For You To Move Before He Can Give You What You Want

Sometimes God is waiting for you to make the first move or take a leap of faith or change something major in your life before he can start unfolding his own magic. Sometimes he is waiting for you to wake up before he can answer your prayers. Sometimes he wants you to act instead of just wishing for things so he can truly start working.

There’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself in our lives, we make the same mistakes and we get the same results. We complain about our circumstances but we don’t try to change them. We keep saying that we’re stuck in a rut and we can’t get out of it but we don’t try to dig holes so we can escape. We say we want God to grant us all our wishes but we don’t try to go for them first and see what happens.

Sometimes God gives you the things you want only after you go for them, sometimes he gives you what you want after he teaches you how to get there on your own. Sometimes you don’t find the treasure until you dig relentlessly for it. Sometimes God’s magic wand is in the way he moves you, in the way he inspires you or the way he provokes you to take action. Sometimes his blessings are within you; the tools he safeguards you with, your strength, your determination, your drive and your passion. Sometimes he wants you to walk before you can run.

I can’t explain why God chooses some people to suffer more than others or why he picks harder battles for some more than others but I do know that when he pushes us too hard, it’s because he wants us to change. He wants us to do more because he knows that we are capable of so much more than what we are doing. He knows that if we had no other choice, we would do what we thought was impossible.

Sometimes God works backwards, where you work hard for your wishes and then he grants them to you because if you think about it, you will never stop wishing for things or wanting things or dreaming but if you’re always waiting for things to just miraculously happen for you instead of trying to make them happen then you’re missing the whole point. You’re not here to stand still or settle, you’re here to move and evolve and fight tooth and nail for the life you want, with the help of God. 

Why Trauma Survivors Can’t Just ‘Let It Go’

It seems the deeper I journey into the healing and recovery process, the more I find that much of our cultural and conventional wisdom does not help trauma survivors. All the trite platitudes and sayings that might help someone having a garden-variety bad day can actually become giant triggers for someone living with trauma.

Let’s assume everyone wants to live a healthy, pain-free, abundant and productive life. There are hundreds of motivational books and centered on “fake it ’til you make it” principles, which encourage people to “think positive,” “let it go,” “don’t sweat the small stuff,” etc. They may have helped some people. Judging by book sales, they have probably helped many. Yet, for many trauma survivors searching for relief, these books and motivational coaches don’t help. In fact, many, like myself, feel more depressed, broken and impossibly disconnected after reading them. Here’s why.

Trauma survivors are often highly motivated people. Many are conditioned to be hyper-aware and hyper-vigilant out of survival. They are often overly critical of themselves because they were held to impossible standards by their abusers, and their attempts to please them often went sour. Some become overachievers, yet never feel like what they achieve is enough. Because nothing is ever good enough to appease an abuser, some survivors give up trying, becoming the self-fulfilling prophecy of whatever their abusers told them they were. Many survivors internalize that they are “lazy” when it’s not a lack of motivation that keeps them from their goals, it’s trauma. Trauma causes the nervous system to fight, flee or freeze, and for many survivors, their bodies are either stuck in one of these, or alternate between the three. Holding this pattern together is a web of toxic shame that is extremely difficult to break. Think of a race car stuck in first gear, with a foot on the gas and a foot on the break. That’s how many survivors get around.

To a survivor, telling them to “think positive” sounds cruel. I mean, that’s exactly the problem for anyone recovering from any type of abuse. Their thoughts were hijacked by someone else, and now they are fighting for their sanity to get their own thoughts back. And it’s not just their brain that was taken over. Emotional trauma gets hardwired into the physical body. Not only does it cause mental anguish, it creates a lot of physical pain, which can sometimes morph into serious long-term disease. Doctors and scientists are currently making great strides in connecting the dots between trauma and disease, but the general public is years behind in understanding and accepting this reality.

“Positive thinking” shields the reality that sometimes people feel shitty. In order to heal, survivors need to let down their shield and feel their feelings.

Here’s the other problem when a trauma survivor feels pressure to “think positive.” Often, for a survivor, this can sound like it’s not OK to feel whatever they are feeling, so they stuff it away, often relegating it to the subconscious. Trauma survivors are experts at burying their feelings. But burying feelings doesn’t mean the pain goes away, it means the survivor is less able to access what they need in order to heal. Many survivors experience dissociation. Dissociation is a common coping mechanism that needs to be broken by actually facing the terrible thing that caused so much terror that mentally “going away” was the only option.

Similarly, minimization plays a huge role in coping, either by the survivor or the people around them. Usually, it’s both. “It’s not that bad, ” or “It’s not as bad as X has it…” is not only a huge roadblock to recovery, it’s a road block to being aware of the trauma in the first place.  So, when a survivor decides not to “sweat the small stuff,” the small stuff turns into a giant, insurmountable mountain of shutdown feelings and emotions. Getting into a pattern of not speaking up, whether to keep the peace or to avoid uncomfortable emotions means more skeletons for the pile in the subconscious mind.

Survivors need to pay attention to the small stuff.

Here’s another one. “Just let it go.” If only it were so simple. If survivors could, they would gladly be doing it. While this is actually the end goal for resolving trauma, it often gets waved in front of the trauma survivor’s face like some shiny, magical, yet unattainable talisman. Too many people are trying to let go of trauma they haven’t yet fully grasped. To let go of something means you need to be aware that you’re holding it in the first place. Trauma that is stored in the locked closets and cupboards of the subconscious mind continue to control from within, often without the survivor fully understanding what’s happening. The process of letting go can’t happen until those things are dragged into the light and fully processed. Once again, that means feeling uncomfortable feelings. It means grieving. It means giving yourself the kind care and attention that no one else did. Sometimes, it means wallowing for a little while. The harsh inner-critic of a survivor usually doesn’t allow this for very long. It means sending the critic away. It means bringing all of our subconscious thoughts into our conscious awareness to objectively take stock of what we’re working with.

So, next time you feel compelled to encourage someone to “let it go,” don’t. Instead, see if you can encourage them to lean in to whatever it is and feel it. Letting go will happen in its own time. That is, if you allow them to give their brain and body what it needs to heal.