January 22, 2011 by Thriving Now Support

Releasing Old Coping Mechanisms

When we grow up in an unsafe environment, our brain searches desperately for some way to be safe. In such an unsafe place, our lives are chaotic and crazy and there really isn’t anything to hold onto.

Our brain will latch on to whatever it can. Sometimes it grabs bizarre “rules” to explain what’s going on. Or it comes up with rituals that can gives us the illusion of control.  It feels better to hold onto those rules and rituals than admit we’re powerless!

When the going gets tough (even impossible), whatever we come up with that helps us cope is smart and beneficial in the moment.

When Times Change

What helped us to cope back then may not fit well now. The old patterns will appropriately stop feeling good when they are no longer truly needed. That is body guidance. So what used to help now feels awkward… or “not you anymore.” They get in the way of the thriving life you want to move towards.

We may resent that we still have them! (Energetically, resenting them actually fuels their continuation, perversely enough.)

A Solution for a Problem That Doesn’t Exist Anymore… Or Does It?

The rules and habits we developed in unsafe environments are our coping mechanisms. They may evolve in different directions for different people depending on how the primitive brain made negative and positive associations.

Some people’s coping mechanisms are dramatic and public. Other people’s are subtle and secretive. What they have in common is that they help us cope with fear, anxiety, disempowerment, loneliness, and overwhelm.

It made sense if Dad always wore a baseball cap when he went on a drinking binge to “AVOID men wearing baseball caps.” Such negative associations can feel like life and death… even after Dad is dead and no longer an actual threat. The primitive brain can make the same associations around situations, foods, smells, colors… anything… even if there is no rational basis for still spending energy and focus that way.

Yet, there is a basis for still spending energy that way. Part of your primitive brain is still holding onto a frozen trauma (or ten). Until frozen traumas are discharged in a healthy, life-affirming way, there is ample evidence that they continue to warp our reaction to present day life experiences.

Remember, some habits are good and self-supportive. (You know, like brushing your teeth… or feeling gratitude before a meal.) That’s great. It’s when they start getting in the way of everyday life that it’s time to do some tapping and releasing.

Tapping for Old Coping Mechanisms

First, realize that you adopted the rule or pattern because it seemed like a good solution at the time. Rather than beating yourself up for having it, look at it as a survival mechanism.

And it worked for you… you did survive.

What if you thanked that part of your brain for giving you some rules to follow… so you could feel empowered in the midst of an emotional hurricane?

If you can relax a little around having these rules, it may be easier to address any other traumas that accompanied them and start feeling empowered and safe in the world as it is today. Appreciating how the coping mechanisms helped can soften their hold on you.

Once you intellectually understand how the rules helped you back then, it may still be hard to let go. Childhood trauma can make you feel like your whole world was turned upside down. The mechanisms you used helped.

You may also be afraid of giving up those habits and rules. It was painful, confusing, and lonely back there. The rules helped you survive. It makes perfect sense that you would be terrified of ending up “back there”. If part of you barely survived the last hurricane, and you’re frightened that you’ll end up in a storm again, it’s very hard to let go of the safety gear that got you through last time.

Tapping on those fears can help you release those rules and choose how you want to feel and behave today.

Karate Chop: Even though I’m so afraid of going back there, I don’t think I could bear it again, I’m open to feeling safe right here and now, and appreciating the abundance I have in my life at this moment.

Even though I’m terrified of ending up like that again, and I have REALLY good reasons, I’ve grown and changed a lot since then, and I have a lot more power. Maybe I’m safer than I thought…

Even though I a part of me is convinced that need ALL my survival gear because I might end up back there, maybe I don’t need to leave them in the middle of my living room. What if I could put them away in a closet and know they’re there if I need them?

Top of the Head: I’m really scared.
Eyebrow: That was horrible!
Side of the Eye: I’m afraid of feeling that way again.
Under the Eye: I don’t know that I’d survive.
Under the Nose: But I did back then.
Chin: It felt bad.
Collarbone: And I barely got by.
Under the Arm: But I did.

Top of the Head: I did survive.
Eyebrow: I’m surprisingly strong all things considered.
Side of the Eye: And I have a lot of courage.
Under the Eye: I’m still afraid,
Under the Nose: and I’m starting to understand why.
Chin: But I’m a lot safer right here, right now.
Collarbone: What if I could enjoy what I have,
Under the Arm: and relax and appreciate it?

Top of the Head: I had some coping mechanisms that got me through.
Eyebrow: Sometimes they get in the way now.
Side of the Eye: What if I could appreciate them for what they did.
Under the Eye: And know they’re there if I need them.
Under the Nose: But I don’t need to use survival gear everyday… or maybe ever again.
Chin: I’m not in a crisis right now.
Collarbone: And I’m learning new skills and techniques.
Under the Arm: I can take care of myself in new ways.
Top of the Head: I really, really like that.

Take a deep breath.

How does that feel? What comes up for you? You might consider taking a few minutes to journal, to take you clarity to the next level. Perhaps list the coping mechanisms and how they helped you in the past…and how you’d like to manage your emotions now.

If you want help releasing your old coping mechanisms and developing new, life-affirming habits, our Group Coaching Program is a great way to get support and connect with like-minded people. Join us today!


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