Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Deanna Hutchison of Recovering Women Wealth.
For most of my life, my headspace has been filled with negative self-talk and lies. The tapes that would play over and over in my head went something like this:
- You’ll never be good enough.
- Why can’t you be perfect?
- You are going to mess things up.
- You are worthless and unworthy.
- When will you grow up and learn?
- No one likes you.
- He thinks you’re stupid.
It was a heavy burden to carry. Worse yet, I could go on and on.
Growing up, my emotional security was scarce and my self-hatred was plentiful.
As I write these words, I realize how blessed I am that I almost don’t recognize that girl anymore. The road I’ve taken to trade in that garment of heaviness for one of joy and praise has been the most important journey of my life.
First Things First
As the brain fog of addiction started to lift in early sobriety, I made a vow to unearth the roots of what led me here.
How did I end up to be a full blown addict in my 30’s? Why did I allow myself to be treated so harshly by men? And where did that little girl go who had a big ‘ol bucket full of dreams? I didn’t know, but I would do whatever it took to find out.
Unfortunately, one is not typically willing to embark on such a soul-searching journey unless there has been deep pain. My bottom was a very dark and lonely place. At the end of my rope I had a vision and was faced with the stark reality that my choices were:
I clung to the only possible hope I had and fell to my knees.
Early sobriety was challenging and full of confusion and depression. Fortunately, I put myself in places to learn that it could also be full of hope.
As I heard story after story of people who found joy in recovery, I started to believe it could be true for me as well.
Create a List
I knew I had deep work to do to discover what led me here. I knew it would stem back to painful memories and wounds of my past. But it became very clear that I would not become free of the Groundhog Day of my life until I was able to face that past. I had to learn to forgive, see my part, make amends, and release resentments.
I needed to declutter my mind of those old familiar tapes which were not serving me.
Taking a fearless and searching moral inventory of one’s life is an exercise in many recovery programs. However, anyone can do it. The basic premise is to identify all of the people who have hurt you in some fashion.
Then you run each person or scenario through the following questions:
- How were you hurt?
- What area of your life was affected?
- What was your part and/or the role you played? (not that you deserved what happened to you, but how did you develop unhealthy coping skills?)
- Name some character defects you displayed.
- What were the lies you believed in the process?
I can guarantee, if you do this exercise for every single person you’ve ever had resentment against, a pattern will emerge.
It did for me and I didn’t like what I saw.
Identifying the Root
Once I could see how I often reacted out of self-pity, anger, or rage, I could see how I always ended up in the same types of relationships. I was playing out the same drama/trauma that scarred me as a little girl.
It’s not that I had a horrible childhood. In many ways, it was a great childhood but my family had some dysfunction, not unlike many other families—perhaps you can relate.
My relationship with my father was volatile growing up. He was often stressed and had a temper and many times I was on the receiving end of that temper. While I craved the love and affection of my father, I rarely got it. And because I rarely got it, I began to rebuke it and rebel on the occasions I did receive it.
I looked for my self-worth in a whole host of things outside of myself which ultimately led me to drinking, drugging, and relationships with men similar to my father.
What was the real issue? For me, I needed the love of a father.
Identifying the Wounds of Our Past
If I was going to declutter my mind of negative self-talk and lies, identifying the wounds of my past was an essential step. It is for all of us.
If we don’t identify ways in our past where we developed unhealthy coping skills, find the courage to heal and forgive, and learn new coping mechanisms, we all can be subject to reacting out of the wounds of our past.
A good identifier can be if something or someone triggers a big emotion in you, you might want to step back and ask yourself several questions:
- Does this emotion feel familiar?
- Is there anyone from your formative years who also incited this emotion? If yes, who and in what situations?
I’ve learned that male authority figures can trigger wounds of my past stemming back to my relationship with my dad. As I learned from two phenomenal authors, Kay and Milan Yerkovich, we all have historical data from which we react. It’s what we do with it that can set us apart.
This final step is crucial because we can all be triggered.
Let’s take one of my former styles as an example. In the past, when there was yelling and/or a conflict, I would run to my room and hide. I’d bury my head in my pillow and cry.
I now know that conflict can cause me to want to take flight. One of my current strategies is to stay and remind myself of what I can control and not control. I have learned for me, by centering myself through prayer in the midst of the conflict, my fear dissipates. It has become my most important strategy. Yours may be different.
Of course, there is an appropriate time to walk away from conflict, but there are also times when it’s important to stay.
When you premeditate strategies for your typical emotional reactions, you begin to create new patterns in your life.
The more you do this, the more the resentments of your past will melt away. Furthermore, you’ll stop attracting new ones.
I’ve learned that my earthly father could only give me what he had received. As a women of faith, I have a heavenly Father whose love is boundless. And through this faith, I’ve found the courage to form a healthy relationship with my dad.
Your exact journey may be different than mine, but this is the process that helped me declutter my mind of negativity:
- Create a list.
- Identify the root.
- Develop strategies.
The work I mentioned is what has allowed me to embrace a minimalist mindset. I’m able to go forward into situations with less baggage.
My spirit is open and teachable. Yours can be too.
Deanna Broaddus recently celebrated 10 years of sobriety. She speaks publicly about her testimony, helps women in recovery, and writes at her blog, Recovering Women Wealth. You can also find her on Instagram.