Although they may not recognize it, many dysregulated eaters are trauma survivors. I can sometimes intuit a history of trauma when clients see themselves as having something gravely wrong with them that makes them irrevocably defective. For those of you who view yourselves this way, here’s how to get beyond trauma to resilience.
The central question you must ask and answer is: Is there something wrong with me or did something bad happen to me? Take a moment to notice if your first reaction is that there’s something wrong with or bad about you. Don’t judge your reaction; simply allow yourself to be curious about it.
In fact, what you’ve internalized as self-badness or defectiveness is nothing of the kind. The truth is that bad or, maybe, terrible things did happen to you. Through no fault of your own, you were the recipient of poor parenting through abuse or neglect or mistreatment from relatives, neighbors, clergy or teachers. Things were done to you, things happened to you, bad stuff happened around you. These were events and situations in which you had no choices and little control. Often, you were too young to avoid or prevent mistreatment. The people at fault were everyone but you.
Here are some examples:
- Though you tried your hardest in school, you disappointed your parents who shamed you for your poor grades.
- Because you were an attractive, friendly child, your neighbor took advantage and molested you.
- Unable to stop it from happening, you watched your father hit your mother.
- Too young to adequately take care of your younger brothers or sisters while your mother was drunk, they didn’t get enough care and got into trouble.
- You ate mindlessly to soothe your upset at your parents frequent bickering, then were scolded for getting fat.
- Your parents each worked two jobs and still could barely put food on the table, so you often went hungry and stole food from local stores.
- You were constantly criticized for not living up to your father’s high standards.
To let go of trauma shame, you need to transfer the “badness” you’ve been feeling about yourself back to where it belongs: onto other people. Without hating or blaming them, you need to understand that whatever happened to you wasn’t your fault. This simple shift is how you go from being a trauma victim to becoming a resilient trauma survivor.