Long Term Effects of Emotional Abuse
Yesterday, I discovered something about how emotional abuse and finances are tightly woven for me.
First, let me start by saying there is nothing wrong with being driven to achieve financial success. For the record, I have big goals and dreams that I am chasing.
No, scratch that. I'm not gonna say I'm chasing them. That makes it sound to me that I might not catch them. That's hogwash... I will!
Let me rephrase.... I have big goals and dreams and the steps I am taking today will allow me to achieve them quickly and with ease.
What I discovered on a call with Jaymi Jai yesterday is I had too much tied to the dollars. I'll explain in a minute but let me tell you about Jaymi. She is an amazing human who holds space for others so well.
You get to make new discoveries about yourself and become more deeply aware of your own thought patterns and beliefs that it knocks the lid right off of your emotional pot.
Through the initial casual conversation as well as the 'deep' work of the latter part of the call, she was observing and noticing. She would sit quietly while I verbally processed all my thoughts and feelings and she'd recognize patterns.
Trauma is a funny thing. Interesting might be a better word than funny but I legit laughed when I realized the connections so I'm sticking with it.
You've probably heard of PTSD.
For most of my adult years in my 20's and 30's, I felt 'not good enough', 'not smart enough', and 'not capable' of doing anything. In my 40's, while I've evolved so much, I still am working through all of this.
Years ago, when my counselor mentioned PTSD when I was describing how I was feeling, I thought that can't be right... I wasn't in the military.
In my mind, PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is something those who served in the military might experience.
In fact, it goes way beyond that to anyone witnessing or experiencing any kind of trauma... first responders, victims of any kind of abuse (emotional, physical, sexual, etc), accident survivors, natural disaster victims, robbery, etc.
And what I've come to learn is PTSD is a real thing.... for civilians too. I have recognized several patterns in which it comes up in me.
In the movies, you see extreme physical and emotional reactions of those experiencing PTSD but it looks so many different ways.
My PTSD is fairly quiet and internal, not noticeable to others but certainly impacts my life.
Emotional abuse is almost undetectable when it begins. It starts with seemingly small things. Red flags go unnoticed. Then other red flags get ignored cause you want to focus on the good.
And before you know it you're depressed and feeling worthless and wondering how the heck did you allow your self-worth to tank?
Those who are emotionally abusive are really good at sliding under the radar. They prey on those who are the most kind, giving, and compassionate people and incrementally break them down, piece by piece.
Emotional abuse... it could be a parent, kid, spouse, friend, or employer who is not treating you with love and respect... gaslighting you instead.
When I asked ChatGPT, if it could provide some examples how PTSD shows up for people in emotionally abusive situations this is the list it provided.
PTSD can manifest in various ways for individuals who have experienced emotionally abusive situations. Emotional abuse involves persistent patterns of behavior that undermine a person's sense of self-worth, independence, and well-being.
Here are some ways PTSD may show up for people who have been in emotionally abusive situations:
Intrusive Thoughts and Flashbacks: Individuals may experience intrusive thoughts or memories of the emotional abuse they endured. They might have vivid flashbacks of specific incidents or find themselves reliving the emotional pain and distress.
Emotional Dysregulation: Emotional abuse can lead to difficulties regulating emotions. People may experience intense and unpredictable emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, or guilt. They may also have difficulty managing emotional triggers related to the abusive experiences.
Avoidance: Individuals may go to great lengths to avoid reminders of the abusive situation or people associated with it. This can involve avoiding specific places, activities, or even cutting off contact with certain individuals.
Hypervigilance and Anxiety: Emotional abuse can cause a heightened state of vigilance and anxiety. Survivors may constantly be on guard, anticipating further abuse or feeling unsafe even in non-threatening situations. They may have difficulty relaxing and often feel a sense of impending danger.
Negative Self-Perception: Emotional abuse can deeply impact one's self-esteem and self-worth. Survivors may develop negative beliefs about themselves, feeling worthless, unlovable, or undeserving of happiness. They may blame themselves for the abuse and struggle with feelings of shame and guilt.
Social Withdrawal and Isolation: Emotional abuse can lead to a loss of trust in others and a fear of forming new relationships. Survivors may withdraw from social interactions, isolate themselves, or struggle with feelings of detachment and alienation.
Hyperarousal and Startle Response: Individuals may experience a heightened state of arousal, characterized by an exaggerated startle response and difficulties with sleep. They may have trouble falling asleep, experience nightmares, or have restless nights due to anxiety and hypervigilance.
Difficulty Establishing Boundaries: Emotional abuse often undermines a person's sense of personal boundaries. As a result, survivors may struggle with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships, leading to difficulties in asserting their needs and protecting themselves from further harm.
I can relate to so many of these. On my call yesterday with Jaymi, a couple very specific situations came to mind that I hadn't even realized I was continuing as a reaction to past trauma.
I've set some really, REALLY big financial goals this year.... and fallen way short. Which makes me feel like a failure (hello vicious cycle of self-defeating thoughts!).
In my conversation with Jaymi, I realized being fixated on financial goals is something I can 'safely' focus on.
What do I mean by safe? I mean I can work hard at a specific goal that is emotionless to a degree.
Did I achieve the goal? Yes. Awesome! Set a new one.
Did I fall short? Okay. Assess what I did wrong, make corrections, and try again.
Notice the language I instinctively go to is negative (what I did wrong) like 'how did I screw up?' I'm becoming more aware of my language and removing the negative connotation that creates guilt and shame.
Why am I setting high financial goals for myself?
Do I want financial success to do all the things I want to do for myself, my boys, and those I love? You bet.
AND.... what I really want is to find peace and know everything will work out ok.
Here's what I've discovered when obsessively setting my focus on finances.
While I am chasing dollars, I am actually searching for trust.
Trust in me.
Let me repeat that again for my benefit... I am searching for validation that I can trust myself.
To 'prove' I am capable.
To 'prove' I am worthy.
To 'prove' I am smart enough.
"If I can earn X then I'll believe I'm capable."
"If I can crush this goal, then I'll know I'm smart enough."
"If I help x number of photographers to 10x their business then I know, I'm a good coach."
Oh, what a slippery slope this is to be looking for external validation to 'prove' your worthiness.
I spent years believing I wasn't good enough... and it turns out I've still got work to do.
Spoiler alert: we will always be a work in progress til the day we die. We will make new discoveries about ourselves, our thoughts, and our mindset daily.
Another spoiler alert: you and I are already good enough cause God created us perfectly.
Today, I am spending some time thinking about the ways I will build trust in myself....
Honor commitments. Honor commitments big and small, particularly to yourself. So many people break the very first commitment they make to themselves every single day.
When the alarm goes off, they hit snooze.
May not sound like a big deal but your mind internalizes it as not following through so if you're working on trusting yourself, start by honoring every commitment from the very first one in the morning... the alarm clock.
I think this is why I self-sabotage my commitment to getting healthy. It 'proves' what I fear... that I can't trust myself.
Positive Affirmations: Engage in positive self-talk by repeating affirmations that reinforce self-belief and confidence. I have a course for female entrepreneurs I coach around attitude and this is one of the things I share with them.
When I'm feeling 'off' I set alarms hourly, during waking hours, for 7 days with empowering statements about myself.
Journaling: Start a journal to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Use it as a tool to recognize and challenge self-doubt and negative beliefs. Write down your achievements, strengths, and moments of self-trust to reinforce positive self-perception.
Celebrate Small Victories: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Recognize your progress and give yourself credit for taking steps towards building self-belief and trust.
This is something I can certainly improve on. It's easy for me to look forward to the next goal without even celebrating today's victory.
In the book called The Gap and the Gain, Dan and Ben talk about when always looking forward it's easy to be in the GAP (what is still left to achieve) and how satisfaction can be found looking backwards at how far you've already come which helps you be grateful for the GAIN.
Seeing the GAINS also helps me build trust that I am beyond capable of achieving everything I want to.
Remember I said I fell way short (GAP) of my financial goals I set for the first half of 2023? I felt like a failure. Well when I look back and compare to 2022, I've already significantly surpassed (GAIN) where I was this time last year.
Surround Yourself with Supportive People: Seek out relationships and connections with people who uplift and support you. Surrounding yourself with individuals who believe in you and your abilities can help foster self-belief and trust.
Engage in open and honest communication with trusted friends or family members who can provide encouragement and validation.
This is where I succeed greatly. My network of family, friends, and business relationships that surround me is amazing!
Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Acknowledge that building self-belief and trust is a process, and it's okay to have setbacks or moments of doubt.
Talk to yourself as you would a close friend, offering understanding and support during challenging times. We would benefit if we gave ourselves even a fraction of the grace we give everyone else.
Set Small, Achievable Goals: Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps. As you achieve these smaller goals, you will build a sense of accomplishment and reinforce your belief in your capabilities. Gradually increasing the difficulty of the goals can further strengthen your self-belief and trust.
Mindfulness and Self-Reflection: Practice mindfulness techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises to cultivate self-awareness. Engage in self-reflection to identify negative thought patterns and challenge them. Cultivating mindfulness can help you connect with your inner strengths and develop a deeper sense of self-trust.
Seek Professional Support: Consider working with a therapist or counselor experienced in trauma and self-esteem issues. They can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based techniques to help you develop self-belief and trust in yourself.
Anyway... just wanted to share some of my own self-discoveries.
If my rambling, helps encourage someone to explore their feelings on a deeper level then it's worth it.
If my vulnerability, helps one person feel less alone it's worth it.
If this blog helps bring awareness to the trauma of emotional abuse, it's worth it.
I encourage to spend some time exploring your feelings. Dig below the surface (finances for me) to get to the root of the problem (learning to trust myself).
It is not always easy AND it is always worth it.