Why You Can’t Stand Up For Yourself
Why You Can’t Stand Up For Yourself
Do you remember when you were in your own world as a child, playing, minding your own business, being happy or at ease, when suddenly someone began screaming and you witnessed or experienced violence? It came out of the blue, like a storm of rage focused on you. In your space. In your face.
How many times was your innocence, your gentle exuberance, so deeply afflicted while growing up? It appeared for no reason. What happened in those moments for you? Can you recall just brushing it off and walking away? Or, did your entire nervous system get invaded by the electric shock of the moment, and stuck in the confusion of fear?
Your legs, unable to run away. Your arms, too weak to protect you. Your voice, unable to say, Stop it. Your eyes, too scared to meet your tormentor’s deranged stare. You were stuck. Frozen stiff in terror. This is what the shock of trauma looks like for a child. Frozen and stuck in terror.
In that automatic response, there’s no wiggle room, no buoyancy. Everything feels constricted and braced inside of your body, all your muscles, your fascia, even your skin. Imagine what that did to your body. It’s no wonder if you now have chronic pain. This is what we call a trauma body.
Most likely, your trauma body was not by one incident, but by a continuum of repeated shocks to your being. As a child, and later as an adult, your life became a place of hypervigilance in between insults. You became always hyperaware and hyperalert, making it impossible to rest at home or even in your body.
That is unforgettable and unforgivable to do to an innocent, brave, and happy child. It kills their childlike nature, while keeping the child alive. It destroys their vitality and joy. As they grow, the trauma kills their human drive and happiness. It kills their trust in others. It kills their trust in their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical connections. It kills their human voice.
This is abuse. You don’t need to be slapped or beaten up to experience abuse. Witnessing abuse is enough to harm your feeling of safety and confidence in the world.
This kind of abuse also regresses you, regardless of your age. As an adult, experiencing similar triggers from your childhood can make your body feel exactly as it did when you were small and terrified. You may feel invaded. You may freeze.
It may be a sudden volume increase in someone’s voice, or an unexpected loud sound that triggers your response. The experience shocks, silences, and retraumatizes you, leaving you without the ability to yell, or defend yourself, or even say a thing.
You might wonder why you can’t stand up for yourself, and after the moment passes, you might replay scenarios of what you could have said and shame yourself for why you didn’t. It’s important to know there’s a reason for your reaction.
Your body vividly remembers the shock that you experienced, and that’s the trauma still alive in you. I’m not sure if it will ever go away. It is alive in me still, but I have learned to deeply love the child within me, and when she shuts down or goes silent, the adult in me rises up and protects her.
It took me years to get to this place. I’m still learning, but I know it’s okay to respond to rudeness or to stay quiet. Both are okay. What’s important is that I never silence the child in me or leave her afraid. In moments where I’m triggered and my inner child feels shut down by someone else, I may say to her:
Will confronting this person be worth it? We don’t have to waste our energy on someone who won’t understand, and we can always choose to speak up for ourselves if we need to. We can say, “Get the hell away from me!” We will not be silenced.
Then I may give her a positive outlet by saying, Let’s go to a cool bookstore and buy ourselves a notebook and pencils.
This is how I tend to the child within me, giving her the safe haven she never got the chance to have and a protective adult voice who can speak up against a bully, if we decide it’s worth the emotional investment.
More healing stories and insights at: https://amzn.to/3r2ofUQ