What would you like next year to hold for you? Have you thought of where you would like to be next time this year? Have you set your New Year’s resolutions to help you meet those goals?
Maybe you’re one who has given up on New Year’s resolutions! Very understandable!
Yet, you have this desire to heal from your past, change your life and relationship patterns, and get your health in a better place! You have set goals in the past, haven’t followed through, and your solution may have been to stop setting New Year’s resolutions.
When you have trauma and survival response wired into your nervous system and health, it can be so difficult to set goals and follow through, because your patterns or health get in the way.
I set a goal once a year to participate in the next year’s big bicycle race. I was committed and I had a training schedule. I even shared my goal with other people to keep me accountable, and did everything that “successful” people do to meet their goals.
However, my body didn’t cooperate. Despite my deep commitment to my goal, I had fatigue episodes that made it difficult to just get through the day. I couldn’t even go on my usual morning walks, let alone do an aggressive bike training ride!
This was the end of my goal setting, because I realized that as long as I was still experiencing the chronic effects of trauma on my mood and health, the trauma would do as it pleased, and it seemed to always show up in my health, life, or relationships.
For a moment, and certainly many times in my life before, I have resigned to what seemed like “fate.” I felt powerless against life and I felt that trying was futile, because I couldn’t change how things were going to turn out.
It can be a common feeling among those with histories of trauma to feel a degree of helplessness against life.
You have more choices in the matter than you think! When it comes to healing from trauma, it isn’t the New Year’s Resolution that makes the healing happen, but the attitude of extreme ownership of your healing that changes the game.
7 years ago was the turning point for my life and the beginning of my healing from the effects that early trauma had left on my life. It was a tough Christmas for me and I was changing.
This was the year that, out of one of my darkest times, I had been introduced to the idea that on some subconscious level, I could chose and create the situations in my life. Sitting with that thought on Christmas 2010 was painful, but proved life-changing.
Unsuccessful Resolutions for Trauma
The joke goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” The same can hold true for trauma! Trauma probably laughs at these kinds of goals, because it knows that it’s silliness to try and make something happen over which you really have no control.
Not only do we really have no real control over creating future events or making them happen by a certain day, but also we are setting ourselves up for just more disappointment in ourselves.
While others without trauma histories may able to respond with failed New Year’s Resolutions with a chuckle knowing it wasn’t that important, internally we respond to this as if this were again a sign of our worth. We can respond more with depression, anger, and that voice comes up even louder saying “See, we told you. Who do you think you are? You’ll never do or be deserving of good things.”
In healing from trauma, we cannot put ourselves in these kinds of situations anymore! Reinforcing these negative beliefs and patterns isn’t going to help us heal and change!
Our bodies continue to internalize these beliefs and patterns, while they continue in their course of inflammation and later disease.
Knowing how to approach New Year’s Resolutions and goals are thus, really important when your on your journey in healing from trauma!
Successful New Year’s Resolutions
If successful New Year’s Resolutions for those who are healing from or parenting a child with history of trauma are not necessarily the ones that are goals of specific events on a time schedule, what do we do?
There are times when we need specific goals, but it’s important that they’re things we truly have control over.
Especially for individuals with histories of trauma, the most successful New Year’s Resolutions aren’t specific accomplishments by a certain date, but a goal to have a changed attitude.
Changing our attitude is something we do have control over, so we have the assurance that we can be successful!
Having a different attitude also allows for our bodies to change its biology and heal on a level we may not even feel.
Attitudes to Adopt as New Year’s Resolutions to Heal From Trauma
1. I want to be the type of person who can rise above the past and its effects on my life and health:
One attitude change that is most helpful in recovering from past trauma is to set our eyes on what we want rather than what we don’t want. If I look to what I want to become, in time, I will become that. If I focus on what I hate about myself or my life, I just keep that thing in my life. This is also known as the law of concentration, or that what we focus on is what grows.
So, in starting the journey of healing, it’s just as important to know my current location, as it is to know my destination. I acknowledge and accept where I am and the extent of trauma on my core beliefs, actions, and health, then I focus on where I want to be in each of those areas.
My first statement started pretty general and I simply wrote it down in my journal: “I want to be the type of person who can rise above the past and its effects on my life and health”
Once I put this idea into thought and writing, this attitude started to come up more in thoughts and be more specific to situations.
In response to a disappointment, I found myself saying “I want to be the type of person who can let this go.” I noticed myself able to let it go, stop the obsessive thoughts of how I could still make things happen, and get back to activities I enjoyed.
In response to a good friendship falling apart, “I want to be the type of person who can feel the sadness and properly grieve this loss without shutting down, isolating or numbing myself.”
When facing a negotiating conversation about my job, “I want to be the type of person who can communicate my needs in a healthy way.”
Now it’s your turn! What type of person would you like to grow into next year?
2. I will take extreme ownership of my life and look for my part in everything:
When I was first introduced to this attitude, I was offended! What do you mean I chose this? No, this wasn’t my fault! I hadn’t chosen any of this! Life had happened to me! I had been dealt a bad set of cards in life.
Gradually, I became more open and then started to embrace this perspective of extreme ownership of my life. That is when things started to change in my life.
No longer did I allow myself to see circumstances as “luck.” No longer could I say “As luck would have it, such and such happened again!”
I read as much as I could find on this topic to find the healthy balance between assuming blame and responsibility that wasn’t mine and yet seeing and taking ownership for my part. These paragraphs in the Chapter on Choosing Happiness from the Al-Anon Family Groups Book Choices, are heavily underlined!
“We put aside the illusion that we have done no wrong. We recognize that we’ve played a role in creating our current life situation. We let go of blaming people or circumstances for all of our troubles.”
“We cease to be a victim of life when we begin to take responsibility for what we have done and admit to ourselves the exact nature of our wrongs. We acknowledge our faults in order to bring energy and commitment to our resolve to change our lives for the better.”
Once I took extreme ownership for my life and saw myself as in some way responsible for everything, it was both overwhelming and relieving.
Extreme ownership was overwhelming because it meant I was part of the problem. It shifted the core belief from I am undeserving and unlovable to I do things that allow people and situations into my life that tell me I am undeserving and unlovable.
So, on the flip side, this shift of focus from my inherent worth to my actions was a relief!
If I get laid off from my job, I look at what my choices and actions have been to make myself not a good fit for the job or team.
If I get hurt, I look at what my choices and actions have been to put myself in that situation to be hurt.
Extreme ownership of my life and situation means that I can do something about it. A difficult life was not my fate in life and I could choose differently moving forward.
This leads directly into the next change of attitude that impacted my life.
3. I am willing to change and grow:
I keep a pocket card on my desk that has a beautiful design and reminds me that “I am willing to change and grow.”
Extreme ownership of my choices and actions without the ability to change would be depressing!
Whatever my part has been in my situation and on-going effects of trauma in my life, health and relationships, I am willing to change and grow!
Are my choices and actions no longer truly serving me but rather maybe recycling parts of my past? If I am, there’s no judgement, but I’ll just get to decide if this is what I want to continue. No, I am willing to change and grow make choices and do actions that will have different outcomes for me.
Having a willingness to change and grow gives me hope for a better tomorrow, because as I grow I will make different choices and have a better future than I have in the past.
Changing my attitude to that of willingness to change and grow also helps me not be as scared of change, as it can be for many people with histories of trauma.
The next supercharged change of attitude would be to embrace change, but my first step in changing my perspective on change was to at least be willing!
4. I will change my self-talk from “should” to “could:”
Part of my change and growth was changing my self-talk.
You know that voice that berates you long after you made a mistake or fell short of what you had wanted to do! It seems to continue until you feel chastised and disciplined, and put back in your place.
Many times, that voice in my head would start with the words “I should have.”
It is a very different meaning and tone when I instead tell myself “I could have.”
When I decided to change my self-talk from should to could, the voice didn’t automatically stop saying “should!” That voice has been so strong for so long, it happened gradually.
Knowing it wouldn’t be something I could change right away, I gave myself permission to just rephrase the sentence when I caught myself using the word should. That way, I wasn’t berating myself for still using the word “should!”
The difference that this change in attitude had in my life was drastic.
The pressure and shame were gone from my decisions as I allowed myself to look at my choices, actions, and consequences that came from them, and say, “I could have done this and the outcome might have been different. Next time, I will try that.”
What a change from the shame that comes with “I should have done that! What was I thinking?! I’m so stupid.”
A changed attitude has an effect on you that will last the rest of your life.
From my experience, I believe a changed attitude will have more influence on your healing from trauma than setting a specific goal to accomplish something by a certain time.
A changed attitude sets the compass in the right direction for healing that will know no bounds and allows the body to organize itself according to the changed attitude in its one time and way.
Yes, this does involve “trusting the process” to a large degree, and that can be scary for individuals with histories of trauma who feel they need to understand and control everything to feel ok.
What would your energy levels be like if you changed your self-talk from should to could?
What attitude changes could you set as New Year’s Resolutions that would be an expression of the person you want to be?
Al-Anon Family Groups (2008). Discovering Choices: Recovery in Relationships. Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc, Virginia Beach, VA.