Overcoming Emotional Trauma: A Menu For Healing The Hurt That Holds You Back

Growing up, I was emotionally hurt a lot.  Although I was an only child, my parents were so caught up in their own troubles and struggles that I managed to end up not fitting the stereotypes of an only child.  Meaning not only was I not spoiled and catered to, on the contrary: I was outright neglected.  Plus, my parents fought like cats and dogs (on a slightly lighter note, I would describe them as the understudies for the Costanzas on Seinfeld — except in real life, it was anything but funny to regularly witness, as I figure you can imagine).

All that arguing inevitably left me with plenty of core anxiety and insecurity—no surprise there, right? So, that was the essence of my emotional hurt growing up: a mix of deep feelings of neglect (accompanied by feelings of being unlovable), plus significant amounts of insecurity and anxiety; hurt that left me vulnerable to what I came to think of as my inner bully’s “double whammy” of potential self-sabotage.  Meaning: on the one hand, I am aware of my having an emotional core of hypersensitivity and over-reactivity to feeling betrayed and/or rejected. Yet on the other hand, I am equally aware I have a piece inside of me—a piece I learned from watching my parents argue so much—to pseudo-compensate for feeling hurt by all too quickly going to anger.

I tell you all of this for two reasons. First, so I can now follow it up by sharing with you how I know firsthand what the incredible benefits are that you can get from being in the right therapy with the right therapist (it took me quite a while, but I eventually found him, thankfully).  Am I no longer hypersensitive and over-reactive? Certainly these self-sabotaging tendencies are not gone entirely by any means, but I’m clear as daylight that I have come a long way in controlling them—especially, and most importantly, in the face of situational triggers.

Am I no longer prone to outbursts of anger?  I can’t say they never occur, but I can unequivocally and unhesitatingly say they occur a lot less, and manifest much more often than not in an increasingly controlled manner.

So, what’s my “secret” here, to use this overused term?  It’s called HEALING. No, my painful emotional wounds certainly are not 100% healed; some scars do for sure remain. But my confidence in my ability to comfort myself and be resilient in the face of feeling betrayed or rejected, as well as in my ability to keep my anger in check have never been stronger.  And to what do I attribute my healing?  Here’s my “menu” for success.

First, again, being with the right therapy/therapist. Then, add all of the following items: having the incredible good fortune to still love my work, learning self-comfort tools, turning to my robust network of great friends for support (while making sure to give it back to them as needed, too), performing acts of kindness and courage, allowing displays of  vulnerability at the right time to the right people, getting a good laugh a day (and a good cry when needed), and, last but not least, staying as active, healthy, and playful as I have the luxury and ability to be.

So: care to share where YOU are on the healing front?

Learn more about my journey to overcoming my Inner Bully and tackling Self-Sabotage by checking out my two published books, browsing my recent blog posts, and connecting with me on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Oh, and I encourage you to download a FREE chapter from my book: you can find the link to download that here!

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Learn to Love Yourself: The Four Components of Self-Love

“Learn to love yourself!” Wonderful and inspiring words, but certainly can sometimes be a challenge to do, right? Well, the way I have come to see it in recent years, if you want to feel more self-love, It can really help if you feel positively about yourself in the following four areas:

  • Self-liking;
  • Self-respect;
  • Self-enjoyment; and
  • Self-comfort.

Let’s dive deeper into each one of those components.

Self-Liking

Self-liking describes the positive, likable personality traits and qualities you see yourself as having.  These could be anything from intelligent, to outgoing, ambitious, kind, a good listener, devoted, energetic, or funny. Self-liking expresses the things you are good at and the good that others may see in you as well.

Self-Respect

Self-respect describes anything you feel you are accomplishing in your life—most certainly including the “little things” you do each day that are worthy of giving yourself a little bit of credit or acknowledgment for.  These can include: making the effort, self control over a self-defeating habit, an act of kindness, something that took some creativity, meeting a goal you had set, and—last but not least—an act of courage.

Self-Enjoyment

Self-enjoyment describes anything you do that allows you to entertain and enjoy yourself.  It could be through watching a funny show, writing something creative, making people laugh or telling an entertaining story, or being out in nature.

Self-Comfort

Self-comfort encompasses anything you do to compassionately comfort and soothe yourself when you are emotionally (or physically) hurting.  This can include things like taking a warm bath, listening to peaceful music or a meditation recording, reading something comforting or reassuring, making a list of what you like and respect about yourself, or—certainly not for everyone, but in my view so worth trying at least once —taking some kind of a furry stuffed animal or person (or even a pillow), holding it in your arms, imagining that it is you, and saying the kind of comforting and reassuring things you would say to a real live person you know who is hurting. 

In other words, in a nutshell, the clearer you can become that there are things you like about yourself, you respect about yourself, you enjoy doing in your own company, and you do to effectively comfort yourself, the more you will know your self-love is where you want it to be. But if you feel you fall short in any of these four areas, at least this can help you identify what you want to work on to get your self-love to that loving place. And if I may just add, a place I am grateful for and is a better place than it ever has been.

Feel like sharing where YOU are on the self-love front?  Leave a comment, or visit my Instagram or Facebook page for more on this subject!

inner bully

Feel Like You Are Never Good Enough? Learn My Secrets To Challenging Your Inner Bully [Because I’ve Done It, Too]


Are you challenged by the belief that you are “never good enough?” Well, my friends, I guarantee you: been there, done that myself, for enough decades of my life!

Only in maybe the past 5 years have I become clear that my—I call it, and wrote a book on it—“inner bully” had kept me puffing away on a “never good enough” emotional treadmill. Meanwhile, in the process of trying so hard to see myself as “good enough”—better yet, good, much less very good—I was very successfully disregarding my actual successes in my life, be they, e.g., professionally, academically, or inter-personally.

Photo by Inzmam Khan on Pexels.com

Ever wonder how the “never good enough” (NGE) bully takes control of your thinking? Or in other words, are you clear where this bully get its strength from? Maybe this is obvious, but just in case it isn’t: it gets its strength mainly from two things: 1) being negatively compared a lot to, e.g., your siblings or your friends; and 2) getting either lots of “yes/but” pseudo-compliments (e.g., “Yes you did well, BUT if you had worked harder you could’ve done better!”) or almost no compliments or praise at all. And as a little P.S. here, all it takes to feel NGE is to have had one parent be like this, even if the other parent did exactly the opposite, and gave you steady doses of praise, compliments, and encouragement!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So what do I recommend you practice doing to stand up to your NGE bully? First, in case you get caught up in this a lot (like I so often did), you need to stop comparing yourself to other people! Then (as I have posted previously) do something I make myself do and encourage my clients to do: just before bedtime, take a couple of moments to list at least one thing you did that day that falls in any of the following categories:

🔸an act of kindness;

🔸a goal met;

🔸worked hard at something important;

🔸something creative and/or fun;

🔸an act of courage.

Because as long as you are doing these kinds of things in your life, you are always better than “good enough”. In fact, you are actually a quite GOOD person, even a VERY good person. Time to stand up to your inner bully and start believing that, once and for all!

For more on standing up to your Inner Bully, join me for a FREE Expert Panel Discussion on March 12th at 2 pm; simply click below to register a spot and be a part of the conversation!

ANXIETY (AND FEAR) VERSUS PANIC ATTACKS

The purpose of this article is to distinguish between anxiety and panic attacks.

In thinking about how I wanted to present it though, I decided to add a third piece into the mix: fear. Let’s, in fact, start with fear versus anxiety. As with anxiety, fear is a feeling that every human being experiences, at one time or another. When fear or anxiety takes hold, we are all likely to experience symptoms like nervousness/jitteriness, racing and/or obsessive negative thoughts. Especially, “what-if” and worst-case-scenario thinking, impaired concentration, and to varying degrees, physical/bodily sensations like heart racing, shallow breathing, palms sweating, and tightness in the chest.

The key factor distinguishing fear from anxiety can be summed up as the likely rationality versus the likely irrationality of these sets of symptoms.
On the fear front, the symptoms listed above are triggered by the anticipation of what could be an actual danger or threat to physical or emotional safety. Examples include undergoing tests for a possibly cancerous lump in your breast, walking down a dark street and seeing a suspicious stranger walking toward you, being somewhere where you suddenly hear gunshots, or finding out that there are going to be a significant number of job layoffs at your place of employment in the very near future. All of these situations involve an anticipated worrisome event that has a real possibility of actually occurring, and therefore, the symptoms are rational.

In contrast, when the symptoms surround anticipation of an event that is not likely to happen (not an impossibility, but an unlikelihood), in this framework we are talking the irrationality of anxiety rather than the rationality of fear. Examples include: worrying that you are going to do poorly on an important exam when you are in fact an intelligent person who studied hard for the exam, feeling mild turbulence while on a plane yet worrying deeply that the plane nonetheless is going to crash at any moment, convincing yourself that your significant other is about to reject you in spite of all of your evidence to the contrary, and worrying that you are going to lose your job when you have been repeatedly reassured that you are performing very well and are important to the company you work for.

Now we move to panic attacks.

Simply stated, panic is the extreme of what can be either fear or anxiety. During a panic attack, all of the symptoms listed above can become so overwhelming that you can feel immobilized and frozen in place. Accompanying this can be the extremely disconcerting thought that you are “going crazy” or having a heart attack. A panic attack can vary in terms of its duration: it might subside in less than 30 seconds, or unfortunately, it may continue for many minutes or longer. The longer it lasts, the longer it will take to return to a normal level of functioning. In a state of anxiety or fear in contrast, as distressing as these feelings may be, chances are you will still be able to function sufficiently enough to not become overwhelmed and immobilized.

Last but not least, I want to emphasize that whether we are talking about fear, anxiety, or panic, what all of these feelings share in common is that they should never be judged as signs of abnormality or weakness. Instead, they all reflect a state of being HUMAN. They’re disturbing and very stressful feelings yes, but human nonetheless.

You can read further about how self-sabotage can actually trigger anxiety if not panic at times in my book, “Your Self-Sabotaging Inner Bully: Standing Up to It Once and For All!”

I look forward to connecting with you!

– Sid

On Anxiety Disorder

ANXIETY DISORDER: SUB-CATEGORIES

Many millions of people suffer from clinical anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety occurs in an extremely intense form–called a panic attack, and sometimes in an ongoing intermittent manner–called generalized anxiety. What these share in common is the personal and emotional distress they can cause you, in the short run and very possibly in the long run as well.

Suffering from either of these two types of anxiety disorder can make life less fun. You can end up worrying if not virtually obsessing about when your next episode may occur. This is especially true if during the time the anxiety hits you, it becomes much tougher to concentrate clearly, feel socially at ease, make good decisions, and generally feel free enough to laugh and enjoy yourself. Or to put this a bit differently, when you are in the throes of some significant if not overwhelming amount of anxiety, you can feel temporarily powerless at best, and outright paralyzed at worst!

What I will do now is expand upon the two categories presented above, and then add two more: phobias and post-traumatic-stress induced.

PANIC ATTACKS

For any of you who suffer from–or in the past suffered from–panic attacks, you know how terribly upsetting it is to be in its clutches. Your heart pounds, your hands sweat, your stomach churns, your breathing gets shallow, and you can feel frozen to the spot. As for your mind: it in all likelihood will go heavily into obsessing that you are having a heart attack, or going crazy, or both. If you are lucky–relatively speaking–the attack will subside quickly. But if you are not so lucky, it can last for minutes, if not many minutes. Which can actually feel like it’s hours more than minutes!

GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER

Diagnostically speaking, generalized anxiety disorder is the clinical condition in which you can best be described colloquially as a “real worrier.” Often enough feeling jittery and nervous, you may nonetheless be able to overall go about your life in a reasonably well-functioning manner. But you still can expect to experience some very anxiety-filled moments on a good day, and many of those moments on a bad day, when all you can think about is any person or situation that has you worried and filled with anxiety.

PHOBIAS

As you may know, a phobia is an anxiety condition in which your often intense anxiety is connected to a specific object or situation. Examples of phobias you may be personally familiar with or have heard about include public speaking, small spaces, flying, snakes or spiders, needle injections, large dogs, or heights. The key piece about phobias is that the anxiety they trigger can be as intense as in a panic attack. Yet the trigger for these attacks may not be as clear as in the case of a phobia, and therefore cannot be outright avoided as is the case with phobic objects or situations.

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS (PTS) INDUCED

In distinguishing PTS-induced intense anxiety from phobias and panic attacks, the resulting anxiety in the former case reflects the fact that sufferer has already experienced a major life trauma. Examples of these include being in war, or being the victim of any of the following: a natural disaster, a violent crime, an animal bite, a car or plane crash, or a significant medical mistake. In the case of phobias in contrast, the sufferer typically develops strong anxiety in ANTICIPATION of having a distressing experience in the presence of the phobic object, but in most instances without actually HAVING HAD that experience. In the case of panic attacks, these typically do not involve a previous major life trauma–although paradoxically it can sure feel like having one of these attacks is a trauma itself!

TREATMENT OPTIONS: SELF-HELP AND PROFESSIONAL

Managing or controlling any of these categories of anxiety disorders can be–as you may well know–a whole lot easier said than done. I therefore recommend you pursue both self-help tools as well as professional interventions in your efforts to tackle your particular type of anxiety problem. On the self-help front, you should consider, e.g., mindful meditation of some type, physical exercise, reassuring self-talk, diversionary/distracting activity, and prayer. On the professional intervention front, you can pursue counseling or psychotherapy, and possibly medication.

One last point. Many years ago, I published an article in a national magazine, entitled “Anxiety Attacks Can Be Guilt Attacks.” Especially if your anxiety problem is mainly of the generalized/worrying type, and whether it’s obvious to you or not, you can figure at least part of your problem is significant unresolved GUILT. So I highly recommend you face that likelihood, and get that guilt resolved to the best of your ability as part of your anxiety-reduction plan.

On Anger Management

Almost everyone has heard the term anger management. Some of you may have even seen the comical version of the term anger management, i.e., the movie by that name, starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler. For the very most part though, need I say there isn’t much room in real life for thinking about it in humorous terms.

In addressing the subject of anger management, let me first focus on the word anger, or a little more specifically, “angry.” The key here is that for many people, hearing someone sound and look angry implies that that person is being judged as being out of control (i.e., “flying off the handle” or “flipping out”). Yet for other people, the word angry may NOT imply being out of control. Instead, it may imply being frustrated or irritated–feelings which even if strong are usually perceived as the person still being in control of themselves. There also are many instances in which a person is perceived by others as being out of control–i.e., angry–yet NOT out of control in the eyes of the “angry” person himself/herself. And when this becomes a pattern of behavior, others may perceive that person as having an “anger management” problem, but the person himself/herself may not.

One postscript here. I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to someone having a pattern of launching into full-blown RAGE episodes, even that person will have to acknowledge that that clearly reflects a major problem they have controlling their anger!

Psychological Factors Surrounding An Anger Management Problem

People with an anger management problem are likely to have that problem for a variety of possible psychological reasons. Let me break these reasons down into 4 main categories: 1) feelings of betrayal, injustice, and entitlement; 2) parental role-modeling; 3) “masking” of vulnerability; and 4) feeling empowered.

1) Feelings of betrayal, injustice, and entitlement–The definition of betrayal that I use in my work (as well as in my personal life) is: any significant feeling of letdown, by someone important to you, based on what you believed you had the right to believe they would never do to you. Connecting this to problems with getting a handle on anger, it’s safe to say that the more someone feels either one huge betrayal or a series of betrayals that add up to a huge one, the more that person is likely to develop a storehouse of anger. This especially applies, I will add, to the feeling of betrayal being triggered by severe abuse, severe neglect, or outright abandonment. The sense of injustice that typically accompanies deep feelings of betrayal, combined with a strong sense of entitlement that the injustice be undone or eliminated only adds to the size–not to mention persistence – of that storehouse.

2) Parental role-modeling–Simply stated, a person is much more to develop an anger management problem if they had at least one parent who presented with this problem themselves.

3) “Masking” of vulnerability–While I see this issue as generally applying to men more than women, there certainly are exceptions on both sides of the gender coin. The basic point here is: suppose someone is having difficulty dealing with strong vulnerable feelings like, e.g., fear or anxiety, guilt, hurt, or sadness. The more that person judges themselves as “weak” for having much less showing these feelings, the more automatically if not reflexively he/she may display strong anger. This display of anger then “masks” those weak–i.e, vulnerable–feelings.

4) Feeling empowered–Many people who have an anger management problem, whether they acknowledge it or not, experience a surge of feeling powerful when they are angry. This surge can behaviorally manifest in what could be seen or felt stereotypically as “macho” behavior or “attack mode.” In contrast, and going back to the “masking” concept, when someone is feeling any of the vulnerable feelings listed above to a strong if not overwhelming degree, accompanying that negative self-judgment of “weakness” can be the opposite of feeling powerful, i.e., feeling powerLESS (consciously or subconsciously).

Brain Physiology And The “Highjacking” Phenomenon

To help you gain a further understanding of why impaired anger management is such a complicated syndrome, we must also look inside the brain. To keep this as understandable as possible, there are two main structures in the brain that have a great deal of bearing on anger management. The first structure is called the AMYGDALA (a-mig-duh-luh). This is the part of our brain that is centrally involved in the universal “fight/flight” response, where “flight” refers to fear or anxiety and “fight” refers to anger and aggression. In brief, when someone is stressed and resultingly develops a good deal of agitation inside, the amygdala actively fires away. If the intensity of the agitation quickly becomes intense, the amygdala can quickly become not just reactive but, more problematically, HYPERreactive. If the stressor triggering hyperactivity in the amygdala is fear-related, the person will likely develop a very high level of fear or anxiety. If on the other hand the trigger is anger-related, then the person is likely to become intensely angry.

The other key structure in the brain involved in anger management is known as the PREFRONTAL CORTEX (PFC). This is the crucial structure in the brain that is the seat of rational and logical thinking, including good decision-making, concentration and attention, and impulse control. Connecting this to anger (as well as fear too), the brain-based physiological general rule of thumb here is: the more the person’s PFC is functioning at a normal–i.e., non-stressed/agitated–level, the more controlled and better managed will that person’s anger be in general.

Now let’s tie these two structures of the brain together as it relates to anger management problems. In a nutshell, when some stressful/agitating situation triggers significant hyperactivity in the amygdala, the process known as “high-jacking” occurs. Specifically, the amygdala essentially overtakes–i.e., high-jacks–the PFC, resulting in significant impairment in the person’s ability to think clearly, concentrate adequately, and control their self-defeating impulses. In anger management terms, this means that when the amygdala is triggered to become very hyperactive, and the PFC’s functioning is therefore limited, anger takes control of the person. Which in the extreme–such as in a state of pure rage–creates the proverbial “zero to 60” effect. The overall moral of the story here being: this high-jacking process in the brain does not excuse a person with an anger management problem, but it most certainly helps EXPLAIN the problem.

Strategies For Anger Management

Given all that’s spelled out above on the psychology and brain-based physiology of anger management, I hope you are clear–maybe clearer than you’ve ever been–just how much easier said than done it is to achieve. And yet: whether you’ve ever really looked at it this way or not, in the end there are two extremely important reasons to work on anger management. The first reason is an individual one: self-respect. Simply stated–and feelings of empowerment and masked vulnerability notwithstanding– if you let intense anger take control of you, you cannot possibly respect yourself for your pattern of “flipping out” and “flying off the handle.” But just like with addiction, and to put it bluntly, who the heck ever thinks about self-respect when you’re in the middle of being very angry or indulging in an addictive substance! Yet the psychological fact of life is: a pattern of a significant loss of self-control guarantees an accompanying loss of self-respect. And that’s, let me reiterate, whether you ever consciously think about that or not.

The second reason to work on anger management has to do with being challenged or confronted by significant others about their feeling that your problem controlling anger is in there eyes sabotaging your relationship with them. If that is their experience and perception, and your relationship with them truly matters to you, then I’d say it’s advisable you get to work on your problem for this reason too!

On that note, presented below is a “menu” of strategies I recommend for working on anger management. Like a real menu, you can choose the same item each time, or change around if you feel trying a different item would be better for you. Let me preface this menu though by saying that no matter which items on the menu you choose to try to help yourself manage your anger better, it is absolutely essential that you practice them as often as possible. Otherwise, you must face the music as they say: if you don’t practice them, there is virtually no chance that you will make any progress on this troubling–and trouble-MAKING–front.

The menu I recommend for anger management includes the following:

–mindful meditation (especially focusing on breathing, tension in the body, and visual imagery; more spiritual pursuit of some type can also be a meditative option )

–“get physical” (e.g., walking or more strenuous exercise, gardening, or something cathartic like pillow-pounding)

–“get vocal” (e.g., call a friend, or: go in the car, don’t drive anywhere, and yell your heart out)

–“get your journal” (emotional venting in written form)

–“get musical” (listen to whatever type of music you believe can help you reduce your agitation)

–“get perspective” (basically, force yourself to remember that you are allowing your anger to control you in a way that can be sabotaging to your self-respect and also potentially to the relationship with someone important to you; that perspective can leave you still feeling angry yes, but able to express it in a more reasonable and controlled manner)

–“get de-stressed” (do the best you can to cut down on the overall stress in your life)

Last but not least, given the complexity of the problem of agitation management and the big challenge it therefore presents, I highly encourage you to give yourself a big pat on the back each and every time you do something to keep your anger to a manageable and controlled level!