Is it true that we really repeat our childhood traumas over and over throughout our adult lives?
For the past year, I have recently become to believe this is true, both in my observations of my parents but more importantly myself.
This post will be focused mainly on myself but you can easily apply the reflections to your own life.
Healing it is something I’m not entirely sure how to do, but I am certain that it is possible. It’s just a matter of navigating said path and transforming yourself into a person that is free of the trauma.
The childhood trauma could be anything. In extreme cases people that have extremely abusive parents tend to have extremely abusive partners that also treat them the same.
The theory is that patterns we have learned and experienced in childhood become patterns that we unconsciously get drawn to in our adult lives because we are attracted to what is familiar.
The Destined To Be Lost: The Cause
Growing up I suffered from a sense of “not belonging” quite often. I felt like an outsider.
I’m not exactly where this came from. Perhaps being the first born makes you feel like this especially when my parents had to be busy with something. Maybe it was unconscious energy passed down from generation to generation.
Or it could even just be “bad luck.” I remember one girl saying I was “weird” when I was about 4 years old, and that stuck with me for quite some time. I always felt a bit “weird.”
In reflection I don’t think I was that different (if at all) but more so the problem was the bad luck in who I was initially surrounded with. We are all dealt cards early on in life, and never are these cards fair!
Growing up in my childhood became more difficult with a series of moves that were made.
In the 6 years of schooling before middle school, I went to four different high schools. One switch was due to a move of homes, but the other two were simply due to the ridiculousness of Omaha’s changing development.
Each time I made friends in one school, I was destined to lose them and say goodbye. Sure I had some stable neighborhood friends (thank goodness), but never did I have a group (as a child) for long in school.
I went to Katherine, Rower, Reeder, and Reagan Elementary schools. The first two I spent one year, and then two years in Reeder and two in Reagan. I believe it was even worse it happened like this because I was younger for Katherine/Rower schools, so the transition was more difficult to deal with.
By the time I was in middle school I felt like an outsider and associated myself with those. I spent too much time alone. I was angry and in grief often. I felt frustrated. I felt disconnected and alone.
Worse yet I had unconsciously embraced the identity of being “different” and “weird.” The bullies like vultures smelled this and used me as their punching bag.
On one occasion at least 20 kids created an elaborate plan to trap me and attack me. I tried to leave school on one hallway where 5 kids blocked. Then I tried another where another 5 blocked it. So there was only one exit to go down- where 10 kids waited outside and they all got me.
No wonder that in America we have a shooting problem with such cruelty. Little kid me was angry and it weren’t for video games and athletics, I would’ve lost my mind (let’s be real, I was already losing my mind and filled with violent, deadly RAGE).
If it weren’t for inspiring YouTubers I started to watch that promised me a better future, I likely would have crossed over to the dark side because I would’ve believed that all there is to reality is that.
In High School I improved but only by a short margin. I felt like an outsider and felt broken by this point.
When I finally got a girlfriend, we had to break up because I was moving to Phoenix.
Did this set the stage for my adult life?
Reflecting on the Past 3 Years
It’s scary to see the similarities between my childhood and the past few years. Don’t get me wrong it’s 100x better (no, tens of thousands of times better) but there’s one recurring theme:
The Outsider. The Traveler.
I’ve often felt like an outsider in many countries, and disconnected from my own country. I’ve struggled to find a place that felt like home, except when in love with my ex.
Perhaps it’s not the place anyways, but the people you are with?
Regardless, I’ve been addicted to travel and it felt like I lost a bit of control over it in 2018. Even now it feels hard to get a grip sometimes.
I know logically that I need a “home base,” but now I’m at a point where I’ve traveled so much that it’s super difficult to imagine staying in one place for even 6 months straight nonetheless a year or years!
Only recently have I considered that to solve this problem I must go inward- instead of going outward. The problem isn’t outside me. It’s inside me. I unconsciously choose all of this.
Every time I start to adjust to a place, it seems I have to go because my visa expires. Or something happens. Or I already have bought a flight.
When I finally felt some peace in Bulgaria in mid 2018, my visa “expired” and I had to get going. That was the longest I ever spent in one place (about 6-7 months) in the past 2.5-ish years.
That moment felt cruel because I had a girlfriend… But we were both young and each other’s firsts, we had no maturity or capability to handle the problems that were tossed our way.
Was it a surprise that we broke up? I could hate her for her faults and myself for my faults, but as I reflect on it more and more I feel compassion for both her and me and us as it were.
Every relationship has problems but fighting visas and money and immigration all at the same time dulls every strong flame. At least in a dramatic argument there is passion and fire and make up sex. But there is no such passion with paperwork and long distance suffering.
Alas, it is so. I am in many ways held bondage by this past identity so unconscious that it took me years to realize it.
I am unconsciously sabotaging my own happiness by traveling, but now I’ve dug myself in so deep that settling and building a home and building a real life seem so far out of reach!
Should it be in Sofia, where I have the most friends and life is walkable and good? Or should it be somewhere where people speak English, and that’s better for my hobbies and business?
In any case, I must break the “outsider” and “traveler” identity. Already in Thailand I let go of the former, and told people I LIVE in Thailand and that I’m MOVING to Sofia. I LIVE in Sofia now, and NOT TRAVEL through it.
The outsider is harder to break, for it has deeper roots, and is the core issue which led me to aimlessly wander in the first place.
Breaking the Circle of Suffering
Through reflection and awareness, already I can feel the patterns of the past dissolving. You can only get more of what you have by doing what you’ve always done, so I intend to take different action to get better results.
At first, my goal was to have a home base by March or so of 2020- but as I feel a detached neuroticism taking over me again, as it did in December of 2018, it becomes ever more apparent that I locate this place to call home “ASAP.”
Unconscious Pain, Re-Manifested Repeatedly
The way that I realized this is I spoke with another long-term traveler digital nomad friend- we met in Bulgaria, traveled to different continents, then met again in Southeast Asia.
What I realized was this: we both likely suffered CPTSD as children, and were repeating it in our travels!
PTSD as you know is a singular traumatic event (ie. getting robbed and beaten) that causes significant emotional distress.
CPTSD (or complex PTSD) is repeated, subtle to mid level trauma (or high) over a period of years.
For example, getting bullied in middle school severely and constantly switching schools and losing friends was not as traumatic as war to me, but a state of little periods of stress that kept re-manifesting over and over.
Every day going to school felt like war. I identified as a soldier in a way, never certain whether I’d enjoy a day of peace or this way the day I got pushed around.
This type of stress creates a state of depersonalization, derealization, and feeling of detachment as the consistent stress begins to wear on you. You get accustomed to the constant pain, it becomes the norm but in it becoming the norm you lose yourself to detachment.
Me and my friend both realized that we were entering states of detachment again- when you know you’re gonna be leaving a place, what’s the point in connecting with people?
In the beginning I had no such problem. I connected easily in Montreal, Budapest, Belgium, London, and Sofia. But after I left Sofia that first time (likely because of a strong relationship attachment) it all began to feel meaningless.
I was leaving Cyprus, so what was the point of connecting with anyone there? Instead of engaging with life, I detached from life. Of course if you’re somewhere and you’ll leave there is still a point to engaging with the people there, but the problem is the sense of detachment prevents you from doing exactly what you need to do to be happy.
Travel has likely re-induced a subtle state of CPTSD to me and my friend over and over.
Where will you work? How will you meet girls? How will you make friends? When will you say goodbye? Where to eat? Where to workout? How to get around the city? Jet lag? Client calls? Visas? Immigration?
Me and my good friend are highly adjusted to states of constant stress. In some ways this makes us powerful. Drop me randomly in any city in the world and I’ll find a way to get by (well maybe not North Korea or ISIS-held areas please).
The Key is in Perpetuation…
But the problem becomes that the ENERGY wants to PERPETUATE itself! When you are happy you want to share that energy. And when angry, you wish others to be angry too!
So we’d adjust to stress better than most, but the problem is that we find ways to perpetuate it at the same time.
The problem would be that if you dropped me in a random country I’d probably unconsciously decide to go explore all the countries around it in an unsustainable fashion such so that this CPTSD energy keeps living on within.
We wouldn’t relax when we have a girlfriend, job, and stable life in the new city. We would claw for more.
Releasing and Transforming
This is why I’ve been believing in a lot of transformational stuff recently. The fact is that “I” am not capable of achieving “XYZ” because “I” am not someone who HAS “XYZ.”
You have to become exactly that which you want to receive- transformation must take place in order for change to happen, otherwise you will perpetuate the past.
I can’t say with certainty how to release the shackles of the past, but via meditation, conscious action, and reflection, I feel that it is possible.
Ultimately it also takes place in the present moment. I am choosing to feel belonged, and choosing to enjoy each moment as best as I can. What other choice is there?
Finally in each pain there is a positive.
In becoming an outsider, I thought independently and realized that success was incredibly easy to achieve. Most people are chained by the shackles of others. I am chained by a shackle nonetheless, but at least I got to live an epic past 2 years.
Ultimately no shackle is worth holding onto, it is against the essence of true freedom!
So I intend to release my shackles, break the cycle, and redesign my life and fulfillment as I see fit instead of letting the past run me.
And you can do this, too 😉