What do you think of when I say the term “self-image?”
For those who are not living with the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, it means the way they look in the mirror or how they see themselves inside.
However, for those of us living with the diagnosis of DID, things are quite different. For that matter, the way people who have lives that are impacted by mental health issues share the fact they live in the trap of a skewed self-image.
I want to examine with you today what I am talking about and how it may be time for all to climb out of our self-imposed dark prisons to release us into the light.
Building Our Prison Cells
Folks like us tend to build prison cells for ourselves to fit how we think we and the world should see and look at us. One bar at a time we build the bars of our cells from self-pity, anger, feelings of entitlement and other negatively impactful cognitive processes.
Self-pity is normally the first of the bars to go up. I’m not talking about healthy feelings that promote self-care and healing, but about those that make us feel entitled, separated, special, and to be pitied.
Anger is a huge bar that occludes our ability to see ourselves in today. Instead, anger traps us into ruminating on revenge or how we are not responsible for our actions because of what “they” did to us.
Entitlement is an almost unbeatable and yet inevitable emotional response to childhood trauma. However, feeling entitled corners us into not taking responsibility for our own lives and isolates us because people simply do not like having their good will being abused.
All the above are encapsulated in “stinking thinking”, a term used by people in recovery from addictions in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups to describe thought processes that are prison cells.
Avoiding the Traps
There is a line in Frank Herbert’s book Dune that I remember well; “Knowing that a trap exists is the first step in avoiding it.” I agree, because truly if you want to keep from falling into the trap of “stinking thinking” the first step is knowing it is there.
However, if you are like me, you may have to discover for yourself the meaning of those words. I can yell and cajole about the traps I’ve mentioned in this article for days at you face-to-face, but sometimes you must feel the pain of the prison before you plan your escape.
If you can hear me, then I have some helpful information to maybe help you avoid the pitfalls mentioned above that accompany healing from childhood trauma.
Avoiding the Trap of Self-Pity. Like I said, self-pity can be helpful if you are using it to help yourself heal and move ahead. However, too often it becomes a detrimental force to healing. The only way to stay ahead of this self-defeating thought process is to stay in the now and realize how much you do have instead of focusing only on what you don’t.
You can make a grateful diary or journal and write every morning the things you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but getting yourself a pretty notebook and making it a special possession will help.
It’s hard to be trapped in self-pity when you are grateful.
Avoiding the Trap of Anger. First, before I begin, let me say you have every reason to be angry. The people who hurt you so long ago are indeed responsible for your need to struggle for your life today.
However, there comes a day when letting go of that anger is the best and most healing thing you can do for yourself. If you don’t, anger will limit your ability to heal and those who hurt you will remain in firm control of your present and your future.
To let go of anger, focus on how you can take what they did to you and ways you can take it and mold it to something positive.
In my case, I write articles like this one to help others and I cannot express how powerful that is to my life.
Avoiding the Trap of Feeling Entitled. Feeling entitlement is perhaps one of the most destructive forces anyone can have who is healing from childhood trauma.
You see if you are entitled you to feel you cannot possibly be responsible for your own actions. Why, shouldn’t all the people around you do your thinking, pay your bills, and make excuses for your bad behavior? Why should you pay for anything when no one stopped what happened?
I know this thinking, I did it myself. However, real freedom only comes when you realize that no one OWES you anything. Instead, you owe it to yourself to take the power back from your abusers and live the best life you possibly can.
The best revenge, as they say, is to live well.
I realize that this piece may have stepped on a few holy cows, but my intention was to make you think. If causing anger accomplishes that, then I’m fine with it.
Moving past “stinking thinking” takes more than just changing your thinking. It takes guts, determination, and a sense of wanting something more for oneself to accomplish. I hope I have sparked some of this in you today.
“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.” ~ C. JoyBell C