“We can all make powerful choices. We can all take back control by not blaming chance, fate, or anyone else for our outcome. It’s within our ability to cause everything to change. Rather than letting past hurtful experiences sap our energy and sabotage our success, we can use them to fuel positive, constructive change.” ~Darren Hardy
I parked my car and began to walk toward the mall while covering my puffy eyes with black sunglasses. I was fresh out of a session with my therapist, where I had hit a breaking point. We both came to the conclusion that I use self-punishment as an approach to almost all of life.
As I was crossing the parking lot, all I could think of was: “How could I not see it? How could I be so oblivious to my inner dialogue and the actions I take to punish myself? Am I a hidden masochist without any sense of awareness? I should do better than this!”
Considering that I used self-sabotage as one of my survival behaviors, coming down on myself for not doing better wasn’t the healthiest next step I could take. This time, I was able to recognize it and had one of the biggest epiphanies about how my trauma impacts my life. It was scary and liberating at the same time.
When we grow up believing that we don’t deserve a lot, or at least not a lot of good stuff, we will subconsciously sabotage anything that creates a vision of a brighter future. Since the subconscious is programmed to validate any limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves, without awareness, our self-sabotaging behavior thrives.
For the longest time, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. The logical part of my brain understood what was best for me. However, I still chose the self-destructive road of drama, self-judgment, complaining, victimization, and never walking my talk.
For example, to walk away from a marriage that mentally drained me would be a healthy thing to do. However, I stayed in a toxic partnership for as long as I could bear until I got so numb that I couldn’t feel anything. Since self-love was a concept I wasn’t familiar with, I found my significance in being disrespected, controlled, and emotionally abused.
My logic told me to pack my stuff up and run as far as I could, but my survival mode kept me in. Although I was highly uncomfortable and most of the time in pain, at least I was familiar with the discomfort. I knew this place of constant self-sabotage and self-hatred.
To the outside world, it didn’t make sense. To the left hemisphere of my brain, it didn’t make sense either. But to my trauma wiring, it felt like home. It was all that I knew existed and was available to me.
When we experience domestic violence, whether as a direct victim or as a witness, our subconscious mind adopts self-destructive beliefs about ourselves and the world. Feelings of unworthiness and self-punishment paralyze us, and therefore keep everything the same.
Although I kept tolerating situations I didn’t like far more than I felt comfortable admitting, I couldn’t let one question go: “Why do so many of us want to change, but no matter what we do, always end up in the same place with the same drama and same people? Why isn’t logic enough, and what defines true transformation?”
I set out on a mission and began researching everything about domestic violence and its impact on children. I knew that my childhood wasn’t the best foundation for a happy and healthy life, but this time I decided to go deeper and get to the root of the problem.
I learned that seeing my mum covered in bruises created feelings of fear, that struggling with her alcohol abuse brought feelings of unworthiness, and that the rough side of my father with his overly disciplined attitude, that lacked empathy, made me believe I wasn’t enough to be loved by him.
As children, we interpret these experiences differently than adults. For the most part, an adult can step back and reevaluate whether this behavior is about them or the other person. Unfortunately, children don’t have this ability since their brains aren’t fully developed to understand it. Instead, they internalize these experiences and begin to believe that they are unlovable, not enough, and never safe, and they start to hustle for love.
Since I grew up with these beliefs and didn’t address them for most of my life, I subconsciously sabotaged things I wanted because I didn’t believe I deserved them.
On the outside, I wanted to build my business and position myself as a coach, while on the inside, I procrastinated because I highly doubted that I could ever make it. Or I would seek toxic relationships full of drama and toxicity. Since I didn’t believe that I was good enough for anything healthy and loving, I would stick around to validate my limiting beliefs of unworthiness. Self-sabotage and self-punishment were my way of life.
After I began to understand the importance of our brain’s wiring in everything we do and how traumatic experiences define our lives if we let them, I knew that only thinking and understanding wouldn’t cut it. I would need to take serious action if I wanted to stop the self-sabotage and significantly transform my life.
If you grew up in a household with domestic violence, you’ve experienced trauma of some sort that impacts the healthy development of your brain. You may find yourself in a constant battle between knowing what is good for you and doing the complete opposite.
Although the trauma’s impact on our well-being is inevitable, so is the healing that takes place if we commit to it and work through it. Here’s how I did just that.
1. Combining meditation and science to rewire my brain
I was familiar with the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza for a while. After I read one of his first books, You Are The Placebo, I started to understand the power and importance of rewiring my brain.
I learned that when we meditate, we lower our brain waves and become present. Once our mind is relaxed, almost half asleep, we can use visualization to bring up emotions such as love or compassion, which promotes healing. Or, we can visualize our desired goals while feeling the excitement and confidence that comes from achieving them.
Since meditation allows us to go deeper and access the mind on a subconscious level, over time we can change or create new neuropathways, form new habits, and transform our belief system.
Many scientific studies have shown how meditation improves sleep, reduces stress, and allows us to self-regulate, which is especially useful when working through trauma.
I started practicing Joe Dispenza’s meditations and set a goal: Every day for the next thirty days, I must do a forty-minute meditation. No excuses, no procrastination. The game was on, and I knew that I had to commit fully to this process.
It’s been eight months since I started, and I haven’t stopped my meditations since. Occasionally, I skip a day or two, but then I remind myself of the mission I am on and how important it is to stay committed to healing. It’s not a secret that self-discipline is the highest form of self-love.
2. Getting a therapist
To understand why I use self-sabotage, I decided to get a therapist. I needed to address my past and use self-awareness as a stepping stone to change.
From the beginning, we focused on addressing the sexual assault I experienced. The biggest highlight of my therapy was understanding that I subconsciously punish myself and live in deep states of guilt and shame. For the first time, I started learning about my self-destructive tendencies and how to stop them.
My favorite part of therapy was learning self-soothing techniques. One that I use regularly is wrapping myself into a blanket while drinking peppermint tea and breathing deeply.
Many of us who have experienced domestic violence or other forms of trauma and abuse don’t know what love or compassion is. Since we hustled for survival and discounted ourselves as worthless and not enough, self-soothing is a foreign concept to us. Although you may find it weird and uncomfortable at first, it will gradually change how you see and take care of yourself.
3. Practicing self-awareness and challenging myself
A few months ago, I decided to take a three-day intense self-development course that many of my friends were raving about. I didn’t expect any significant transformation until the second day of the workshop, when everything started to shift.
I became aware of stories I have created about my parents, who I am as a person, how I see myself, and how I live in a deep place of victimization and inauthenticity.
Although I grew up with domestic violence, so did my mother and father. It was time to break the generational curse and take full ownership of my triggers, insecurities, desperation, and toxic tendencies that resulted from the abuse. I couldn’t play the victim card anymore since the only person I was playing was myself.
4. Addressing my shadows
Befriending parts of my personality that I despised was probably the biggest challenge, and frankly, it’s still in the making. However, I found the courage to look at my self-sabotaging behaviors—how I dislike disrespect and abuse but willingly go for more, and how I manipulate people or fear connections. That’s when I began to defeat the monster of self-sabotage and recognized the opportunity of healing.
We are so eager to find the light that we forget about the dark side of ourselves that often holds us back. We want to look away and forget about everything traumatic that happened to us since our resilience to face the truth may be weakened at first. However, learning to accept those shameful and hurtful experiences and love who we became as a result of a trauma or abuse provides us an opportunity to grow into the warrior we never thought we could become.
After two years of intense healing and personal growth, I concluded that the only thing that can save us and truly heal us is to learn how to love ourselves, not in spite of what we’ve been through or who we are but because of it.
Today I understand that the resilience I had as a child who faced horrific or traumatic experiences is the same resilience that’s available to me now to help me heal and thrive in life. I am learning every day what it means to live from the inside out and how the power and strength I often looked for on the outside has been within me all along.