Perhaps you are someone who has experienced complex trauma – chronic inescapable circumstances where you felt unseen or misunderstood. If that resonates with you, you might have trouble finding yourself or knowing who you are. You are probably an expert at identifying what you’re not through the eyes of others. In this article, I’ll use concepts from the financial world to provide clues to overcoming complex trauma.
Investing is a world of possibilities and non-certainty – as is life. Say you decide you want to invest $100 and sit down at your computer to begin investing in the stock market. You have infinite possibilities for how to invest that money, where to invest it, how long to leave it there, and what you can do with it next.
As you consider all of these possibilities, imagine yourself choosing the right investments at the right time, executing the right strategy, and making enough money to put a down payment on a house and live happily ever after. Then your parents’ or people’s voices intrude, telling you how unlikely that will happen for you, so you abandon that possibility.
If you allow your intrusive thoughts to override your imagination, you might not think you should invest because your dreams just won’t become a reality. This inability to imagine being good enough to invest in oneself is one of the most common outcomes of complex trauma and is associated with post-traumatic depression.
You still want to invest the $100, so you look for advisors to help you figure out how to invest your $100. You choose an advisor with similar styles to your parents because you still believe they know how to measure “good enough.” You expect that the advisor might help you figure out what’s wrong with you since they are experts and point you in the right direction. This is the mechanism by which our complex trauma is perpetuated through our adult relationships – professional and personal.
It matters what and when you measure
Consider that your parents paid no attention to you as a child except to tell you how you didn’t meet their expectations. As an adult, you may have no sense of “good enough” because you never discovered what was good enough to them and believe the problem lies within you. So you learned to measure that which is unwanted, harmful, or wrong but not how to notice what is positive.
You set up alerts on your investment account to tell you when your investment is worth less than the $100 you invested. It is overwhelming to see pathways to failure in your investments, and your anxiety rises since you don’t trust yourself or your advisor. You pull out your money and put it back under your mattress because you only lose.
To illustrate, imagine that you find an advisor who can help you learn how to assess investments, refine your ability to choose investments that align with your goals and values, and help you develop a strategy for meeting them. You set alerts in your investment account to be notified when your investments’ annual reports are released so you can learn more about their strategies and attributes. You review the financial statements you receive every three months to see how your investments have performed over the past year. Instead of measuring your losses when they occur, you now measure other indicators that empower you to make informed decisions per your strategy.
As you repeat this process, you continue to learn more and understand your values and goals better. You learn to read the signs that tell you to adjust your course. You learn to trust yourself to respond to those signs from a position of awareness and empowerment. You will win some and lose some, which is an integral part of the process. But overall, you will move toward your goals. It matters what and when you measure. Invest in yourself. This is where you will find the center of you.
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Work with me and transform how you experience yourself, your relationships, and the world. As an experienced Seattle-based trauma therapist, I can help you explore your feelings, develop confidence, and guide you toward the path to liberation.
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