From a young age we all find ways to help us cope in a world that can be frightening, painful and at times traumatic.
When we are not taught at a young age how to soothe our fears, pain, or anger. We find other ways to cope with those challenging times in life, most of us have developed ways that helped us to survive, only to find that in adulthood; those same coping skills that have protected us, have turned on us, and are now holding us prisoners.
You might relate and notice that you have some of these coping skills:
- Disconnection – Addiction
- Shopping excessively
- Eating disorders
Disconnection can start at a very young age, if you are distressed as a baby, or a young child, there is no escape on offer – other than escaping yourself. In the disconnect, we find peace from hurt. Later in life when we are introduced to alcohol or drugs, the Disconnection is made so much easier, it can become instant. It’s a familiar and “safe” place that we know so well. We feel at home here. In the beginning, substances are the answer to that unresolves pain, rejection and hurt, but puts us into our prison once the addiction takes hold.
Denial, like the Disconnection, is a place of safety. In that space we can protect ourselves from the painful reality and live in our pretend safe space, where’s all around us, havoc can run riot, but we fail to look at reality for what it is.
Shopping excessively can give us an instant high, a feeling of power and achievement, the illusion of “filling” a deep hole inside us, only to find that the buzz is short lived. The emptiness persists despite the purchases we hold in our hands and the sensation of emptiness returns.
Over-working, being super active all the time is a trauma response. Working like crazy can make us feel good, important, and valuable. We can achieve high goals and it keeps us distracted from the emptiness we feel inside.
Isolation can feel safe, there is no one to judge us, no one we need to pretend to and the “pressure is off”. This too can feel like a safe space, but again, the loneliness is holding you imprisoned in your isolation.
Eating disorders can manifest when all around us, nothing is in our control and the only thing, we can control is our selves and our body. The control we gain over our body creates the deception of control over our life and surrounding, but in reality, we self-distract, punishing ourselves and our bodies.
Once we become aware that these are the coping skills that we have been using our whole lives, now what?
Firstly, don’t become angry or frustrated with yourself. You have been doing this to protect yourself, regardless to if you understood it or not. In fact, you should thank your coping skill, it has helped you survive. Becoming aware has already given you the opportunity to change, to challenge your actions and to try new approaches.