I for one have mastered the art of getting in my own way. I wasn’t born with this gift. But I wonder if self-sabotaging traits can be re-gifted through DNA, learned by example in the home, or if it takes both nature and nurture.
I’ve heard that we are the average of the people we surround ourselves with, but what does that mean for a child raised in a toxic environment (whether they face emotional or physical abuse or lack the love and attention required to build resiliency)? Children are trapped with no way of improving their living situation, no blueprint on how to cope, and no means of escape except maybe turning their pain inward (at least that’s what I did as an only child).
Coping skills and defense mechanisms mean survival. And because dysfunctionality tends to be kept secret from the outside world, children learn to wear a mask of normalcy to protect their families. Once that child grows up those deeply ingrained coping skills follow them to school. And when old old enough to leave the nest, those patterns pack up and leave with them, creeping their way in to work, hobbies, relationships, parenting, financial decisions, etc.
As Amber Lyon perfectly states, “If it’s not adequately processed and purged, trauma becomes cemented onto the hard drive of the mind, growing into a dark parasite that rears its ugly head throughout a person’s entire life. The wounds keep us locked in a grid of fear, trapped behind a personality not true to the soul, working a mundane job rather than following a passion, repeating a cycle of abuse, destroying the environment, harming one another. The most common and severe suffering is inflicted during childhood and hijacks the driver’s seat into adulthood, steering an individual down a road deprived of happiness.”
She goes on to say that, “We live in a world full of wounds and when left untreated, they’re unceremoniously handed from one generation to the next, so the cycle of trauma continues in all its destructive brutality. But there’s hope. We can transform the course of humanity by collectively purging our grief and healing at the individual level, with the help of psychedelic medicines. Once we collectively heal at the individual level, we will see dramatic positive transformation in society as a whole.”
As you can imagine, a child can build up resentment and anger toward the individuals who were supposed to make them feel most safe in the world. Dr Gabor Mate believes, “The repression of anger leads to the chronic secretion of stress hormones, such as cortisol, that suppress the immune system. The body’s defenses are disarmed against infection from the outside or malignant changes from within. When anger turns against the self, as it does in people unable to express it in a healthy way, hormonal imbalances can induce the immune system to mutiny against the body…It would be rare to find an individual with any of these diagnoses whose lifelong emotional coping patterns are not stamped by difficulty with anger.”
Since I’m currently a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I’m going to describe my upbringing using the BJJ belt progression.
I came into this world as a White Belt. I received my Blue Belt at only two years of age when my father abandoned the family and started a new one. Stripes were awarded after I learned to keep questions about him to a minimum, never mentioning the deep loss I felt.
I progressed to Purple Belt by the age of five thanks to the highs and lows of living with an alcoholic stepfather – gaining stripes after being felt up by my stepbrother, as well as having to bounce from one apartment to another whenever mom decided she had had enough.
I received my Brown Belt in my teens after my plea for psychiatric help was shut down (if only I had the courage to ask a school counselor for help instead of approaching family, but I was afraid of retaliation). Stripes were received at this level when I accepted mistreatment by my controlling and manipulative “best” friend. After surviving a private mental breakdown, I finally achieved my Black Belt in self-doubt, insecurity, fear, and self-sabotage.
In my early 20s I reached an all time low in self-esteem when – unbeknownst to me on a conscious level – I used buried pain to punish someone I loved. I had hit rock bottom in self-worth and the overwhelming guilt and shame for what I had done forced me to imprison myself in my own home. Red Belt level was achieved. And just like placing a string on your finger to help you remember something, I wore that belt so tight that I couldn’t take a breath without being reminded of my unworthiness. I would punish myself for the next 20 years…until I was called to the jungle to meet and work with Mother Ayahuasca.
Do you have a Black Belt in self-sabotage, insecurity, fear or self-doubt? What do you think led you to unlock these undesired achievements? And if you’re struggling in relationships, work or finances, what tips or life hacks do you have that are helping you build resiliency?
What I find extremely helpful is practicing gratitude and meditation throughout each day, journaling, reading, writing, staying connected with other Seekers, embracing my dark side and choosing love instead of guilt or shame. Moving my body, eating right for me, and getting plenty of rest have a great impact as well.