Is Your Independent Nature A Trauma Response?
When I was a little girl, probably around the age of 5 or 6, my dad felt it was a good time for me to learn how to ride a two-wheel bike. We headed outside with knee pads and a helmet and set off to ride into the sunset. However, it did not go as planned. I fell. A lot. Over and over again. Each time I feel I grew increasingly frustrated. I hurt myself, bleeding, and became pretty scared. My dad, not really knowing how to comfort me also grew increasingly aggravated. His annoyances turned into anger. His anger making me shut down. Needless to say, that was it for the bike riding lesson.. well at least until he left for work.
I was adamant to learn to how to ride my bike. My childhood best friend knew how and I was the youngest of the neighbor kids and was determined to break out of the baby stage. So as soon as I felt it was safe for me to head back out there and practice, I did. Meaning, I taught myself. I will never forget the look on my dad's face as he returned from work and I was zipping all over the driveway. He was proud and I am sure a bit relieved that he no longer had to worry about teaching me.
Doing things on my own became the trajectory of my life. Teaching myself meant not getting yelled at. Sure, my grades would suffer and I will never forget my bruised bottom from teaching myself how to rollerblade, but I was no longer sitting at the table crying for not understanding the math homework or not learning quick enough. I carried this into my adult life and labeled myself an "independent woman". I wore this independence like a cloak of armor because what it was really covering up were these very vulnerable parts of me, afraid of being seen for messing up or not understanding. But just like all armor, it has to come off eventually.
When I met my husband I was immediately head over heels. It really is one of those stories where I knew on our very first date that I was going to marry him. As happy as we were together, I was still weary about letting go of my independent nature. We would fight because I wanted things done the way I wanted them done. I grew tired and overwhelmed because I would never ask for help. I let everything bottle up within me. We both knew that healing needed to be done in order for us to carry on together.
This is when I became hyper aware of how difficult it was for me to ask for help. How I was a self proclaimed independent woman but really it was just a trauma response covering up these painful memories from childhood. The first step was easy- finding out where the unmet need was. Now, to meet the need. Over and over again.
A practice that I love to do and one that you are more than welcome to use (I use this with my clients and students all the time) is to imagine myself as the younger version of me and rewrite the story. I imagine myself standing in a safe space, at the age where the particular wound that is coming up began. For this example, I will use the bicycle lesson. There I am with my dad outside on a beautiful summer day. I am on the coolest bike and I feel confident with the safety of the helmet and the support of my dad. I see myself learning to ride the bike. I see myself falling and crying but instead of my dad becoming angry, he is patient and understanding. I let myself really feel this new story. I feel seen, heard and protected. I feel loved. I know that it is ok to mess up, to cry and to even take a time out. As I feel these needs being met, I am slowly showing my present self that I am safe. It is ok to ask for help, be vulnerable and seen.
Over and over again, I meet my younger self and these various wounds head on. Sometimes it is easier to find the missing puzzle piece and sometimes I have to come back to it many times. But I keep showing up. Because I know I am worthy of being seen, being supported and asking for help. I know that I do not need to be an independent woman to be safe and in fact life is so good when you learn to work with and trust others.
If you would like to enjoy the vlog version of this complete with the practice I listed above please click here
And to enjoy a yoga flow to bring movement to it all, which I think is the icing on the cake, click here https://youtu.be/J3PurH59usQ
So much love to al of you.
Thanks for being here.