It’s Not Just Who We Are

Suzie GruberSurvival Strategies

It’s Not Just Who We Are

How many times have you said to yourself “I always put things off until the last minute” or “I hate being in the spotlight.”  Do you believe that’s just who you are?  Let’s dig a little deeper and see if something else is going on.  Maybe traumatic experiences earlier in your life have something to do with it.  Here’s an example.

Trauma Survival Strategy – Stay Invisible

Imagine a five-year-old girl who lives in a family where her father explodes unpredictably on a regular basis.  This little girl never knows what will set him off or when he will fly into a rage.  She just knows it will happen eventually whether it’s in the next ten minutes or ten days because it always does.  She can count on him to turn on her and the rest of the family.  In order to survive this unpredictable, chronically stressful environment, the girl must adapt.  How does she do that?  Maybe she learns to play small, to be invisible, stuffing her self-expression so that her father is less likely to target her with his wrath.  She needs to be invisible in this environment to protect herself and manage the chronic fear.  Being invisible may include hiding her feelings about what’s happening, doing what she’s supposed to do to be a good girl and never asking for what she needs, all important unconscious strategies to survive an unsafe situation.  I have just described a traumatic environment where instead of fostering connection, aliveness and safety, this environment requires that this child stay on alert for the inevitable next crisis.  Becoming her authentic self takes a back seat to survival.

Limiting Belief – Stay Invisible Becomes I Hate Being In The Spotlight

Fast-forward several decades.  This woman enjoys success in a lot of ways, excelling in environments where she’s expected to put others’ needs first and enduring overwhelming workloads.  Because of her success working for others and a desire for independence, she takes the leap and becomes an entrepreneur.  She loves the work she’s doing and feels deeply fed being her own boss.  However, she hits a wall every time she needs to increase her visibility to grow her business.  “I hate being in the spotlight.  It’s just who I am,” she tells her social media coach who tells her that nobody can find her online.  See the connection?  This woman unconsciously still keeps herself invisible to protect herself from the explosion she always expects out of left field due to the chronic stress and trauma she experienced during childhood.  What was an important strategy in childhood becomes a major limiting belief in her adult life.  Take a moment and notice what you experience when you see this image of a woman keeping herself invisible.  Does this resonate?  Being invisible is just one of many survival strategies children use to manage challenging environments.  Others include the loner, the helper, the peacemaker, and the perfectionist.  There are many more.

Get Curious About Resistance

When as adults we try to do something directly in opposition to our old strategy, we create a tug of war inside ourselves because that survival strategy became so hard-wired.  When we go against that strategy, it may literally feel life threatening even though our current life is safe.  Often, we call this tug-of-war resistance and we try to power through, buck up, just get over it.  Ultimately, we pay a big price when we power through because we have just disowned the part of ourselves dedicated to our own safety.  Sometimes we then unconsciously sabotage our own efforts by missing deadlines, forgetting important appointments etc.  Instead get curious about the part of yourself that is stopping yourself.  Look through the cloudy window pane and see if you can connect that “resistant” part to an old survival strategy that you needed to survive trauma at another time and placeGet curious any time you tell yourself it’s just who you are.  You might be uncovering a limiting belief.   You can work through that belief with some exploration.