Learning to live in the moment is a special gift of a healthy childhood. That’s ideally when we discover simple pleasures like playing with crayons, learning to ride a bicycle, and making friends. We also start to realize that in healthy secure relationships, parents are there for their children.
But sometimes, terrible things happen that twist happiness into something horrible. A parent’s rage, a bully’s ridicule, bouts of depression or waves of loneliness can shatter a moment’s joy to pieces. How can you enjoy being with a friend, discover what makes you laugh, or feel good about yourself, when it all might come crashing down? If you tend to worry something bad will happen if you dare enjoy the here-and-now, you may tell yourself, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Are You Waiting For Bad Things to Happen?
Though it’s a sentiment I hear often, you do not have to live a life where you are waiting for the other shoe to drop! If you think this way, let me ask: Do you have any trauma in your history? Did you grow up in an environment without secure attachment? Did you grow up in a family where one or both parents frightened you, or were even frightened themselves? All of these things may be at the root of your worrying behavior.
This chronic state of hyperarousal is a coping mechanism that makes sense given a traumatic upbringing. Moving forward, there is hope. These coping skills can be replaced with new, healthier ones that serve a bright future, not a traumatic past.
How Trauma and Worry are Connected
Preparing for disaster (big or small) is something that is common among trauma survivors, who regularly feel hypervigilant. Being hyper-aware was once a necessary survival mechanism that kept you safe. But it’s a coping skill that’s no longer working in your life. You may not need it anymore. It may be hindering your growth, your healing, your contentment and your relationships.
- If you’re always anticipating the worst…
- If you’re always double-checking with the people in your life – “Are you sure?”…
- If you’re always prepared with a Plan B…
- If you don’t believe what people say…
I want you to know: You don’t have to live like this.
Life doesn’t have to be this hard.
You don’t have to feel like this.
Perhaps you think it’s just part of who you are now? It’s not. It’s a coping mechanism you learned. And it can be helped and healed by noticing it.
At the beginning of their healing journey, many people feel like their negativity is never going to change — even if they work on it. They can’t imagine a life where things are pleasantly consistent, where people do what they say. But I can promise you….
It CAN change. It DOES change. You CAN heal.
How to Stop Worrying: 3 Steps
Here are three important steps you can take towards healing worried thoughts and actions that don’t serve you anymore:
Step 1: Have an honest and compassionate dialogue with yourself—because being compassionate with yourself is where the healing starts. Gently notice your behaviors. Also notice if you’re using a something (like drugs/alcohol, food or self-harming behavior) to try to not feel this pain. Read this: To Heal Trauma, Free Your Most Compassionate Self.
Step 2: Experience a secure relationship in therapy. Consistency is a powerful force that can help you heal, and therapy is an excellent place to build your first secure relationship. A good therapist will be there for you. They will do what they say. When you experience what that consistency feels like, you can take that outside into the real world and your other relationships. By engaging in therapy, you can work on issues rooted in your past that are still plaguing you in the present. You can reassess the coping skills that once kept you safe, but are no longer serving you in living a healthy life. Read this: How to Find a Good Therapist.
Step 3: Have a conversation with your loved ones. To help you heal, you can build secure attachment in your current relationship—whether it’s with an intimate partner, parent, friend or sibling. Have a dialogue that goes something like this:
This is really important to me given my history. It isn’t personal to you. It’s personal to me. Basically, this is how I live my life, in hyperarousal. When I always ask, “Are you sure?” and I doubt what you tell me, I’m doing this because of my history. I want to trust you and stop doubting you. The best thing you can do for me is to be true to your word and be consistent. Read this: How to Trust in a Healing Relationship as a Trauma Survivor and Finding New Skills to Talk Through Relationship Pain
As a therapist, I DO what I say.
I want you to discover that safe, trustworthy people are available. Whether you learn this from me, or another good trauma-informed therapist, it’s important to know that consistency is available. Hope is available. Compassion is available. Healing is available. And a future filled with pleasant moments— without waiting for the other shoe to drop—is possible for you.
This is what I do every day. I help trauma survivors make and maintain positive changes in their lives, create safe stable environments, healthy relationships, and cope with everyday challenges with new strengths and abilities.
If you’d like to know more, please reach out to us at 703-518-8883.
Blog posts & Articles
- Loving a Trauma Survivor: Understanding Childhood Trauma’s Impact On Relationships
- How to Find Healing in Relationships After Trauma
- Healthy Relationships Matter More than We Think