Finding Your New Normal

Many of us grew up in unhealthy environments. For some, it was being bullied in school, while for others it was growing up in homes where parents, although they tried their best, passed their own traumas on to us. Perhaps we were rewarded for being self-sacrificing, or received harsh critique, or worse, we were abused. The environment we grew up in was what we saw as normal because it was our normal, the typical day-to-day lived experience within our communities, homes, and families. The normal we grow up in becomes our expectation of how the world functions. However, the world does not conform to that normal, we simply internalize and carry it inside of us and into the world.

When we carry these unresolved traumas we are often unaware of them, after all, they are our normal. But we manifest those traumas by recreating them. For those of us raised to be self-sacrificing, we expect the world to reward us for our behavior only to be disappointed when there is no reward waiting for us. For those of us raised to be perfect, we strive to be and do the best, only to be harassed by our own internal critic that nothing is ever good enough. For those of us raised with abuse, we find ourselves in relationships where we become abused or abuser.

The foundation of our adult personalities are built upon the bones of our childhood traumas.

These are not conscious choices we make for how to live our lives, they are the manifestation of old wounds that need healing. And without healing, the foundation of our adult personalities are built upon the bones of our childhood traumas. But there is hope for healing and growth.

Having a support network in place is crucial to any healing, and finding a therapist that can support and guide us through this difficult process can help us turn our unhealthy coping into healthy processing.

The first step towards healing is realizing your experiences were not normal. This is often very difficult, as many of the emotions that we have been denying come to the surface, along with the disappointment and hurt of feeling as though our caretakers failed us. We may be overwhelmed with anger and sadness as we realize our worldview has not only been false, but has been actively sabotaging our happiness.

Once we make this realization we will be inundated with intense and complex emotions. Processing the anger, sadness, betrayal, and grief can be overwhelming. It is important to allow these feelings to arise naturally and in their own time. Journaling, talk therapy, and mindfulness practices can help us acknowledge and make sense of these emotions.

The next step is to see how our childhood traumas have been repeated through our lives. We all tend to gravitate towards the familiar, and when our normal is unhealthy we choose to recreate those unhealthy relationships or patterns. We choose what we know, even when what we know is bad for us (this does not excuse those that have harmed us). We recreate and choose what we know until we know better. Identifying the unhealthy patterns of our past can help us avoid them in the future.

The final step is creating a new normal. This involves consciously choosing behaviors, relationships, and coping strategies that are healthy and supportive. It’s about rewriting the script of our lives, making deliberate choices that align with who we want to be rather than who our traumas have conditioned us to be.

Creating a new normal also means learning to set and respect boundaries, both in our personal and professional lives. It requires us to develop self-awareness and to regularly check in with ourselves: Are we falling back into old patterns? Are we treating ourselves with kindness and compassion? Are we engaging in relationships that are mutually respectful and fulfilling?

It’s also about learning to trust again, trust in ourselves, in others, and in the process of life. This can be one of the most challenging aspects of healing as childhood trauma often involves betrayal of trust. Rebuilding this trust is a slow process and requires patience. Part of this journey may bring up the question of forgiveness. It’s crucial to understand that you don’t have to forgive anyone to heal from your trauma. True healing focuses on your well-being and peace of mind. Whether or not you choose to forgive is a deeply personal decision and one that only you can make. For some, forgiveness is a path to emotional release, but for others, choosing not to forgive is a valid and healthy boundary that acknowledges and honors feelings of hurt and betrayal.

You don’t have to forgive anyone to heal from your trauma.

Throughout this process, it is vital to remember that healing is not linear. There will be setbacks and challenges, but each step forward, no matter how small, is a step towards a healthier, happier self. While our traumas may have happened in an instant, we spent many years reinforcing and repeating the narrative, and so the path to healing will take time and effort. But the journey will ultimately be one of rediscovering ourself, of peeling back the layers of trauma to reveal the strength and resilience that was there all along.

The journey to healing from childhood trauma is deeply personal and unique to each individual. But with the right support, tools, and self-compassion, it is possible to create a new normal – one that is defined by health, happiness, and fulfillment.

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