Have you ever set goals for yourself and had every intention of making them happen, only to find yourself getting completely knocked off track by something going on in your life?
If you’re like most people, then I’m guessing your answer is a resounding ‘YES!’
The question isn’t so much whether we’ll be knocked off track with our goals or not, the question is, when we do veer off course, what can we do to get back on track?
And for those of us with a history of childhood abuse or trauma, when things do go awry with our plans, when we face challenges and obstacles, it can hit us especially hard, sending us into a downward spiral of shame, self-blame and self-judgment.
New Year’s goals and intentions are no exception to this. When things do get off track, we can quickly spiral downwards into a funk that can sometimes take a long time for us to find our way back out of.
But when we learn to recognize our trauma patterns, and how they send us into those downward spirals, we can also use strategies and tools like Tapping to get ourselves out of them more quickly.
Let me explain what I mean, and then I’ll share a 4-part process with you that you can use to quiet your critical inner voice of shame, self-blame and self-judgement so that you can get back on track with any goals you’re trying to achieve now or in the future…
I don’t really set traditional goals, like ‘I want to lose 10 pounds’ or ‘I’m going to give up chocolate for 3 months’, but I do sit down and review my year. I take stock of what I did and did not achieve last year and then brainstorm where I want to focus or re-focus my energy this coming year.
And so, this year, I set some targets for different areas of my life including health, healing and well-being, fitness, finances, business and relationships.
Going through this process got me so excited for the days, weeks and months ahead. So, what happened? If I was so excited, why is it that I got so off-track so quickly?
What happened was that my husband and three kids all got really sick. From Christmas Eve to New Year and beyond, they were all flat out with high fevers and coughs. I turned into honey tea maker and temperature-taker extraordinaire!
Just as soon as they began to feel a little better, our assistant and her family all got sick too. Without her help, which usually allows me to work and parent with some sense of sanity, I found myself buried under piles of laundry, endless to-dos, grocery lists and school lunches.
Cramming all the household chores and tasks into my already full schedule of work and after-school kid’s activities, as well as planning for my son’s birthday right after new year, left me feeling more than a little overwhelmed, agitated, drained and frustrated.
Family always comes first for me and so consequently, I got off track with a bunch of my goals and intentions. My plans to hit the ground running in the new year went from a bang to a whimper!
Can you relate to this? Has your new year started smoothly or have you faced your own set of roadblocks? Maybe you planned to get your eating on track but ended up at a work convention for several days where you were endlessly surrounded with donuts and other less than healthy choices. Or perhaps you’d just begun training for a 5K or half marathon, only to find that you twisted your ankle on your first run and now you have take a break, leaving you way behind in your race preparations.
So what does all this mean for those of us with a history of childhood trauma or abuse?
Like me, you may not be overly attached to setting and reaching goals. Logically you might understand that things inevitably get in the way at times – life happens! But the thing is, with a history of trauma, when we strive to better our lives, obstacles in our path can feel like the end of the world.
Those obstacles can remind us of back then. They can remind us of the negative things we were told, or told ourselves all those years ago that are often, unconsciously, still running the show today.
Perhaps you were ridiculed for having dreams as a child. Perhaps, when you told people about something you were working towards, you were bullied or it was taken away from you.
As children, we are naturally reliant on our primary care-takers for survival. In theory, at the very least, they are responsible for providing us with a roof over our head, food to eat and clothes to wear.
However, when these same care-takers are also the cause of pain and suffering in our lives; frequently denying us necessary love, care and attention, and creating blocks and obstacles in our path, it is easy to understand how and why a sense of hopelessness, powerless and futility can set in.
A child cannot survive on their own. In a very real way, they are powerless to change their situation. If a child is supported, nurtured and loved, they are likely to develop positive, affirming belief systems that will help them succeed in their life. They may believe and say things like: ‘no matter what life throws at me, I know I’ll always be ok’.
If however, a child is ridiculed and abused, the words they hear can tend to develop into a critical inner voice; a voice that constantly loops in their head.
Over time, negative belief systems are strengthened, creating emotional blocks that hold them back and keep them feeling stuck in their life. Characteristically, this child might believe and say things like:
‘I don’t deserve good things to happen to me, life will always be a struggle. Things just never go my way. What’s the point in even trying? I feel like such a failure.’
Unfortunately, for trauma survivors, the negative beliefs and patterns of hopelessness and futility that we faced back then, can still have a huge and often detrimental impact on our lives today. And particularly on our ability to face and overcome obstacles.
This is because, so much of our energy is invested in surviving. By its nature, survival energy is focused inwards, on playing small, on getting by. This is the very opposite of the outwardly-focused energy required for setting and reaching our goals; the energy of expansion and growth so necessary if we are to move forwards and really thrive in our lives today.
Take a moment to think about your life right now. When you set a goal or intention and subsequently face an obstacle, do you find yourself digging deeper into your resilience and resourcefulness?
Do you brainstorm ways around the problem? Or, instead of taking challenges in your stride, do you feel stuck, paralyzed and unable to move forwards in your life? Do your negative thought patterns and beliefs start to run the show? Do you tell yourself things like:
‘See, I’m clearly not meant to do this’, ‘I’m just not good enough’, ‘who do you think you are?’, ‘the universe hates me and wants me to fail’, ‘If this was meant to happen for me, shouldn’t it be easy?’
I know at times I do!
So, what can we do? Yes, life happens and the challenges and obstacles that we face are an inevitable part of that life. But what if we don’t have to stay stuck in the old patterns of frustration, futility and overwhelm that have been running the show for so long? These patterns and beliefs may have kept us safe back then, but how can we break free from what is holding us back today?
To find out, I’m going to take you through a simple 4 step process that will help bring your awareness to what your old unconscious patterns, beliefs and blocks actually are; I’ll teach you how you can recognize and change these so that you can release stuck energy and move forwards more quickly and easily into the life that you want and deserve.
Think about an intention or goal that you recently set for yourself. When you set that goal, you were probably somewhat excited about it. But at the same time, you may have noticed a whole slew of ‘yes but’s’ pop up in your mind.
‘Yes but’s’ are a fantastic indicator of the push – pull that we can so often feel when a part of us wants to do something (in this case when we set and pursue a goal) but another part of us is afraid.
Write down your goal and your initial positive feeling or reasons for setting that goal. Then also write down any ‘yes but’s’ that came up for you.
An example of this might be:
This year I’m setting a goal to deliver 2 presentations per month at work. I will have to plan and deliver my talks in front of 50 plus co-workers.
Initial Positive Feeling:
Part of me feels excited to take charge of the direction of my career, with the potential for a pay raise and a promotion.
Yes But (limiting belief/pattern/block):
I feel scared. I don’t feel like I’ll do a good enough job. What if my co-workers judge me. What if I mess up my talks. Maybe I’ll be fired. Who am I to think that I could ever do this, let alone get a promotion or a raise? I should just stay doing what I’m doing. At least that’s familiar and safe.
Left un-checked, the ‘yes but’ will always win. This is because SAFETY always comes first in order to ensure our survival, especially for those of us with a history of childhood abuse or trauma.
So often, when it comes to setting and achieving our goals, this push-pull of opposing beliefs is what leads to us feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, powerless and futile. Essentially, the desire to grow and the desire to stay safe cancel each other out, resulting in stagnation and feeling stuck. It’s like pressing down on the brake and the gas in the car at the same time. There is a whole lot of power and energy being used, but we’re not getting anywhere fast.
We may be excited about our life and our goals, but unless we can recognize our underlying, unconscious limiting beliefs and patterns, we may never reach those goals. What we will find instead is excuses that sound like extremely valid reasons for continuing to play small in our lives. We will likely procrastinate until we eventually give up.
Now that you have begun to understand a little bit about the underlying patterns and beliefs that have kept you safe for all these years, it’s time to begin to release the self-judgement, blame and shame that can contribute to keeping us stuck.
First of all, it’s worth saying that sometimes circumstances beyond our control do play a big part when we face blocks or obstacles on the road to achieving our goals.
In my case, my family all got sick. Perhaps something similar has happened to you. We cannot control other people and we cannot control the weather or other external circumstances. This may sound silly, but I have in the past blamed myself for bad weather! 😉
Another important thing to understand is that safety is a hard-wired human need. Our reptilian brain (the part responsible for ensuring the survival of the human race) will do anything to keep us safe. That usually does not include growing and striving towards goals. In addition to this, when we have a history of abuse or trauma, very often, we may have been told or shown that our needs and desires are unimportant or do not matter at all.
Understanding that we have patterns and beliefs running that we may not even be consciously aware of can help ease the pressure and failure that we can sometimes feel.
The abuse we experienced was not our fault. The traumatic experiences we lived through or witnessed were not our fault. But, if we are ever to move from a life of surviving to fully thriving, it is now our responsibility to challenge those old beliefs. We can begin asking ourselves questions like:
‘Is it really true that I don’t deserve anything good to happen to me?’ ‘Does my life really have to be such a struggle?’
If none of this was your fault, if you could let go of some of the shame, the self-loathing, the judgement, what would be possible for you and your life? You cannot change what has happened to you, but you do get to choose how you move forwards in your life today.
Now that you’ve identified a goal and the push-pull of the positive excitement and the ‘yes but’s’, and you’ve understood (at least consciously) that the beliefs, patterns and blocks you face are not your fault, it’s time to tune in to what you’re really feeling.
What does this mean?
Well, when you think about reaching the goal you wrote down in step # 1, first of all notice the positive feelings or sensations that you get in your body. Perhaps you feel fluttery excitement like champagne bubbles in your belly. Perhaps you feel an open feeling in your chest and you notice that your shoulders feel a little less tight than they did a couple of minutes ago.
Now, just for a moment, focus on the ‘yes but’s’ that you also wrote down. Maybe notice any fears that came up for you. As you bring your attention and awareness to these ‘yes but’s’, notice what happens inside. What is your ‘felt-sense’ experience? Do you get a sinking feeling? Do you feel any constriction in your jaw, throat, chest or legs? Do your shoulders sag?
Whatever you notice in your body is not wrong or right, it is just the truth of how you feel.
At the same time, see if you can become aware of any negative self-talk or any feelings like frustration, futility, overwhelm or hopelessness. Very rarely are we taught to pay attention to what we are feeling in our body.
With a history of trauma it’s extremely common to dissociate and stay very far away from our body and our feelings. But, with just a little tuning-in and attention, we can begin to notice a whole wealth of information that is key to releasing the blocks and limiting beliefs that have kept us from achieving our goals and kept us feeling stuck in our life, until now.
Before we begin to Tap, let’s review:
1) Write down your goal.
2) Notice any initial positive feelings or excitement about reaching this goal.
3) Notice any ‘yes but’s’, limiting beliefs or patterns preventing you from reaching your goal.
4) Acknowledge that these patterns are not your fault – consciously begin to release shame and self-judgement.
5) Notice what you feel in your body and where you feel it.
Now that you’ve reviewed the previous steps, it’s time to Tap.
Please let me know in the comments below if this Tapping was helpful for you and how you’re doing now. And as ever, if you need support or want to work with me one-on-one as your coach, click here to contact me or here to schedule a session today.
Wishing you peace and joy as you continue your journey and follow your dreams.