Thriving after trauma: Is it possible?

Thriving after trauma: Is it possible?

There are usually two types of attitudes to trauma that easily get on my nerves.

The first one is the “You’ve got to feel grateful for what happened to you” attitude, because it “happened FOR you”.

Hmmmm…actually…no.

My mum’s depression didn’t happen for me. Her suicide didn’t happen for me. Growing up without my dad didn’t happen for me. Being emotionally abused by his wife didn’t happen for me.

They all just happened, they sucked and led to complex trauma.

Honestly.

We don’t need to find a gift in everything, and what happened TO us must be honoured. That’s what makes healing possible.

The second attitude to trauma that equally irritates my brain cells is the “you’re totally defined by your trauma” attitude to the point we don’t allow people to see their possibilities for a better future.

These two attitudes, although polar opposites, both keep people with hard stories and trauma stuck in powerless states for longer than they need to.

The first one bypasses our very human experience of gut-wrenching emotions, loss and pain, while the second one turns us into prisoners of the past.

That’s why I believe that the most helpful approach to trauma is a middle ground one that allows us to hold space for what happened to us and honours our pain, WHILE we intentionally nurture the possibilities of positive change both in the now and the future.

Before I share with you 5 tips that will help you approach trauma with a healthy, balanced and sustainable attitude, let’s define what I mean by ‘thriving’ so that we avoid any misunderstandings.

When I talk about ‘thriving’, I don’t hint at images of you on private jets holding 4-figure designer bags.

If that’s what’s calling you, go for it, but that’s not the type of thriving I talk about here.

To me, a truly thriving life is one of vitality, authenticity, intimacy, wellbeing, meaning and conscious prosperity. It’s one where we feel deserving of all good things and free to be and express ourselves without fear.

It’s happiness from the inside out vs. the outside in that’s so common and glorified in our culture.

& the most accurate way of determining whether we thrive or not? Our emotional states.

Do we mostly live in doubt, fear, stress and pressure? Or do we mostly live in joy, contentment, peace and gratitude?

Of course, all emotions are normal and we never get to a state where we don’t feel the heavier ones.

But when we thrive, suffering is no longer an option even in the midst of pain.

I wholeheartedly believe that thriving IS available to you, no matter who you are, what your story is and what happened in the past.

I’m not saying that the path to thriving will be easy, but no matter what path you choose, it won’t be easy, so why not choose the most rewarding one!

If you want to choose the most rewarding path of a thriving life after trauma, here are 5 tips that will help you move forward while honouring your story:

 

1. Honour your pain and authentic emotions

Your emotions are a form of energy that lives in your body and drives your behaviours, choices and decisions. Honouring your genuine emotions, including the ones you’re possibly avoiding, will guide you to priceless realisations and truths about yourself that once you accept them, they’ll get you closer to your truth. The healing power of acceptance is that liberates us from the lies we often tell ourselves and comes with the power of choice to create real change.

 

2. Understand that flexibility is your nature

The miracle of our nature as humans is that we’re extremely adaptable. The same way our identity was shaped, as we were growing up, to perfectly ‘match’ our intimate environment, in this exact way we can return to who we truly are and match what we want to consciously create in our lives now. Although trauma can challenge us like nothing else can, we often come on the other side with a sense of being that’s way more liberated, resilient, and stronger than before, because challenges can give us access to new perspectives and new ways of seeing ourselves, the world and others.

 

3. Carefully choose the ideas you accept as your truth

Everyone has the right to their own opinion, and those opinions are constantly being shared with all of us thanks to the massive growth of social media. We’re bombarded with so many ideas that we often don’t know what WE stand for. This is a big problem when dealing with trauma because it adds more to our already existing confusion. That’s why learning to choose with agency and wisely the people you allow yourself to be influenced by is huge power in today’s world.

 

4. Take responsibility for what you can control

Feeling powerless is one of the many consequences of trauma. That’s why deciding to show up for yourself with radical responsibility during your healing and thriving journey will help you be in your power. It’s likely that you didn’t have any control over what happened in the past, but now you can get your power back by consciously choosing a new trajectory in your life.

 

5. Simplify to go fast

Healing is a very complex process that’s happening inside our body by our body. Yes, your body is a genius! When it comes to our role in this process, though? It’s not as complicated as we make it to be. But when it comes to what WE need to do? They’re always simple things. The minute you realise you’re feeling lost or confused with the ‘how-tos’, it’s time to get back to the basics. The more you simplify your healing journey, the faster you’ll get there.

 

When I started my journey as a Trauma Coach, Educator and Culture Changer, I was told that I shouldn’t use the word ‘thrive’ because people who’ve experienced trauma wouldn’t connect with it.

The good news is that’s not true at all which is clearly telling me that you want to thrive, not simply survive.

But even if what I was told ended up being true, it’s what I wanted to change in the first place. That’s exactly what I CRAVED to hear when I felt unworthy of good things because of my trauma.

I want you to stop believing that what’s only available to you is a small improvement here and there, and that’s it.

I want you to start seeing the possibilities for a thriving life.

Of course, a thriving life starts with small improvements here and there, but it doesn’t end there.

It shouldn’t end there.

If you want to heal from trauma and start creating the possibilities for a truly meaningful and fulfilling life, I can help.

Just book a free consultation call to explore working with me in my hybrid programme of trauma healing, somatic therapy, and life coaching.

Let’s make your thriving happen. Together.

Photo credit: Todd Quackenbush

Client love

When positivity becomes toxic and fails humanity

When positivity becomes toxic and fails humanity

Each decade or so the world becomes obsessed with a few things that end up becoming trends.

Over the last decade, we’ve become obsessed with wellness, positivity and lately, with mental health. This has come with benefits, such as raising awareness of mental health and battling stigma.

At the very same time though, the idea of positivity has been abused and misinterpreted in ways that has awakened feelings of shame and inadequacy in many of us.

In addition to all the other boxes we’ve been asked to tick as human beings, now we also need to tick the box of positivity. This box is too tight and suffocating to make space for the whole spectrum of human experience.

When I became part of the wellness industry a few years ago, this didn’t feel right to me. Initially, I thought I was wrong and was trying to fit in the box too. As I was failing every day, I started feeling shame.

Once again, I wasn’t enough. Surprise, surprise. I was back to square one.

This until I realised that I was refusing to pay attention to my inner compass. I wasn’t wrong. The system was wrong and once again it was taking advantage of our vulnerabilities.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being ‘positive’.

I believe I have, overall, a positive outlook on life. But being positive doesn’t mean we are and must always remain positive, or when we can’t be positive, we must fake it.

Positivity is beneficial when it’s genuine and takes into account the full human experience and nature.

Healthy positivity honours everyone’s personal journey and doesn’t make us feel that we owe any explanations to anyone, contrary to the toxic positivity that demands from us to smile so that we don’t make the world feeling uncomfortable for its failings.

My other problem with toxic positivity is that we have also often used it as an excuse to avoid our collective responsibility to help others who don’t enjoy the same privileges as us. We’re implying ‘it’s their problem, their thinking, they should deal with it.’ We don’t acknowledge that our successes and achievements are, to a certain extend, a result of us being born in specific parts of the world, receiving a standard level of education and having food on our table from day one.

This is the type of positivity that fails humanity.

We’re social creatures, and we need each other to heal and thrive. In my experience, people who often look away from injustices aren’t the strongest ones, and trust me, are not the most positive ones either.

Positive people aren’t the ones who live in their own bubble, believing that other people’s suffering is a result of their own inadequacies. This is the easy way of doing life. Positive people are the ones who have the courage to admit they’re not God’s few chosen and stand by those who suffer so that a more equal world is created. Not just for the few, but for all.

In my opinion, positivity DOESN’T mean:

  • Obsessively chasing moments of happiness
  • Masking feelings our culture calls ‘negative’
  • Denying our truth to maintain a superficial state of peace
  • Looking away from real problems the world or others are facing
  • Not holding ourselves, people or institutions accountable for wrongdoings and injustices
  • Interpreting our privileges as ‘spiritual, universal truths’
  • Easily dismissing other people’s experiences as ‘negative’ or ‘toxic’

Personally, I don’t follow any influencers who reinforce this kind of superficial messaging of positivity, light and love. Even if they are genuine, they’re not my people.

This conversation is important because shame is fed with silence, pretence and oppression (of ourselves and others). Toxic positivity requires that we remain silent, pretend that all is good and nourish the dynamics that tolerate unacceptable forces of oppression in our society.

That’s why I value and honour radical realness and honesty more than anything else because this is the exact environment where shame cannot survive, and if something can change the world, I believe, is radical realness and honesty.

Love & grace,

Effie

Photo Credit: Amanda Jones

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Effie writes about and coaches people on Inner & Cultural Awakening helping them understand the connection between culture and our well-being, and build better lives based on a new self-awareness, while getting rid of biases that create separation between ourselves and others. She’s passionate about exposing the shame culture we live in and helping create one where everyone is and feels accepted, and the whole spectrum of human experience is normalised.

What we’ve (wrongly) been taught about love

What we’ve (wrongly) been taught about love

There isn’t any other topic that has been portrayed in films, music and books more than love.

This is because, in my opinion, the one single thing that we all crave the most is love. When we feel loved, we are safe. When we don’t, we feel uncertain. Humans like safety and hate uncertainty – this is how we’re wired. ⠀

The concept of love and relationships themselves are complex. Since love is what we want the most, its loss or just the idea of losing it brings to the surface all our insecurities and past wounds. ⠀

On top of that, the way love has been romanticised in our culture, creating an idealistic, picture-perfect expectation triggers our shame and our sense of inadequacy when we’re single (whether by choice or not) or when we’re in a relationship that doesn’t tick certain boxes (these boxes are not consciously ours, but what we’ve been told our relationship should look, feel like and be). ⠀

Below are only some of the shame-based beliefs we’ve been taught by our culture about love and relationships:

  • Our relationship status determines our self-worth & the respect we receive from others
  • Everyone’s destiny and purpose in life (especially women’s) is to get married & have children. If someone decides not to, they will regret it
  • Abandoning our own needs and dreams shows that we truly love someone
  • Finding the ‘one’ will fix all our problems
  • Until we enter a relationship, we are incomplete
  • Being single is never a desired relationship status and we should avoid it
  • Love is only found in relationships with others
  • A single woman is inadequate on her own but a single man simply knows how to enjoy life
  • Women are hysterical and oversensitive in relationships
  • Men shouldn’t show their vulnerabilities in relationships
  • Having arguments in a relationship isn’t healthy
  • Romantic intimacy should always look like a scene from a Hollywood movie, otherwise the relationship is failing
  • Sometimes it’s better to lie to our partner if our truth makes them uncomfortable

All these beliefs are social and cultural constructs and like all social constructs, they are made-up. Fiction. However, we’ve been served these by society as universal truths. The result is that the presence or absence of a relationship in our lives and, also the ‘image’ of this relationship affects the way we see ourselves and can have a real impact on our self-esteem.

One truth we haven’t been taught enough though is that self-love also counts as love and it’s the most nourishing and healing love of all. ⠀

In theory, this sounds easy but it isn’t. Learning to love ourselves, no matter what, is a life-long journey. I still struggle at times and I’m not the only one. It’s a path that never ends. ⠀

One day we take a step forward and we’re pleased with our progress, only to take a fall the very next day. We believe that these falls aren’t part of our itinerary and this is where most of us get it wrong.

These falls ARE the itinerary. No falls, no journey. No journey, no pain. No pain, no learning. No learning, no love.

Let’s keep falling, so that we keep loving.

Love & grace,

Effie ⠀

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You want more of my stuff?

Follow me on Instagram and like my Facebook page, to join my community of #ShameBreakers. We’re exposing shame culture and helping create one for all.

Or read

How body image affects our self-esteem 

Your emotions are valid, even when they make others uncomfortable 

Heal your shame, heal your life 

Effie writes about and coaches people on Inner & Cultural Awakening helping them understand the connection between culture and our well-being, and build better lives based on a new self-awareness, while getting rid of biases that create separation between ourselves and others. She’s passionate about exposing the shame culture we live in and helping create one where everyone is and feels accepted, and the whole spectrum of human experience is normalised.

Photo by: Fabrizio Verrecchia

How to overcome perfectionism

How to overcome perfectionism

A theme that comes up in conversations with my clients very often is perfectionism. It’s so common that it seems to me that pretty much everyone suffers from it, including myself.

We weren’t born perfectionists. We became ones when, as children, we formed the belief that in order to receive love and acceptance from our caregivers, we had to meet certain performance standards, whether this was true or not.

We started believing that our worthiness was derived from what was outside ourselves and our self, as it was, wasn’t enough. We used perfectionism as an antidote for our shame-based thinking that had convinced us we were innately flawed.

As adults later on, we unconsciously replaced the role of our caregivers with the ‘Inner Critic’ in our head telling us that no matter how hard we try, no success or performance will ever be enough.

People often ask me how they can tell the difference between the voice of the Inner Critic they should ignore and our own, authentic voice we need to listen to.

The Inner Critic voice is often the loud one. It’s made up of automatic & repetitive thoughts that keep coming up, and reveal the areas of our lives that have been affected most by shame.

In my case, the theme of belonging would constantly come up (and sometimes still does) because the belief I had formed as a child was that no matter what I do, I will never belong. Perfectionism was the perfect cover up as it offered the illusion that if I am perfect, there will be no reason to not belong.

When we don’t heal our shame and always try to be perfect, we continue giving ourselves the same message we received as children – to belong, to be loved, we have to perform well. In other words, we engage in a shame-based loop & set ourselves standards that are impossible to reach, always ending up where we started & only to repeat the same cycles.

From experience, some of this information might trigger shame in some kind souls who’ve been through a lot. If you feel that way, remember that forming limiting beliefs as we grow up is a very natural mechanism that allows us to survive even in the most difficult circumstances. If today you identify as a perfectionist & feel ashamed of it or of anything else you had to become in order to survive, you’re not a loser or weak. You’re a miracle.

Now, how can you create space for your true voice to be heard? Start by building a simple routine that’s personal to you where you enjoy time with yourself only. Slow down either by meditating, deep breathing, or both. Once you’ve slowed down, ask yourself ‘what is my truth?’. See what response you’ll get. Write it down. Repeat as often as you can.

If you’re looking for writing prompts for inspiration, download a free copy of Your Life by Design Journal I’ve created for this reason here

Let me know what you think.

Love & grace,

Effie

Photo Credit: Hunters Race

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Effie writes about and coaches people on Inner & Cultural Awakening helping them understand the connection between culture and our well-being, and build better lives based on a new self-awareness, while getting rid of biases that create separation between ourselves and others. She’s passionate about exposing the shame culture we live in and helping create one where everyone is and feels accepted, and the whole spectrum of human experience is normalised.

How body image affects our self-esteem

How body image affects our self-esteem

Negative body image can seriously affect our self-esteem and impact our mental health, causing depression, eating disorders and even suicidal thoughts.⠀

As part of the #ShameCultureExposedSeries I’ve started on Instagram with the first topic on Beauty and Body image, I’ve gathered some of the shame-based standards our culture has taught us about what it means to be beautiful:

  • Female thin bodies are the beautiful bodies (but not necessarily sexy)    
  • Female bodies with curves are the sexy bodies (but not necessarily beautiful)        
  • Our body weight can and should determine our happiness
  • Thin people do not eat well or as frequently as they should
  • We have the right to judge other people’s weight whether through gossiping or in the media        
  • Women’s body hair isn’t really okay and should always be removed
  • Perfect body, face and hair are attainable for everyone and we should all strive for them
  • Wrinkles reveal that a woman is aging, so we need to prevent their development and make sure our skin remains firm    
  • Attractive men are the ones who are muscular and with flat stomachs
  • We must deprive ourselves of certain foods completely and go on fad diets because losing weight isn’t enough – we must lose weight fast too
  • Our natural beauty isn’t adequate – we should always try to look better
  • Shaming people for their weight encourages them to adopt healthier lifestyles
  • Women with small breasts aren’t sexy or feminine enough
  • Beautiful, predominantly, means white

Believing that our natural beauty and body type is inadequate creates shame-based thinking, and make us feel separate from and below others. ⠀

I’ve certainly been affected by quite a few of these beliefs. When I was younger, I was bullied for having smaller breasts by men I used to work with (!) and an ex-boyfriend was trying to pay for a plastic surgery to have my breast size increased. I’ve also often felt unsexy because I’m naturally slim and my body isn’t curvy. ⠀

We are all responsible for creating real change and can start small, e.g. by not commenting on people’s weight if they haven’t given us permission, or when we see a woman that hasn’t waxed, we don’t need to remind her – she will do it IF she wants to. Also, let’s stop clicking on articles that shame women or men for how they look – if we won’t read them, they won’t write them.⠀ ⠀

Now, your turn. Have any of these beliefs affected you? Let me know in the comments below 👇🏼⠀

Also, can you help with spreading this important message? Share this blog post with them and spread the love!

The next post of the #ShameCultureExposedSeries will be about Mental Health, so stay tuned. ⠀

You’re beautiful, no matter what 💕⠀

N.B. This post doesn’t want to undermine the importance of looking after the health of our bodies, eating well and stay active. These things are important and often life-saving. This post highlights the unrealistic standards that make us feel ashamed for what is normal in our bodies as part of our human nature and supports the need for diverse beauty reflecting the real world as it is.

What triggers your anxiety

What triggers your anxiety

As someone who suffered from cPTSD for almost my whole life, I can tell you there were many times when I wasn’t sure whether I could get through another day or if I really wanted to. When I intentionally started working on my trauma healing and was processing emotions I hadn’t properly done, like grief or anger, things weren’t as linear as I thought they would be. ⠀

The truth is they initially became worse. I found regulating my emotions extremely difficult and experienced sensations in my body I hadn’t before. My partner is the only person who has ever seen me in this state. ⠀
Then I had a realisation with the help of my therapist. In the past, the minute I would get distressed, sad or angry, I would instantly react to my emotions. I would do anything to avoid and distract myself from them. ⠀

Sometimes, I would drink or I’d call a friend and obsessively talk about how I had been hurt by another friend. Other times, I’d stalk my ex-boyfriends on social media, making up stories about how happy they were compared to my own misery. I’d often convince myself that I was dying of an undiagnosed disease, resulting in spending whole weekends searching online for evidence.⠀

While I was succeeding at avoiding my real emotions, I was under extreme, constant anxiety. It was exhausting. ⠀

In time, I saw that anxiety isn’t an emotion – it’s an inner wall our unprocessed emotions hide behind. One of the remedies that can have the most positive long-term impact on our mental health is learning from our anxiety what we don’t consciously know/admit about ourselves – what has hurt us in the past & needs healing & our unfulfilled dreams we deprive ourselves of living. ⠀

Something that helped me get better in time was journaling. My own words on paper allowed me to understand myself better and ask hard questions whose answers became the stepping stones to start loving myself as I deserve. ⠀

That’s why I’ve created Your Life be Design Journal, you can get a free copy here. It won’t solve all your problems, but it will help you imagine the best life possible for yourself and identify what you want to leave out of it altogether.

Try it and let me know 💕

Love & grace,

Effie

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Effie writes about and coaches people on Inner & Cultural Awakening helping them understand the connection between culture and our well-being, and build better lives based on a new self-awareness, while getting rid of biases that create separation between ourselves and others. She’s passionate about exposing the shame culture we live in and helping create one where everyone is and feels accepted, and the whole spectrum of human experience is normalised.