The publishing house “MIF” published the book “Do not doubt yourself.” Its author, psychotherapist Lisa Olivera, offers to recognize, comprehend and rewrite negative life scripts. You can start, for example, with beliefs about yourself. We publish an excerpt from the first part, in which we are talking about just that.
In childhood, we constantly receive information from the family. It starts even before birth: our mothers’ environment, what they tell themselves, their experiences, lack or presence of support starts to affect us in the womb. Research shows that prenatal stress, mood, and experiences affect newborns and even the formation of their brains. For example, it has been found that fetal development during pregnancy can be affected by stress hormones, which in turn sometimes increases the risk of future learning and behavioral problems.
Many of our stories start even earlier. We inherit and carry the burden of stories that are not even related to us. Research into intergenerational trauma shows that it is passed down from generation to generation through the stories we inherit, consciously or not. Our family history influences who we become. It is in our body.
Consider, for example, the children and grandchildren of the victims of the Holocaust. According to studies, the descendants of people who survived it have lower levels of cortisol than their peers, a hormone that helps us respond to stress. So the trauma changed their biology. The same can be said about other traumatic experiences that our ancestors experienced and carried with them.
When we are born, we notice everything we see and hear. We, like little sponges, absorb everything that we experience, even before we begin to understand what is happening. If your loved ones were constantly criticizing your weight, you may have learned the story that your value comes from thinness. If you’ve watched loved ones deny their emotions, you may have learned the story of hiding feelings. If you have seen a loved one numb their pain with alcohol, shopping, or food, you may have decided that hard feelings should be discarded, not lived. If your loved ones told you to “be patient,” “don’t be a sissy,” you might have learned that sensitivity equals weakness. When we have no other examples, we only know what we know. And in childhood, what we know depends on what we see and experience.
Since many of our loved ones hardly had the techniques, skills, or training to deal with trauma, regulate emotions, build healthy relationships, they did what they could with their knowledge. They didn’t have access to information like we do. We are all imperfect people interacting with other imperfect people, and this results in us inheriting beliefs and histories that do not always reflect who we really are.
Only by gaining independence can we recognize familiar family scripts. After that, we can, if we ourselves want to, challenge the stories that we inherited and in which we no longer want to participate.
This can lead to a feeling of a threat of a break with the family, cause fear that they will stop loving us, abandon us, expel us. That is why many continue to follow family beliefs, traditions and stories that do not really reflect their values or truth.
In addition to intergenerational trauma, you may have experienced personal trauma as well. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading trauma researcher, says that trauma is “anything that exceeds the body’s ability to cope.” We often think of it as a significant event, such as a car accident or war, but trauma can also be the result of recurring less visible but deeply hurting experiences: emotional rejection, lack of deep connection, insecure surroundings or relationships, neglect of needs, exposure to violence, marginalization in society… There are many experiences that can be considered trauma, and they are much more common than we think.
Being aware of such experiences in our lives will allow us to understand our stories. He again reminds us that if we are not aware of alternatives, then we know only what we know. We made every effort to make sense of what happened, based on the information that we then had.
With the exception of my brother, at a young age I did not know other adopted children. I remember not understanding why I don’t know anyone else to be adopted and wondering what that says about me. Does this mean I’m out of place? Or am I weird? Is there something wrong with me? I asked myself these questions many times.
The lack of information about people like me partly made my childhood experience harder. Plus, I blend in with my surroundings. I looked like my relatives. Everyone assumed that I was a “normal” kid. Everyone thought everything was fine. That is why it was very easy to believe that I myself was to blame for my thoughts, as if something was wrong, which means that something was wrong with myself.Sometimes I think about what would change if I interacted with other foster children, if I had the space to explore this part of my identity in the company of people who understood it. Because of the lack of such connections in my environment, I began to wonder how deeply we are influenced by the environment – and not only what is in it, but also what is not in it.
We are affected by everything that we are surrounded by or not surrounded by, everything that we see and what we do not see, everything that we hear and what we do not hear, everything that we become witnesses or not.
Our environment also affects what we have access to, what resources we own, how we connect with the community and whether we receive support from it. Our environment is a kind of house that we carry within ourselves. It also affects how we treat ourselves and each other. By examining how your environment plays out in your story, you can gain insight into how you came to be who you are. How has your environment influenced you?
Our stories come from childhood, but this is not their only source. At all stages of life, we are bombarded with stories about who we should be and what it means to be “good”, “nice”, “desirable”, and “successful”.
The vast world of media idealizes certain stories, bodies, lifestyles, goals… you know. We are endlessly shown ideal images that influence the stories we create. These are stories about how our bodies aren’t fit enough, our relationships aren’t beautiful enough, our goals aren’t big enough, our homes aren’t elegant enough, and we aren’t young enough. Our stories are based on information we feed on that can affect us in ways we don’t even notice.
Today, in the era of social media and the Internet, where it is even easier to come across cultural clues about what we should strive for, this is especially true. We see the proposed image of the ideal daily, so comparisons are inevitable. Our internal histories are often based on external expectations, norms, and systems that were not always created for our well-being.
If we listen to these stories long enough, we internalize them. Sometimes we even begin to evaluate ourselves based on whether we meet these external standards, how we “should” be and how our life “should” look like.
Understanding the messages we hear on a daily basis and how much we have adopted them is the key to identifying life scenarios that have nothing to do with our lives at all.
We do not live in a bubble, but in a society that has its own stories that affect our lives in many ways. Media is only part of this process, stories appear everywhere, from school programs to government decrees and religious doctrines, all the way to social norms. […] Sonia Renee Taylor, author of The Body Is Not an Apology, showed me how the systems we live in affect our inner world. What stories have you inherited about being a man, a woman, or not identifying with any gender? What stories have you learned about your skin color? And how much money do you have? About your clothes? About your area?
We are constantly surrounded by stories that tell us what we “should” be, how we “should” act, what schedule we should live on, and who we “must” become due to cultural norms and standards (all of which are artificially created). What stories have you inherited about what you can and can’t do? How can and cannot you feel?
In my childhood, everything was permeated with the stories of our society. The same thing happened when my parents were growing up. So they became not only public histories, but also family ones. Our personal histories are shaped by our family histories, which are shaped by our social histories. It’s only natural to try to find the cause within ourselves, but it’s also worth knowing how our personal stories are intertwined with those we’ve inherited and heard.
This is especially important for those who feel like they had a good childhood, but still feel inner pain. It’s easy to compare… it’s easy to assume that because someone was worse off or someone else’s story was harder, then your pain and story don’t count and don’t matter.
We were taught to build hierarchies, evaluate ourselves and recognize ourselves as better or worse, bigger or smaller.
The truth is that everyone has their own unique, individual life and therefore their own personal pain and history. You do not need to prove that you are in pain, that you have your own problems, negative experiences, explain why you are experiencing difficult feelings. It is enough to respect your individuality and allow others to do the same.
Don’t Doubt Yourself is a supportive and hopeful guide to regaining your true self. In it you can find questions for introspection, examples and practices that will help you realize yourself and live to the fullest.Buy a book