As the holiday season gets into swing, I am reminded of the many traditions that surround us that speak to our hearts and souls: the singing of carols, decorations with trees, lights, and ornaments, and family gatherings. We value these traditions because some connection from our past makes them special. We call this connection a type of programming.
Programming comes from a very simple fact. Our brains are matter, the neurons that travel through our brains make pathways, pathways become habitual, the brain is happy with what it knows. This is called homeostasis. It's why memories of a beautiful holiday come each year as we repeat our traditions.
But the same programming that gives us joy during holiday time can wreck lives in other ways. This is particularly true if we have suffered emotional or verbal abuse. We become familiar with the abuse, learn coping techniques that helped us survive, develop a world view from our experience.
Then life changes, we leave the scene of the abuse, and we think life is good again. We aren't aware of how our habits continue to follow us, prompting us to use these same coping techniques at the first sign of danger. Only, trauma has changed our perceptions, and we see danger where there is none and insult when no insult was intended. We fight back, using these coping skills, which sometimes ends up hurting others in the same way we were hurt.
The truth is, trauma begets trauma. That is why we call it the cycle of abuse: we continue the pattern of what we know. unaware that we are doing so.
How do we break this pattern? By checking ourselves, learning what triggers are, how it takes us back to our past, and how we need to return to the here and now. In plain language, we need to step back from a situation, think of other interpretations for someone's action, and even ask what they meant instead of concluding that this person was out to hurt us, abuse us, or demean us.
Such insight is difficult. Get a trauma therapist to help you. It is well worth the effort. Not only will you feel better, those around you will find it easier to relate to you.