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Hello Guests,

I am skipping today.

My brain is tired. The weather change has brought out memories of school.

There have been 2 family birthday’s and one major holiday in the past 3 weeks.

Plus, I’ve put up a few posts ahead of schedule this month.

See you all on Sunday

AlterXpressions

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Background

Often I get asked about forgiveness and being able to forgive, not just myself, but also the people who hurt me in the past.

If I do/can/have forgiven those people, how/when/why did I forgive them?  What is the importance of forgiveness?

If I do/can/have forgiven myself, how/when/why?

What is the difference between forgiveness and acceptance?  Are both important?  And again, why?

My Thoughts

Disclaimer: any content written here is based on my personal experience combined with education via trauma informed therapy, self-help resources, psychology books, and learning from other victims/survivors/educators.  They are NOT professional opinions, facts, or theories based on academics, professional education, etc.

Forgivness and Acceptance are two separate but inter-related concepts.

Forgiveness is very personal and subjective – depends a lot on an individual’s personal goals – that can help individuals move beyond recovery & living towards thriving after surviving trauma.

Responsibility is not the same as Accountability.  I do not hold myself or others accountable for choices, actions, or reactions because I do not expect anything from myself or others.

I do hold myself and others responsible for choices, actions, or reactions because I or they chose to act or react a certain way.
Then I can CHOOSE TO make reparation or not, but I don’t HAVE TO do that.
Same with other people; they can CHOOSE TO make reparation or not, but no one expects them to.

Making reparation for a mistake or apologizing is something learned based on morals and ethics.  And the concepts are learnable at any age.

**Forgiveness is a never-ending work in progress that moves in cycles and can transform lives**

Forgiveness of Others

Yes, I have forgiven the people who hurt me, especially my parents, immediate family, and relatives.  I forgave them a few years before starting this website and blog.  And continue practicing forgiveness as more and more memories come back.

But forgiveness is hard.  I struggle with not being able to forgive these people all the time or unconditionally because the pain and memories can feel so strong.  Plus sometimes I still think that forgiveness comes with strings attached when it doesn’t.

So I can forgive my parents and still maintain a no-contact stance.  Same with other people in my family. I can forgive friends and still feel afraid of interacting with them in person or letting them back into my life.  Finally, I can forgive other relatives and feel good with the choice to maintain limited contact with them.

Why?

  • Holding on to anger and grudges only hurts me by reinforcing my fears and holding me hostage within the limitations these people created for me
  • These people are human beings with pasts and experiences beyond their control that influenced their choices and actions as adults
  • Blame doesn’t help anyone; it only shifts responsibility and choices away from responsible parties
    • they can rationalize, justify, make excuses and find ways to turn the blame back on victims with guilt, shame or emotional blackmail
  • Holding these people responsible for their choices is a positive perspective on what happened that validates anger without the negativity of shame, or guilt that causes blame
  • These people made choices and are responsible for those choices, so I can feel angry with their behavior and hold them responsible without blaming them
  • I am learning about compassion and perspective as part of my recovery.   Part of compassion is being able to understand experiences from another’s point of view or perspective and understanding that forgiveness is part of compassion
  • By forgiving these people I am also reducing the influence my past has on present choices, experiences, and goals

Forgiveness of Self

One thing predators and abusers excel at is shifting blame to the victims and convincing the victims they are both responsible and at fault for experiences and circumstances beyond the victim’s control.

It took me a long time to be able to forgive myself for not being able to escape sooner.  And even longer to stop blaming myself for what happened to me.  Some parts of me still blame themselves for what happened.  Others are now capable of feeling compassion for themselves and understanding the difference between blame/fault and responsibility of one’s choices.

But I couldn’t make progress until I learned to at least forgive myself and really know in all aspects of my sense of self that I wasn’t responsible for the trauma of my past.  Without awareness of my behavior/thoughts/feelings and how they were influenced by my past, I couldn’t consciously make choices with conscious awareness either.  So my past was controlling my present, and I felt ashamed because my life was out of control.

Therapy in group and individual settings helped me learn to forgive myself instead of blaming, shaming, guilting, and feeling angry with myself for how I acted and reacted sometimes.  Then these professionals gave me the tools to help take back control of my life and my choices.  The small successes built on each other and helped me realize something important:

  • I am not responsible for my past or what happens when I feel triggered without awareness – in my mind I am protecting myself
  • I am responsible for my choices once I do have awareness of these triggers because I can change the negative reactions into positive ones or apologize & make reparation for mistakes or misunderstandings or miscommunications caused by me
  • Finally, I am human and make mistakes because mistakes are part of how humans learn, so I can forgive myself for making mistakes and take the opportunity to grow instead of shutting down

Conclusion

Like compassion, forgiveness can help heal wounds and offer perspective that allows victims and/or survivors or anyone really to move past negative feelings or blocks.  The concept is easy to understand.  The practice is difficult and not something that is accomplished once and then done forever.

Forgiveness is an ongoing practice, a life choice, and a way of life like compassion that can help ease suffering.  There are many misconceptions about forgiveness, but it’s up to each of us to question what we know and challenge ourselves to look for different answers.

That’s how I stumbled onto this definition of forgiveness.

And learned:

  • that forgive does not equal forget
  • that a person who can forgive while holding the other party responsible is stronger and more resilient than a person who holds on to anger and grudges
  • that accepting responsibility for my part only doesn’t make me weak; it makes me stronger and more confident because I am taking control of my life and my choices

I hope that someday even if my guests can’t forgive the people who hurt them, they can forgive themselves.

Thanks for reading

So this is a very personal post with a lot of triggers.  It’s being written freestyle using the stream of consciousness method.  No one is exactly sure what will come out or how long the post will be.  Or what secrets will come out.

All we know is that it’s time to tell you about how we were raised.  So thanks in advance for reading

As with any triggering content, please read with care.  We seriously hope the “Read More” tag works this time.  To be sure though, some extra spaces between this content and everything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trigger Warning – please read with caution

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Thanks to Athina at Courage Coaching for sharing this video about complex trauma!

Originally posted on A Broken Blue Sky: The following video is one of the best videos I have watched on Complex PTSD. If you suffer from C-PTSD, it will be very emotional to watch. But it will also be very validating of all that you went through and help you to understand your reactions to…

via “Complex Trauma: Understanding and Treatment” — Courage Coaching

 

My Terrible Temper

Have I mentioned that I have a terrible temper?  Well, I do.  And that temper gets let out when I do feel angry – not frustrated, or upset, or irritated – so I work hard not to go there.

The only times I truly feel anger (even rage) are when I get triggered into flashbacks or fight/flight/freeze/faint responses.  And then, it’s often one or more alters who feels this anger and shares the memories with us.  We all work together cope with the anger safely now.  No one wants to lash out or take this anger out on undeserving people in the outside world.

Only the outside world?

Sometimes it feels that way.  The anger inside me/us is deep, old, and strong.  Much of it is directed at people who are not part of our lives anymore.  But before they departed our lives, these predators convinced the majority of us that we need to be angry with ourselves and not them.  Even now, many of the alters in our system still believe this and turn the anger inwards.

Feeling the Energy Change Around Me

When you or someone around you is angry, do you feel the energy or environment change around you?  Does your stomach start to hurt or your head suddenly ache?  Do you feel scared of the anger?  Does it change your mood?  Can you feel the anger intensify as an argument escalates?  Can you feel the anger die down as people calm down and try to talk it out using different tones?

I do.

That is what I experience every time I feel angry or someone around me feels angry.  Why?  Not sure, but here is my reasoning.  **Here again I feel the need to remind guests that this is only my opinion (the AlterXpressions System) and not that of anyone else.**

Anger is an emotion.  Emotion is charged energy.  Energy spreads out once it’s released into the atmosphere.  And because anger scares me, I tend to reject or deny or avoid it.  I would look for an escape when the anger is around, but not directed at me. I would try to avoid confrontations so that I don’t experience the trembling, sick, shaky, confusing, negative feelings afterwards.  That never worked though.

Instead, the avoidance, rejection, and denial seemed to attract more and more angry feelings, negative energy, confrontations, explosions of anger from myself etc. into my world.  Got to the point where I was afraid to be around anyone in case the anger spilled out of me or someone else around me.

What changed?

  • Learning (as an adult) that feelings are real and that expressing one’s feelings is a natural, healthy part of being human.
  • Understanding what emotions are and how our mind uses the information they provide to help us stay safe & make connections with others.
  • Finding caring individuals who understand the language/experience of trauma and are willing to help victims/survivors teach themselves coping techniques for overwhelming feelings (aka Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).
  • Learning other coping techniques to help understand how feelings/emotions affect thoughts & behavior (aka Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) so that patterns can change for the better.
  • Understanding that energy can be changed
    • Feelings eventually go away
    • there are many other techniques to help accept the feelings instead of denying them.
    • aka meditation, grounding, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Hypnosis Therapy, Somatic Therapy, and the list goes on.

Once I stopped rejecting the anger and started accepting it, the anger felt less intense each time.  My temper stopped getting the better of me.  And I stopped attracting so much anger and negativity into my life.

Another Use for Grounding

Every anniversary and holiday I struggle with overwhelming feelings and anger.  They make the time off feel stressful because my usual coping strategies and techniques are necessary but not sufficient.

**While I understand many of you may feel skeptical about reading books like this, please do  try to keep an open mind.  Many of the ideas and information on this website and blog come from alternative healing and alternative thought resources.**

And then I went to my favorite new age book store last Sunday and found a book called “The Reluctant Empath”.   The authors are two practicing shamans who tell the story of a young man who struggles with being extra sensitive to his environment.  The authors discuss coping strategies & grounding techniques for dealing with the energy and feelings the boy used growing up.

Two things stood out from the first 4-5 chapters:

  1. These people were not telling me I need to shield myself from the negative or the positive feelings & energy as the only effective way to cope
  2. These people were telling me that there is an alternative that works better BUT
    1. It’s counter-intutitive
    2. It takes a lot of practice
    3. It means facing fears

What is the alternative?

Grounding out the feelings – yes a grounding coping strategy

Now, I’m not going to be the best at explaining this concept right now.  To be honest, I’m still learning how to use it.  But here is my take on their grounding technique:

Our minds & bodies are conduits for energy.  Energy helps our heart beat, blood flow, brain work, etc. as it flows through us.  Why not use that flow to move external energy in, through, and out of ourselves instead of letting it get stuck in our bodies?

Their technique resonated with me because I use something similar to cope with negative feelings and tolerate overwhelming feelings.  My version of this is the visualization technique discussed here

Conclusion

I used to think my problem was with expressing angry feelings.  Now I understand that the issue is with acknowledging and accepting these angry feelings.  By facing my fears around anger and acknowledging anger instead of rejecting it, I am changing the way I think and feel about the emotion and myself.  I can accept myself and the anger inside me now.

By acknowledging the anger as part of me, I am learning how to face and cope with some of the scariest parts of my past so that my recovery can continue moving towards true self-acceptance and a thriving life.

Thanks for reading

 

 

A Panic Attack Makes the Difference

After Wednesday’s post I had a panic attack and felt very frustrated with myself.  On the one hand, I was happy that I followed through on the personal challenge to socialize, be friendly, and show all parts of myself to everyone I met.  On the other hand, I felt upset and overwhelmed because the cultural and social norms are so different than anything I am used to dealing with.  Talking feels so frustrating sometimes.  And the discomfort of when to speak or not to speak and how much or little gets confusing.  But I wasn’t upset with anyone on the outside – my friends and family, the people in my neighborhood – because they are who they are and speak/behave as they will.

No I was upset with myself for falling into the pit again.  I gave myself a year to experiment with “fitting in” in this new place.  I would observe and follow the local customs as best as possible while also staying true to myself and letting people really “see” me.  Not an easy task, but something that did happen over time.  Without the cloud of my past hanging over my head, I learned to separate different kinds of triggers and how to cope with some better than others.

Hence the panic attack.  People and environmental triggers still send me into flashbacks that distort my perceptions of reality.  Sometimes I am aware of this, and sometimes I am not.  When I am aware, I usually stay inside and avoid people/circumstances that will make things worse.  When I am not aware, I use the complicated experiences as teachable moments to help for next time and hope that whatever happened did not destroy any budding positive relationships.  This time though, I still went out and interacted with people I thought were safe – i.e. friends who knew about my past and accepted the differences in my worldview as I did theirs – in different social situations.

Ever hear of the phrase “fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me”?

Well that’s kind of how I feel right now.

I chose to open up and see what would happen.  I chose to believe people when they said that I could be all of myself around them – including asking for help when I felt panic, anxiety, or triggering in public/social situations – without judgement.  I chose to take these people up on their offers to help me with issues of perception and understanding social situations.

And I chose to ask them for help when something like this did happen.

So why do I feel so shamed and upset with myself for other people’s inability to accept that my perceptions and worldview are different?

And why do I continue to try to explain a situation to a close minded individual who holds up past examples of why she or he is correct and only hears what supports that belief?

Why get myself into these traps with people?

  • Because I care.
  • Because those traps are triggering and remind me of  the convoluted, crazy-making conversations from my past even though they are not the same.
  • Because even though arguing hurts, sometimes it has to be done. The consequences coped with like any other trigger or anxiety situation.
  • And because I don’t want these people thinking something wrong about me – they are friends or acquaintances close to becoming friends – because of something I didn’t understand or a social faux pas.

Questioning My Beliefs

Arguing always upsets me.  Asserting myself makes me feel queasy and shaky for days.  But I’d rather feel upset, queasy, shaky, etc. than helpless, hopeless, powerless, and without choices because I didn’t stand up for myself.  And I’d rather challenge someone and feel good about using open, direct communication than letting stuff fester until it explodes.

So while I may not be a “traditional” or “typical” person who epitomizes an empath, I am one.  I am also a new to being an empath – the memories of past experiences and mistakes from this extra perception have been flooding my mind lately – and freely admit this to anyone who asks.  It does get confusing sometimes because I have alter personalities with their own feelings & memories.  Some of them share the empathic senses while others do not.  And when one of them senses danger from a trigger, I am more than happy to help test reality and see if this perception is true or not.

This “reality testing” coping technique is often part of what makes talking with people challenging.  I will ask question or make comments and ask for their perspective.

  • If the person knows me really well, she or he understands I am feeling anxious or triggered and responds with reassurance and acceptance.
  • If the person is aware of my past, but doesn’t truly understand me, he or she will call me “dramatic” or “over-sensitive” or “paranoid” and lecture me about looking for the worst in people and situations.
  • If the person is aware of my past and gets triggered by my comment or question, she or he will attack or accuse me of “making assumptions” or “being rude & arrogant” or “reading too much into something” and then try to “help” me by pointing out my flaws (with examples) and try to “change my behavior”.

What happens next?

  • Option 1: I express gratitude, let go of the triggered perception, relax and move on.
  • Option 2: I feel triggered, try to explain again & again without getting through to the person who’s mind is made up and end up feeling frustrated and ashamed of myself
  • Option 3: I get mad and start mirroring the other persons actions until we have time apart.  Then I use self-reflection and talk with someone objective to figure out a solution. Eventually, I assert myself and the miscommunication gets cleared up – sometimes with a positive ending; other times with a negative ending.  If lucky, with a neutral ending that we can build on in the future.

 

AS you can see, I’m not perfect.  I get mad.  I lose my  temper.  I say or do things I don’t mean when angry or upset.

BUT I don’t lash out on purpose.  I don’t hurt people on purpose.  I don’t blame others on purpose.  And I work really hard to listen, respect, and accept what the other person is saying no matter my personal opinions or beliefs.

In the end, I question whether or not I:

  1. Can interact with lots of people in positive ways
  2. Can make new friends or develop more relationships
  3. Can go back to school or pursue group activities
  4. Can ever talk and make sense to outside people (not victims or survivors or professionals who work with both)
  5. Can be a good friend or partner or cousin, etc.
  6. Have changed for the better and can pursue my goals in spite of my challenges

ACCEPTANCE helps me realize that while I can do all of these things, it’s not going to change the other people’s beliefs and reactions.  They will believe what they want and stick to those opinions no matter how much of my words make sense.  So I can continue making myself crazy or I can understand that these people are not going to change their opinions of me and let it go.

Self Acceptance

The answer is YES as long as I can accept myself and feel good about my choices.

I put myself out in the world.  I let many people see my vulnerabilities and challenges.  Sometimes I succeeded.  Sometimes I failed.  I met a few people whose opinions matter; we are slowly working to build a friendship.  I met a few people who will make good acquaintances instead of friends.  I met old friends and colleagues after a year away and realized that change comes to us all; how we cope with change defines what happens next.

I realized that no matter what I say, sometimes the words fall on closed minds and deaf ears.  These people can’t or won’t accept my words because it challenges their self-perceptions and worldviews too much.   Instead, I have to be wrong.  And our relationship can’t change.  Who are they, what role do they play when they realize I am self-aware and not in need of their mentoring/guidance etc. or willing to play their games anymore?  Where does that leave our relationship?

Where it leaves the other people, I don’t know.  And honestly, as long as it doesn’t cause major harm, illness, or death in their world, I don’t care.

For myself, it gave me choices.  And helped me understand certain realities.

Like the fact that I feel more comfortable with myself now than I have before.  That I have changed and opened up for the better and want to continue.  This opening up and internal change has brought out visible external changes too.  One external change being self-assurance and security in who I am.  Not so much self-confidence which is part of assurance, but acceptance of self with the goal to continue changing and improving.

Like the fact that parts of me will always feel and act upon the negative self-perceptions from Wednesday’s post, but those perceptions will not inform thoughts, feelings, or behavior as much anymore.  Or like the fact that positive for me tends to sound negative to everyone else.  And positive to everyone else often sounds unrealistic or rosy to me.

So I can accept that these people who might or might not continue to be friends, but will always be friendly acquaintances, view me in a somewhat negative light even if they admire my strength and resilience.  And I can accept that it’s time for me to let them go.  I wrote them an email thanking them for their honesty and friendship and sent a link to the post explaining my communication issues.

What happens next is up to  them.  Because I am finished.  Finished letting my fear of sounding funny or not making sense stand in my way.  Finished trying to be something I am not.  Finished trying to “have friends’ and “be social” on acceptable levels.  Who’s idea of “acceptable” is it anyways?

I am grateful for the wonderful friendships that already exist.  I am grateful for the limited but fulfilling family relationships that exist.  I am grateful for the opportunity to meet lots of people and have interactions that always teach me something.

Now it’s time to go back to being my happy, solitary self.

Thanks for reading

Hello,

This weekend is a holiday weekend in the USA.  That means we have a 3 day weekend to celebrate Labor Day.

Not sure about any of you but most major holidays bring about some anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, and so on.  Triggers are everywhere, and a lot of places don’t feel safe.  I worry about what could or will happen if I interact with people when I feel this way.

Staying home feels right unless there is something I HAVE TO do that requires leaving.  Delivery works best too since it helps me meet my self care needs without causing anxiety or panic attacks.

Depression is something that comes and goes in waves.  Last month, it took over for quite a few weeks as I struggled to process so many changes and cope with flashbacks.  Funny how (for me at least) working through anger and shame eases the feelings of depression in my mind/body/spirit.

At times like this (read almost any anniversary), Self Care and Self Soothing are super important to maintain, increase, start again, continue, or follow up on – depends on where you are in the moment – so that the symptoms and scary stuff don’t take over as easily.

So I wish you all a safe, healthy, relaxing weekend full of sleep/rest, self care, and positive energy.

xx AlterXpressions

p.s. Yes there is a post going up tomorrow.  This is a bonus for all of us 🙂

Some extra posts this weekend…I read this post and thought you might like it too.  Touch therapy is something I am learning about and using to help with startle response and body memories.  Maybe this blogger can help you too.

A mentor once asked me, “Carmen, do you like to be touched?” The answer “No” bubbled up out of my mouth without even a single thought. I was finally getting the opportunity to witness the truth of me and explore why this was so. I had ‘mind-body’ anxiety surrounding being touched due to some […]

via When Being Touched is Stressful — Revolutionary Touch Therapy

Trigger warning -this is a long post with potentially triggering words used in different sections.  Please read with care, skip through, skim etc.

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