Relationships can be hard. And painful. And devastating.
And beautiful, supporting, honoring, and loving.
What is the secret to avoiding the first and amplifying the second?
To answer that, we need to take a trip down memory lane. Consider some of your earliest memories of your parents or whoever your primary caregiver was. As young children, they model for us how to do and be, including who we perceive ourselves to be and how we show up in relationship with others.
In your earliest memories, did you consistently feel valued and honored? Seen as a person, rather than as a ‘child,’ as in less than an adult? Encouraged to express your needs, wants and emotions? Many may be near tears or laughter at the thought!
Most of us, more often, felt dismissed, minimized, as if we didn’t matter, as if we were too needy and that our needs and wants were ridiculous.
Feeling that we are less than has the potential to create trauma wounds, that unless we learn how to heal, will only fester as we progress through life. Trauma is the great disconnector. It is what happens when we perceive a break, of sorts, in a relationship. As young children, we try to attune (emotionally connect) with our parents or caregivers. If they are not able to attune with us in moments that feel important, we perceive a break. This can certainly be the result of straight up neglect or abuse. It can also happen when mom’s cooking dinner, on the phone and doesn’t realize we need her in that moment.
The degree to which a trauma wound festers will partially depend on how often we experience such disconnections. If it’s occasional, that inner wound may heal on its own and we’re none the wiser. However, if disconnection is a way of life, the wound only grows and deepens.
Experiencing such relational disconnection also has the potential to kick off feelings of toxic shame. There’s a very important difference between healthy shame – which tells us, ‘I made a mistake,’ and toxic shame – which tells us, ‘I am the mistake.’
So, here we are, moving through life feeling that we are the mistake, that we are bad, wrong somehow, that our needs and desires are stupid and that everyone else is more important.
There’s one more layer I want to clarify. That is boundaries.
Most of us struggle to set boundaries – either having none and opening ourselves to all sorts of mistreatment or having harsh and rigid boundaries that lock others out. As with most things, the sweet spot lies in the middle ground.
When we’re raised in families and in cultures that do not honor and teach healthy boundary setting, we’re kind of lost and tend to feel that we shouldn’t have any or that we need to set strong boundaries so that no one else hurts us again. And all that is subconscious, of course. Few people go around analyzing their boundaries in a conscious way.
Well, I’m telling you it’s time to analyze your boundaries in a conscious way! The only way we can heal the wounds that live in the shadows, is to shine a light in there so we can see what we’re dealing with.
I have a few resources that I’d like to leave you with to get started doing just that. Consider these three different flashlights to help light the path ahead so that you can heal your inner wounds, heal your relationships and begin building flourishing and loving relationships the likes of which will blow your mind.
1. Check out this fantastic article to learn more about the correlation between trauma, boundaries and relationships. Relationships and Trauma
2. Watch my free webinar to learn more about how toxic shame might be impacting you and your relationships. Stop Leading from Shame Webinar
3. Here is an exercise that I share with clients and students to help clarify and create healthy boundaries. Create Healthy Relationship Boundaries