Sistas, how y’all feel? Hopefully you’re feeling alright as we move through the second month of this year. For many people, prioritizing their mental health is at the top of their goals for 2022. As Black people, specifically women, we have often felt split on the issue of seeking out help in the form of therapy in order to unpack the things we’ve experienced. The truth is, a lot of times we don’t even recognize our experiences as traumatic because we have not had the privilege of sitting with them long enough to dissect them. The spirit of Black womanhood is to always keep it moving. And, though this ability to progress in spite of our wounds can be helpful, it can also keep us stuck in cycles that ultimately cause us more harm. By not being able to identify our traumas, we often fail to realize the responses that have been born from them. So, we have trouble recognizing when our hearts, minds and/or bodies are signaling to us to keep us safe from perceived danger and just chalk up our feelings and actions to being “just who we are”. For those of us who have started to do the work of pointing out the moments in our lives where great trauma has occurred, there are still trauma responses that can slip by us. The things we seem to do out of habit are often times things we have learned to rely on for survival.
Here are some lesser known trauma reposes that you may unknowingly overlook.
When we have been told that are opinions and feelings don’t matter, we can get into a habit of overexplaning ourselves in order to prove our voices deserve to be heard. We are in constant fear of being misunderstood because we have been led to believe that misunderstanding is why we’ve been silenced in the past rather than an unwilling ear.
Downplaying your accomplishments
When you have been given either a subconscious or blatant message that you are not good enough, you can find it hard to congratulate yourself for major (or even small!) accomplishments. You may find yourself downplaying anything that you are able to pull off and shy away from accepting praise. Because you have been made to question your worth or capabilities in the past, it may still be hard for you to be fully confident now. Compliments can also seem disingenuous when you are rebuilding your self-esteem.
Lack of self-compassion
Undoing any form of abuse and coming out of a haze of confusion can invite a sense of shame into our lives. Often times, we cannot believe the things we accepted when we had less knowledge than we do now. In an effort to ensure we never fall for the same things again, we can have very little grace for ourselves. We can be our own worst critics and start to self-blame. This is a trauma response that works in direct opposition to our healing because so much of coming back together requires tender acceptance of things that tore us apart.
Though there are times when spending time self-reflecting is of extreme importance, feeling the need to constantly be isolated can be a sign of deep-seated trauma. While time to recharge and to sort through the things we are discovering about ourselves is welcomed, having a sense that you are safest when alone is a direct response to the times you’ve felt unsafe in the company of others. Community is a necessary part of becoming whole again.
Often times when we are uncovering harsh truths about ourselves, our first instinct is to run away from them. We can start to fill our time with things that are unproductive but, mostly, we can identify those as not serving us. However, when we are being very productive, we can sometimes confuse this with personal progress. After all, would we be getting so much done if we were still traumatized? The answer is yes. Overworking and failing to rest can be a trauma response for those who equate their worthiness to how much they’re able to produce. Spend time cultivating who you are when you are not working and consider how your relationships would change if producing or accomplishing something was taken off the table.
Having a hero complex
When we have been taught to ignore our own needs, usually what we learn is how to show up for everyone other than ourselves. This can take the form of spending more money than we can afford to help others in personal crises, volunteering to take on more housework when are already swamped at work or failing to ask for help when we’re drowning. We can feel the need to solve everyone’s problems in order to not have to focus on our own. We can be the listening ear for our loved ones and yet do not expect them to be there for us in the same ways. In fact, we think it’s unfair to even rely on anyone other than ourselves for anything. Remember, if the plan was to have us do everything alone, God would not have put billions of other people on Earth alongside us.