C-PTSD and Letting Go
Release and Find Peace
August 27, 2021
Today’s episode I am talking about letting it go. Everyone says this, but what the heck does it actually entail? How does one let go of experiences that have been buried to the bone? Well, I take a stab at this topic today, and I hope you will find it engaging and moves you to let go. Even if a little bit. A little bit is better than not at all. Poco a poco. Una cosa por vez.
As usual I have discovered some wonderful websites and people who are doing amazing thing in the world of healing from PTSD and Complex PTSD. I hope you find them helpful.
Dr. Schwartz help people to understand that nature of barriers to healing from Complex-PTSD. This article highlights the ways we struggle when adapting to a new, healing way of being.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE) gets to the point on what keeps us stuck in our pain.
K.J., through her own story, helps you understand what Letting Go is and how to do it.
Here’s a YouTube video by Healthy Place that hits the nail on the head when it comes to letting go.
C-PTSD and Letting Go
Release and Find Peace
August 27, 2021
Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – Living with Complex Post Traumatic Stress. I’m your host, Ray Erickson. I have been struggling a bit here in Costa Rica. Over the past couple of months, probably longer, if I actually looked at it close enough. I don’t feel like counting the days I have been depressed because I want to get out of the shitstorm that my marriage has become and move forward with my life. That means I need to Let Go.
Everybody has their own take on this term, and everyone has their own load they are carrying on their shoulders. I am no exception to the experience of holding onto ideas and people who continue to cause me pain. It’s a real human thing to do. I’m sure each and every one of you have hung on too long at some point in your lives and if you are experiencing Complex Post-Traumatic Stress then you probably have a long and sorted history of holding on to lost causes for far too long.
You too have endured the pain of holding onto a love that had gone horribly awry and will never right itself, regardless of how much effort and love you inject into it. It just is not going to change. People have told me that the situation between my wife and me was never going to change and I did not want to accept that. I told myself, perhaps even lying to myself that EVERYBODY can change. Everyone is interested in growth and development. Silly me. I am still a naive little boy when it comes to love. I fall in love with a fantasy and just like all fantasies, the reality doesn’t match up to the fantasy. You could say, I am a sucker for love.
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Back to the program. Holding on is painful. All of you know that from firsthand experience. We were too young to understand how our experiences would impact us throughout our lives. How it would influence every decision we made. It clouded our vision of who we were and how to live, truly live, in this very strange culture we call Mankind. Mankind. Look at that word. Two syllables, Man and Kind. Does anybody see the irony in these two specific syllables being put together to describe an entire species? Man can be kind, but for some reason we are, simply, too afraid, to let go. Let go of what? Let go of fear.
Fear has its place in our lives and at times fear has served us well. But at most times fear undermines out very essence. It keeps us in the closet. It keeps us chained and at times, perhaps many times in your life you have been immobilized by overwhelming fear. Don’t hold that against yourself. Everyone becomes immobilized by fear, usually for pretty good reasons. But when you have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress, fear takes on another fucking dimension. It morphs itself into a 3-dimensional, high definition and surround sound, and embodies the very terror we have experienced. Fear, for me, is like falling into a deep pit, a never-ending pit, where I tumble and descend at an ever-increasing rate until I scare myself out of the matrix. It is usually quite terrorizing at the moment, and all of it, every speck of this experience came through my emotions. They call these moments Emotional Flashbacks. I will do an episode devoted to emotional flashbacks in the near future. At these times I don’t get visual or sensory flashbacks at all. What I experience is a Class V whitewater cascade of emotion. This is overwhelming and I become immobilized. At least, that’s what happens for me, maybe it is different for you. Please, feel free to share with me how fear immobilizes you. You can leave it in a comment section or email it to me at email@example.com if you prefer to have your comments private. I’ll get back to you right away.
Letting go applies to all growth. I cannot grow until I let go of the old and I can’t move forward until I let go the past. In addition, I need to let go of the narrative I created around my wounds. This narrative has been self-soothing, but it has also grown old with the passage of time. My narrative, that sticky place where I get stuck and immobilized, is the story I create in my mind about my life which, when triggered overtakes my emotions and I am catapulted into the emotional flashback. BOOM!!! Like the flip of a switch, like the blast of a bomb, it hits me, and I go into autopilot which leads me to some highly questionable behaviors. And then, in the aftermath, I feel a great shame. How many times has this has happed to me in my life? I have no idea but the thought of counting those times absolutely disgusts me. As well is should. That is not where I belong, in the past, counting past failures. I belong in the present, with gratitude for yet, another chance.
Hey, how does one go about letting go of an experience, a memory, so painful that we have buried it deep within our bones. Maybe it takes more than letting go. Maybe it takes an exorcism of sorts. I don’t know. I can only speak for myself when I talk about letting go. Each of you have your own experience with letting go and you may have had a great deal of success, or you may have struggled greatly against the gravity of your own narrative. This struggle is real and do not demean yourself in the least if your struggle seems to have gotten you nowhere. Look within and if you brush away the clutter created by your narrative you will see your growth.
I’ve been talking a lot about the narratives we create around our wounds, but I don’t think I ever gave you a decent definition of what I call my narrative. My narrative starts with that voice in my head. You know that voice? Yeah, that one. The one that is self-critical and harshly negative. We all have that voice. Freud called it the Id; Erickson called it the subconscious. Regardless of what you call it, it’s probably the loudest voice in your head. It laughs at you when you make a mistake. It chides you when you feel anxious. It hounds you when you feel afraid and insecure. All in all, it’s a real asshole and it needs to be calmed down. Believe me, I have been trying to calm this voice for the majority of my life. It’s better than it used to be, but not as good as I would like to be.
This voice, our narrative, is what we base our lives upon. We use narratives to measure our self-worth and the value we give to others. If this voice is a dominant force in your live, then you are probably struggling right now and you probably have been suffering for many, many years. This troubles me greatly to know that so many of us torment ourselves, day-in and day-out with an endless stream of personal insults and denigrations. It is very difficult for me to grasp the depth of this pain, even though I have lived, for much of my life buried beneath this kind of narrative. Just like you. This makes all of us brothers and sisters. If your head keeps punching you in the head, then it is time to let go.
“Let it go! You are living in the past!” How many times has someone said this to you? Let it go. It’s in the past. Why do you hold onto such an idea? Each of you know at least one ill-informed person, but it is not your job or my job to enlighten them. Any attempt to raise the consciousness of a person whom you know will not appreciate it at best, or at worse, it could escalate the conversation into conflict, and you don’t need any more conflict in your life. In fact, I am crave more peace and harmony in my life and less conflict. I’m sure each of you listeners feel the same way. Egad, give me a break already, haven’t I been through enough alredy?
Apparently not. I don’t know about you, but in my life, I’ve stuck pretty close to my narrative and as a result it has caused me a great deal of pain, sorrow and grief, all of which I continue to experience in my every day-to-day existence. I can sit here and suffer, or I can do something about it. And, since changing others, is a fool’s errand, I am left with the choice of changing myself. Easy peasy? I don’t think so. It would be so much easier if those people whom I wished would change, would just change for crying out loud. What’s so hard about that? Jajajaja. Yes, it would be so much easier if others would just be what we needed them to be 24/7/365. What’s so fucking hard about that?
What’s hard about that for me is it doesn’t work that way. People are people and until they see for themselves that a change would be good, then just like you and me we stick to our narrative. Come hell or high water. What’s your narrative? What stories have you contrived to protect those vulnerable parts of yourself from being destroyed and how many of you are holding onto narratives that are slowly, slowly beating you down. Smashing your nose into the pavement all because of a story you have convinced yourself is true. Look at your narrative. Look at it closely. Does that voice in your head provide soothing relief, or does that voice in your head drive you farther and farther away from your true self?
I don’t know about you, but my narrative is my narrative and I constructed it through my hopes and dreams, my successes and my failures, my troubles, and my joys. It is up to me to filter this narrative into one that is life affirming as opposed to life condemning. Your narrative is your narrative to do with what you want. Believe it or not, you are in charge of the content of your narrative. Editing the narrative isn’t easy and it will take constant vigilance, but with time and patience you CAN change the story of your life.
Your true self knows when you are bullshitting it. Which means you can’t just brag your way into a new narrative. Your true self will see through your attempts to sidestep your responsibility and it will throw obstacles into your path. Although the backstory was probably seeded by your parents, whom, in their desire to do what they felt was best for you; passed down their narratives to you, as a guide for your life. As true as this may be, you are still the author. You have adapted their narratives to fit your needs and you have kept that narrative alive for years, if not decades. For many of us, this inheritance from our families was all done without any intention to harm you. Oh no, there was never a bad intent. At least, that’s the narrative I tell myself.
In further investigations, I questioned if my narrative had it wrong the whole time. But did it? I don’t think so. My narrative is too detailed and too entrenched to give itself up very easily. Your narrative, like your ego, is there to protect you and if conscious knowledge of terrifying child experiences will cause distress, then the narrative is more than happy to write around that painful experience.
If you didn’t know you are creating a narrative of your life inside you mind, then start there. Be curious as to what you may be scribbling down up there. Take some time to sit with that voice, the Narrator of your narrative and observe it. Of course, you will be pulled into the narrative many times before you realize it. Each time you notice yourself within the narrative, then gently take yourself out of it and continue to observe how your narrative responds to your conscious decision not to go with its flow. The narrative will fight back, louder and with more ferocity. It will hold nothing back in its effort to get you back under its spell. But don’t go there any more than you need to. You can do this by stepping back, in your mind and recognize you have fallen into your personal pit of despair, which I call, my narrative.
First things first, it’s critical to recognize when you have become swallowed up by your narrative; the stories you tell yourself are exactly that, stories. Nothing more and nothing less. They are fodder for the engines of your imagination, but you get to choose what you imagine. You are the boss of your imagination and just like you, I imagine way too many shitty things. Many times, the shitty things in my imagination become parts of my narrative. Identify those times when you are actively creating more of the same-old, same-old, within your narrative. This is the second step to your freedom. In other words, catch yourself in the act of creating your narrative. In that way you can pause and take a good look at it. Your narrative loves drama and when you catch yourself in the act of narrating, then you can take control of what you narrate. This seemingly simple conscious act is much more difficult to do, consistently, than probably anything you have ever tried in your life.
You may be able to shoot a basketball or hit a baseball or catch a touchdown pass every time, but, eventually, you will slip and slid, fall down, and be crushed into the gridiron many times, before your narrative begins to shift its perspective. It’s like adding a new character into your manuscript. A character that doesn’t play by the rules of the game. A real protagonist. A real, up yours, I’m not buying into the bullshit anymore kind of character. I’m done narrating the same-old, same-old bullshit, day-in and day-out, month after month, year after year. I’m tired, for crying out loud. I can’t keep living the same thing over and over and over again. Not anymore. It’s time for a change. This is how you need to approach this challenge. It is the greatest challenge of your life and all you need to do, really, is to let go. Yeah, I know. Easier said than done.
It does take a strong effort to change your narrative which brings me to the third step and that is to take control of the Narrator. Muzzle that son-of-a-bitch. You are in charge of what you write into your narrative, which is your legacy, and your life’s most personal story. You are the author, and you get to choose which words you add to your narrative. This is where a lot of people would tell you to attack the negative entries in your narrative, which is not a bad idea and it is part of the solution, but it is critical to identify the really mean and vindictive bastard stories first. This could prove difficult for many people.
It is hard to let go of the stories we have created in our minds. These stories provide a structure, the skeleton, you might say. These structures hold your narrative together. Alter these powerful entries and you have the key to your authentic self. How, you go about this great challenge, is up to you. There are many paths through this jungle. But into the jungle you must go. What I mean by this is, it vital to identify those entries, aka experiences, which have the greatest power assigned to them. Those entries you may have buried deep in you bones. Although it may be difficult for you to locates these dangerous entries, it nonetheless is an opportunity to let go of the fear that these entries have generated over the years. As uncomfortable as it may appear to be, it is critical for you to review and edit these entries, if not outright remove them, cut them out. This takes energy, patience, self-acceptance and perseverance.
You have a very greedy editor in your mind and in the past, this editor within you has not changed one iota. It continuously feeds you a diet of fear and loathing. The editor knows that this is the best way to keep his job. He works at keeping you scared and, by keep you scared, the editor can manipulate you in any manner they wish and believe you me, this guy is good at his job. But you need to be better. You need to be strong. You need to be courageous, and you need to fire this son-of-a-bitch and take over as Editor-in-Chief of your narrative. Sounds easy? Yeah, right. We both know this is not easy. But with patience and persistence, you will, eventually, have an impact on the direction your narrative flows. Wow, whew, that was a mouthful!
You’ll get lots of practice letting go of all the bullshit you have been feeding yourself over the years. There is another step in the installation of the new editor, you, and that step requires you to feel what you didn’t feel when these stories were first placed into your narrative. Feel it to the bones until, until, you permit it to pass. Here lies the most difficult of stages, your feelings. You see, the old editor didn’t want anything to do with any feelings other than fear. In fact, this jerk refuses to print any entry where hope could be heard. No hope for this guy. His job is to keep you scared. Just like on TV or the radio or the internet. It is your job to fire this SOB because until you fire the current Editor-in-Chief, you will continue to be flooded with mind numbing stories that do nothing, nothing but generate fear and hatred. He is not doing you a favor, that’s for sure, so fire his sorry ass. Do it today. Do not pass go and do not collect $200 until you fire that monster and start doing the job yourself. Kapsch? ¿Te entiendes?
Yeah, there is a lot of letting go to do here. Plenty to keep you busy, but don’t let that overwhelm you. This may be easier than you think. Your narrative has been with you, all of your life and you, along with your life have become one with this narrative. The first step is to recognize you have a life narrative. The second step is to identify the most damaging stories. The third step is to edit those stories into a form that heals and soothes. Finally, the fourth step is to feel what you felt at those times when you couldn’t and apply your conscious compassion for the person you once were. This is an exercise in being the good parent you always wished you had. Self-compassion does not come automatically, it needs to be practiced over time. Afterall, you have lived a life lacking in self-compassion for a long, long, long time. It may take some time to grow the compassion you need for yourself.
Wow, and I know, this is a lot to take in. All of my life, I have struggled with self-compassion. Perhaps I need to do an episode on C-PTSD and Self-Compassion soon. What Is It? and How to Grow It? That might be a good follow-up to today’s episode. I don’t think it would be too difficult. I have lots of material to work with. Practically every moment of my life, with every beat of my heart, I have an opportunity to practice self-compassion. It’s a mindful thing. Your mind has become accustomed to the old editor’s ways. That was then, and this is now. Practice mindful awareness of that voice. Pay attention to that Narrator and make sure they are not talking a bunch of shit. Hell, you may need to fire them as well and become the Editor-in-Chief and the Narrator if you want to do the job right.
Thank you so much for listening to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – Living with Post-Traumatic Stress. I’m your host Ray Erickson. Thanks, also, to our sponsor, Out of My Mind Art where no matter where you live, at your fingertips, thanks to the world wide web can bemuse yourself with an assortment of Magic Wands. Each with 2 distinct chimes. They are simply charming.
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There you have done it again. You have wasted another 25-30 minutes listening to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica and I appreciate each and every one of you who get through the whole episode. You are a wonderful group of very special people and my hopes for your healing is steadfast. So, until the next time. Be Courageous. Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.