What Were the RULES in Your Home – What Did It Take to Belong?
How Childhood Trauma Trains Us to Think in Unhelpful Ways.
I have spent my whole life organizing sh!t and learning to be strategic. In retrospect I can see that it all began as a way to cope with a childhood, that felt random and unpredictable. I don't know that that's particularly different for any of you, especially if you also had a home life filled with secret rules and a mysterious set of standards that needed to be followed in order to be accepted as part of the pack. If it wasn’t your home life – it may have been with your peers, your culture, your religion, or society in general.
Do you remember having to do something or say something to fit in – to make peace – to make sense in the confusion?
My mom understood that I had a talent - for helping her navigate my father's moods. So, I was often put in a position of bringing up “hot topics” with my dad - that she knew she could not navigate on her own. So, I learned to be very skillful in how I manipulated information so that my father would hear what he needed to hear but didn't feel attacked or threatened in any way.
You see my mother and father never actually developed a skill set for hearing each other.
This early experience and training had me convinced I could read minds – and control minds. I learned to be calculating by thinking through what I was going to say - very carefully - so that I could orchestrate the outcome my mom desired.
Fast forward to adulthood – I now BELIEVED I had this extraordinary skill set to organize my life, each and every situation, even how other people behaved or reacted. Isn’t it crazy how our experiences (and false conclusions) from early kidhood morph into this distortion?
Well - I lived as if that were true - for a really long time anyway – but it was only an illusion.
I really thought that how I processed and understood information - was the RIGHT way. And how I delivered that information - was always the BEST thing - for the situation at hand.
So, a tendency that was developed in kidhood - over a need to survive - or a need to make sense of things - compounded by encouragement from an adult (my mom) to use my ability to control another human being (my dad), eventually led me to believe that I could read peoples minds and knew what was best for them.
Can one be more arrogant than that? Nope, I don’t think so, I think I had that pretty much nailed down.
Now in fairness to me - and in fairness to any of you - who have a tendency towards being a controller - these behaviors and skillsets - develop very subtly overtime - and they’re based - on some level of survival.
It becomes a role - but it never feels like a role you choose. Instead, it feels like a role that was thrust upon you. And because that expectation - more often than not - comes from other adults – as children, we do everything in our power to become good at it. Because at some level we're hearing this is a requirement for me to survive in this situation – this is what I mean by secret rules and mysterious standards.
Now this all may feel a little muddy to you as you read - and that’s mostly because it is. We take in this hodgepodge of information - expectations - requirements - rules (written or unwritten) because we understand on some primal level that we need to navigate and survive whatever is presented.
There's lots about myself that I really appreciate - when it comes to organizing things. There are many people and many companies who have paid me well - to help them create a flow - to their life or their workplace. I love that I have that skill set. It helps me get a great deal of things done in my life. But when “getting stuff done” takes you away from flow it can quickly take you out of your heart and into your head.
Every behavior that is serving you - has the potential to do the exact opposite.
I'm going to dissect this - from my own personal experience - and hopefully you're going to be able to see a variation of this in your own life, or you're going to see it in others (and understand why it’s there). Whichever applies – you’ll be able to see yourself and others in a more enlightened way. After all - what we're trying to do here, is learn to awaken to the behaviors, tendencies and characteristics that are working against us as we more ourselves – to the life we came to live.
So about two years into my relationship with Kali - she went away to visit her family for a couple of weeks. We'd lived together long enough - for me to come to the conclusion - that she could really benefit from someone with my organizational skills. Remember – I’m still in my arrogant phase at this point. So out of the kindness of my heart - I chose to give her the gift of reorganizing her closet (so it made more sense to her). Oh, my goodness – thinking back to this time – still makes me cringe.
I pulled everything out of her dresser - everything out of her closet – everything off the floor – or from under the bed - and I organized her personal space - the way I would organize my personal space. Then I went to the workshop and I applied my enormous talents to that space as well.
I was so excited - to give her this gift - that I could hardly keep from telling her - when we talked on the phone.
I knew this would make her life infinitely better - than it currently was.
I picked her up at the airport and drove her home. And I waited for her to discover the miracle - I had left in our bedroom. Within a few minutes - she came into the kitchen - grabbed her coat - and went for a long walk. She said nothing.
I was both devastated and completely confused.
She finally came back and was able to articulate how incredibly invasive and disrespectful that felt to her. I was dumbfounded. I was actually operating from the perspective that my way - was the right way. The way I saw the world was the correct way to see the world. BUT - in what I thought was an incredibly generous and beautiful gift - was ME taking away HER autonomy.
It was the last thing I thought I was doing - but it was, what I was doing. I was trying to control her. But I had convinced myself I was trying to help her. You see - most of us - are operating from a place where we have learned to convince ourselves - that how we think - is better than how someone else thinks. Our way of doing things - makes more sense - then how they do things. It is complete and utter arrogance - wrapped up in a fairly passive aggressive way to control others’ behaviors and choices - so that we can feel better.
This was such an enormous epiphany for me - I cannot find the words. I had learned the behavior to navigate my childhood - and I took to it quite naturally - it wasn't like I spent time, trying to learn to be organized to learn to be strategic – it was simple fostered and encouraged by people I depended on for my survival.
So, to actually be confronted with the fact that my desire to be helpful, could be construed as a negative thing - was a pretty bitter pill to swallow. But now I could see it. And seeing it so plainly - seeing how I was sending a message - that someone I loved - was actually living their life incorrectly - woke me up.
From that point on - I chose to direct my gift for organizing things - towards myself – and those who were paying me to deliver that service. But I did not have to apply it - to people or situations in my life - where my advice and expertise was not being asked for.
So that’s the obvious side of the outworking’s of the Controller – but let’s scratch the surface and see what’s lurking below – cuz this is where the magic happens.
When you live your life - from a need to control outcomes - you have a whole bunch of unwritten rules and standards - that you are judging other people's behaviors from. And those unwritten rules and standards can change at any time – so the people in your life – are always left in a state of confusion (which is another way to control people).
So, you may say you don't care what somebody is going to wear on your date night - and you hold your tongue – when you see what they chose to wear – but you’re disappointed that they did not choose what you - would have chosen for them.
Or you have a conversation in your own head - about how you want someone to respond to you in a given situation – and they don’t respond in that way – so you’re disappointed.
Or you’re in a conversation and they don’t agree with you – they have another opinion – and you are disappointed with how it all goes.
It's like you've rehearsed a situation - that involves another human being - as if you were both playing roles in a play – the play has dialogue and stage cues all laid out for you and all the players – but because everyone is their own person – they f#ck up their lines or miss their cues – and they inevitably disappoint you.
Or perhaps the bigger tragedy is that they acquiesce to every one of your subtle and not so subtle cues or demands – and just conform to whatever you want and by doing so deny themselves what they truly came to do, and be, and experience. They simply become the people-pleaser to keep peace. It’s a perfect match don’t you think?
Another way to keep you locked into the Power Leak of Disappointment is by creating rules for your own life - that give you some sense of control over your experience. Those rules could be about what you eat, where you eat, what time you eat - they could be about how you need your environment to be – maybe neat or quiet or private. Maybe it’s about what you watch or listen to – because what you want to watch or listen to - is always better than what anyone else wants to watch or listen to.
The end result is that you don’t need to adapt – but everyone else does. And if they fail – you get your hit of disappointment – and the addiction is appeased. Win win – right?
Alright so you can clearly see - that the need to be disappointed - is what is playing in the background of anyone who has a tendency towards controlling people or situations. And that aspect can be a result of all kinds of things – let me tell you how it began with me.
My father made a lot of promises that he never kept. But I believed him every time. I kept the faith. I knew this time would be different. But it never was.
Now, if you’ve been listening for awhile - you're very familiar - with the egos need to keep you in familiar situations - so that it can believe you are safe. So have that in your mind – as I continue – it’s not like I could articulate that my father's behavior disappointed me I was too young to put that together. But his behavior conditioned me to expect to be disappointed.
This is how behaviors become addictions, not by choice - but because you become convinced that this is the only way life works for you.
This is all subconsciously playing in the background.
I wasn't deliberately walking into situations and saying to myself - what is it I can do, say, or think - that will create an opportunity for me to be disappointed.
But I have unconsciously become an energetic match to being disappointed. So, I need to continue to create situations that will keep me in the energetic state of disappointment. Can you see this?
Can you see areas of your life - where you keep finding yourself in a familiar feeling of disappointment?
Even though your situation and mine can be incredibly different the result of our interactions with people or - our interactions with work or - our interactions in relationships can leave us with the common feeling of disappointment.
When I realized that my ego was maneuvering me into situations - so that I could continue to feel disappointment, the cork popped.
Now remember my analogy - of the champagne bottle containing an energetic force - and the cork on the top of that champagne bottle - being the lie or distortion - that is plugging all of that amazing energy from getting out? That’s your Authentic Power being trapped inside that bottle - underneath that cork (you know, the unconscious conditioning you’re living from).
So - me realizing - that I had subconsciously been orchestrating situations in my life - so that people or situations would disappoint me (like my dad disappointed me) popped the damn cork.
Now I am free to enter every encounter with another human being - from a place of them, having their own agenda, desires, dreams, biases etcetera. And all of that is as important to them, as mine are to me.
From this awareness I stand in my own Authentic Power. All of that power that was stopped up - by that freaking lie (that I need to be disappointed). All that energy was released - so that I could now live my life from my own values - my own interests - my own desires - my own goals - and I can give others the freedom to do exactly the same for themselves. No one can disappoint me.
You see disappointment is purely an emotion.
Emotions are completely malleable. We think sometimes that we have no control - over what we feel. But it's one place that we have - all of the control you could possibly imagine. No one can make me happy - no one can make me sad - no one can make me mad - no one can make me feel important - and no one can make me feel disappointed.
Oh no - that does not make sense does it? Your mate or your friends can make you feel all kinds of things – can’t they? Your clients or boss can make you feel all kinds of things. Watching TV commercials or TV shows can make you feel all kinds of things, right?
All of those feelings are a choice! All of your feelings are your choice. No one can make you feel anything. Everything you feel you are choosing to feel.
All of that is simply your ego trying to keep you in a place that is familiar.
This is messy work. But I'll tell you right now - as you look at your day - and at your week - and at your month - and you start to see familiar feelings showing up regularly - you are so close to popping that f#ckin cork - and unleashing all of that pent up energy - that is sitting just below that obstruction - to move you forward in your life.
I actually thought - it was insecurity and unworthiness that was holding me back from a bigger life. And it was. I did the work to get rid of those feelings and tendencies – and came to believe I was made of some pretty great stuff. And my life did move forward. But there was more to it - afterall we are multi layered beings. This is why the work of awakening can take some time.
Then, all of a sudden you could be standing in a position where you realize - oh I was not only operating from insecurity and unworthiness - I was also operating from a position where I needed to feel disappointment - as if it was a drug.
What's your common feeling - that might be playing underneath the obvious ones?
Do you need to feel bullied? Or do you need to hold grudges so that you don't have to let somebody off the hook? It's another way to get disappointed, isn't it?
Do you have such high expectations of people that they could never meet them? That would be another way to get disappointed.
Do you live in regret - so that you can feel disappointed about yourself?
Do you have impossible standards for yourself – so you can fail – and be disappointed?
Do you live in fear - so that you have an excuse not to ever move forward on anything? 'Cause that's another way you could be disappointed in yourself.
If disappointment doesn't ring a bell - are you doing things that leave you feeling like no one ever hears you? Or they don't think what you have to say is important or valuable? Does any of that register as disappointment?
What’s your familiar feeling from your kid hood – what are you an energetic match for?
I know for some of you - you're feeling like I’m throwing you into the weeds here - I don't want to overwhelm you with a whole bunch of different scenarios here. But I want you to see – why you might feel like you’re drifting – and have no control of your life and what happens – yep, it feels like that – but the truth is – it’s just the same old ego game of – familiar equals safe.
If you want things to change – you need to change the dance.
Is this resonating? Can you see where you’re doing this?
I suspect some of you will be saying – hell yes – I can see it – so now what - what can I do to create the change?
For me - as I explained earlier - just having this epiphany that I have spent decades orchestrating situations on an energetic level - to keep reinforcing my need to feel like I did when I was a kid - was enough for me to stop the behavior.
If you need more help, you can modify the line I’ve used before to help you transform your experience – “I used to believe but I know longer do” – just change it to – “I used to do that – but I no longer do”.
We’re just about at the end of this one – but I wanted to give you some context for the stories I tell about my kidhood – know that I’m not beating up on my dad – when I’m telling these tales – he had his own sh!t to deal with – and we have long since made peace - with all of this.
Remember, we chose where we landed – because there were some skills, we needed to learn for the life we came to live.
Everything that someone uses to hold themselves back is something that someone else has used to propel themselves forward. That’s just the way of it.
Are you ready to discover and let go of your Power Leaks? There’s a way. But you’ve got to make the decision to do that. You CAN move through your “stuff” and get clear of it. You can be living in your Authentic Power sooner than you may believe. CLICK HERE for more info on the Plugging Your Power Leaks Course. It’s a hit because the S.O.U.L Method works. It’s simple, repeatable and you’ll have it for the rest of your life.
Let’s continue to discover what’s holding us back. Let it go. And move on! So that we can Unleash Our Lives! Are you game? I hope so. Catch you next time.
By Layne Smith-Brown