It’s not unusual for people who are traumatised to be annoyed with themselves for not being able to get themselves better. It is a part of the post trauma reaction. The thing is, this mild annoyance regularly becomes nastiness, self-hatred and inner brutality. This is the worst atmosphere within which to recover.
In June 2011 I was assaulted by my partner of 4 years, and that day changed my life irrevocably. I was physically injured and emotionally decimated. It wasn’t just the assault that created this devastation; it was the prolonged stress of being in a relationship with someone who was incredibly unkind at best and at worse, a violent thug. Truth is, I was a specialist in post-traumatic stress and I ended up with it. How ridiculous I felt on every level. This experience of “losing my mind”, however, was the beginning of me finding my life’s work. And I am happier for it.
My business, Kindness Incorporated®, was founded because I allowed myself to realise that all inner brutality led to more suffering. I was afraid if I dropped the brutality, my personal standards and moral compass would slip, but in fact the opposite was true. I didn’t want to feel the devastation I felt so, I set (as is easy in the UK) to the task of brutalising myself: “silly me for becoming traumatised”, “silly me for not seeing it coming”, “silly me for not getting better more quickly”. Before long that didn’t “hurt” enough, so worse still it became “shame upon me for ‘inviting’ this into my life and not having the sense to avoid it”. Pretty harsh I know. Who would wish shame upon themselves, and cause paralysis? Believe it or not it’s incredibly commonplace.
All shame, if overwhelming, is paralysing. So, when inner negativity leads to brutality you paralyse and entrap yourself. What you need is to be able to feel how you feel and move through it. Punishing yourself for being in the agony in the first place keeps you stuck.
Inner brutality is like an incredibly sophisticated version of distraction, avoidance – a painkiller. And it works until it doesn’t anymore, and the initial trauma comes to the fore to make you take notice and begin recovery. You may often hear people say, “I thought I’d dealt with this, thought this was all in the past and ‘boxed up’.”
If all thoughts are energy, and all negative thoughts require more energy, then it stands to reason that inner kindness versus inner brutality would be a great remedy, a great healer for recovery.
Negative thoughts create anxiety and entrapment. We go down the “rabbit warren” of negativity and it tells the brain there is danger and you’re not safe. Initially, the same as in panic, the brain is told to beware and shots of adrenalin and cortisol are “injected” into the body. Body and mind then prepares for more danger. So, negative, brutal thoughts use considerable energy that could be saved and re-directed for recovery.
I founded Kindness Incorporated® to begin a worldwide conversation about the imperative of kindness to good mental health and wellbeing, and recovery from tough times.
7 Processes Towards Recovery and Healing
- KNOWLEDGE – stress is crazy, you are not – gain knowledge about what’s happening. Don’t leave yourself alone and without knowledge about what is going on. By gathering information about trauma and stress, you will give yourself the best chance of recovery. You will less likely turn it against yourself.
- SAFETY – stress hates safety – slow down and find your “soft place to fall”. Allow yourself time. We need time to find the upward trajectory of recovery. We need time off work, and time to convalesce. Treating yourself with kindness now will ensure a deep and lifelong recovery. The exact opposite is also true.
- CARE ABOUT YOU – stress thrives on you hating yourself – beat it with love and kindness. All brutal thoughts will lengthen your recovery, even prevent it completely. Talk to yourself nicely, and treat yourself well.
- HELP – your antidote to stress – allow help from professionals, friends and family. Recovery from long-term stress and trauma is almost impossible to do on your own. If you have a hunch you need help, seek it. This is a kind act towards yourself and will speed up your recovery. Find someone who knows about trauma, and who believes that recovery is possible.
- REFLECT & ATTEND – meet and treat yourself with kindness. Stress hates that. Allow yourself to reflect on your life and your choices once you have decided to never harm yourself with what you find. Reflection is good as long as you are propelling into the future and enjoying the present.
- HEALING – smooth out your stress marks. Allow time to chill out, doing nothing very much. Know that healing is a journey that follows recovery – it’s different. Recovery is to ‘recover’ something, healing is to smooth out the experience.
- VISION & MOVING ON – integrate your skills-kit and deal with stress once and for all. Know that this recovery and healing will last you a lifetime if done with kindness, and depth. It’s yours forever.
Anna Pinkerton is a therapeutic coach, corporate therapist and a leading expert in post-traumatic stress disorder and author of Smile Again: Your Recovery from Burnout, Breakdown and Overwhelming Stress, available from Amazon, priced £9.99. For more information, visit www.annapinkerton.com