On the emotional level of my life, in my childhood, I was on my own. I went through a lot of stuff in my teen years and I was on my own. I was literally in a hospital room two times almost dying on my own. And so, my mind-body system learned that fierce independence would keep me alive. Pure, fierce, independence. Put my freaking head down and get through whatever I was going to have to get through. I can talk about these experiences today because I’ve done a lot of work around them and explored them. Here's what someone helped me realize recently: my survival adaptation response of fierce independence allowed me to get through some freaking hard situations in my lifetime.
And how does it serve me today? I still go through freaking hard emotional experiences today, including as a parent, a spouse, and a business owner.
"I am going to get through this!"
The person who helped me said "Hey. You're taking it day by day, moment by moment, and your sheer will and determination to get through the hard experiences comes from this old trauma adaptation that you developed when you were younger. This is what is letting you do this today. So can we take moment to honor that?"
Um, yes! I will honor that.
One of the things we need to do is understand our parenting triggers, find the roots of the triggers, create coherence, and then integrate our childhood experiences so that those triggers soften and maybe even dissolve over time.
It’s important to notice how our adaptations in life create neural pathways in the brain and our brain adapts to our life circumstances (and vice versa). Certain trauma adaptations helped us survive.
So if you were somebody who, let's say, learned how to "people please" during childhood, and that became your survival adaptation… First of all, what does that mean? Maybe you were in a situation where you were emotionally neglected, and you had to please your parent (do things to earn their approval) to receive their emotional attention. Attention is something we all need – it’s not a negative thing. We all need connection – we are wired for connection. So, the very fact that we would have to experience emotional neglect from our caregivers might give us a childhood adaptive response to be like "Hey, I need connection from my caregiver. I'm going to do whatever that means to get my emotional needs met. I’ll do everything my parents say to do and how they want me to do it."
The child’s mind-body system squashes down their own personal needs whether it be the need to be understood, to be heard, to be seen and it all sort of becomes like background noise.
But, today, I want us to consider this: How did that serve you?
Now, you're probably like, "Well, that didn't serve me! How the hell would people pleasing serve me?" Right? Well, I would venture to guess that there are situations in your life where this adaptation protected you or saved you or allowed you to get through something that was otherwise very difficult, or maybe felt impossible. Can you find out what that is? Are you able to take a look and reflect? "How did my survival response serve me?"
Now there are limitations. Obviously, people pleasing is going to have big time limitations on what we end up doing in our lives. So why am I asking us to consider this and why would a parenting coach be talking about this? Because our survival adaptations when we have our own children, often have a strong link to our triggers.
Here are a few examples of triggers to consider:
When your child is unhappy with something, you have a strong trigger and bodily response to your child’s unhappiness! You might have the urge to fix things or appease the situation, make the "obstacle" disappear, or bend a boundary or a rule.
When your children start fighting with each other you feel overwhelmed and maybe a little frozen, not sure what to do. You might resort to fight, flight or shut down. May be yelling at them to stop fighting and trying to control the outcome. Or walking out on a pair of fighting siblings or threatening to "leave them" if they don’t stop. Or "shutting out" by phone-scrolling, curling up in a ball in your bed, or other shut-down response…)
When big emotions are rising in the family system, you may start to invalidate your own emotions, become numb to your emotions or even your child’s emotions, or try to "logic-alize" emotions rather than allowing your child to move through difficult emotions with your support.
But these trauma adaptations served a purpose at some point in our lifetime. They may even be serving a purpose today. We need to reframe what happened to us and the adaptations that developed within our mind-body system, to understand them better rather than label them as "negative."
When we can think about how our responses to some of the hard stuff in our life may have served us, it softens our experience. And when it softens our experience, we can shift some of the neural wirings in our brain to look at our experiences differently. This can be a liberating experience.
I’ve lived it several times. Albeit with the support of coaches like myself and therapists.
If you are looking for Parental Support, feel free to reach out for Free Parent Coaching Consultation. I am a Certified Master Parenting Coach, a Somatic Trauma Therapy Practitioner, a Certified SEL educator, and Certified Kids Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence Coach. Visit this page, and Choose "Parent Coaching Consult" to book a time.