‘Just one more chapter!’ As a kid I would stay up late engrossed in my books, even though my eyes were stinging and I was falling asleep. Now at 48, it’s one more episode of Friends where I’m heavily invested in Ross and Rachel’s on-off romance and desperate to find out if Rachel will get off the plane! The thing is, I’m no virgin to this comedy classic. I’ve watched it a gazillion times before!

We repeatedly escape to new worlds to relax our nervous system

Watching repeats means I know what happens next and I can delight in the laughter, positive emotion and spoiler alert – happy endings! The relationships between the characters, who share their lives as well as tell their stories, unfolds with each episode. It gives meaning to my life as a messy human and my place in this world as a sensitive and intuitive Wildheart

Some might say I’m spending far too much time hanging out in Central Perk with imaginary people that feel like my besties. Who wouldn’t want to go there? I absolutely adore New York – it has such a fabulous energy that keeps me going back, time and time again!

Although whilst I’m imagining what it would be like to exist in their world, my brain is releasing feel good chemicals into my system like oxytocin, (the hormone that controls empathy and social interaction), which calm my nervous system and help me feel relaxed whilst I snuggle on the sofa. 

As a survivor of childhood trauma, feeling relaxed and safe is everything. I want to believe in happy endings. It took me a long time to believe this was even a possibility for ‘somebody like me’.

Introvert Heaven = Indulging in social snacking without having to leave the house 

My ‘Friends’ also serve as excellent company without the threat of rejection or the hassle of organising diary dates. If you’re a sensitive and introverted Wildheart, you’ll know what I mean when I say that as lovely as people are, the overwhelm of socialising is exhausting and often requires a lot of quiet time afterwards to recover and recharge your batteries.

“When it comes to fictional characters, they are at our bidding. They are there whenever we need them, whenever we ask.” – Raymond A. Mar, Psychology Professor at York University

We invest in the characters to get a sense of belonging

As the odd one out and estranged member of my family, it feels safe to watch Friends without the usual underlying tensions. I don’t have to:

  • Mind-read
  • Feel responsible for anybody’s feelings
  • Worry about where the next snarky comment is coming from
  • Fear being frozen out because I’ve supposedly done something wrong. Oh, and I’ve got to guess what that is, because nobody will tell me. Do you remember the episode where Ross says he is ‘FINE‘? Yes, that’s the passive aggressive calling card.

Stories mean that we feel less alone

It’s common when you’re healing from trauma to self-isolate. So, I feel less alone when I identify with and see parts of myself in the three female friends.

  1. Rachel gives me permission to be more demanding and have needs, wants and desires.
  2. Phoebe inspires me to let my crazy-hippy-woo-woo stuff out of the closet.
  3. Monica normalises my OCD cleaning tendencies and desire to excessively control every single detail. Her narcissistic parents favour her brother (Ross) over her which drives her competitive urge and need to be right.

I can also relate to Chandler’s shut down emotions because of his parents’ dysfunctional relationship. Did you see the one where Monica tries to get him to cry and he can’t? After watching the film ET and talking about what would happen if she dies, he still can’t shed a tear.She yells at him, ‘What is wrong with you!!!?’ Childhood trauma Monica, that’s what.

Stories break down barriers and dissolve shame

What would you say if somebody asked you: ‘Do you wanna watch Netflix or go to therapy to talk about your childhood trauma?’

I know which one I’d rather do. Give me Johnny Deep or George Clooney any day over feeling the pain and rehashing the past. Except it’s not really rehashing the past. The pain already lives inside of me and if I don’t heal my wounds, they leak into the present, bleed over others and take control of my life.

Oprah said that when you’re trying to wake people up or encourage them on a healing path, you have to get creative because who wants to talk about their trauma and do the work? That is how The Oprah Show was born and whilst some may have seen it as trash TV because it focused on sex, relationships and weight loss, it was very clever. It gave people the chance to share their story which was a rating’s winner. People loved it!

The child inside us carries so much shame that prevents us from telling our story. Our inner child believes there must be something wrong with me if x, y and z happened and we couldn’t make it right. It has to be our fault because to put the responsibility with our parents, and acknowledge what was really going on would have been far too scary. This is why we develop so many maladaptive coping strategies and often don’t start to heal until life’s circumstances force our hand by breaking us wide open.

I was terrified the pain would be unbearable

We run away from and avoid our pain because we fear it will destroy us. The people who raised us couldn’t be with our pain because they couldn’t be with theirs. We think that if we go there, we’ll disappear into a big black void never to return again. It’s not true though, because any skilled therapist or Coach who understands trauma will know that you can’t talk or positively think your way out of it.

The only way out is through! You’ve got to feel it to heal it

We are hardwired for stories – it’s how we learn best. It’s how we relate to one another. It’s just as important to share your own story as it is to hear the stories of others. When I work with trauma, I don’t press on the wound. I talk around the wound and focus on building safety until my client is ready to face their pain.Then we go slow and we go into the hurty bit and come out for a rest. Our bodies are also really good at processing what they need to in the moment when we listen to them. I’m a huge fan of creativity – in particular journaling – to help clients express their pain.

Stories are the healing balm that bring us together and lead us home

In stories where there is struggle that we relate to, we feel connected with one another. MRI scans show that we actually experience the protagonist’s emotions which is validating, meaning-making and healing. My story written in the book, Stuck Between Two Worlds, tells the story of growing up in generational trauma through the eyes of my inner child, and how she ventured to the Wilderness to find her true self.

When I worked with Wildheart kids, I recorded 100 stories (you can still listen to them here), to help make growing up easier for these sensitive souls.

Stories of struggle can bring hope to others who feel lost

What people find comforting when they read my book is that they feel seen, heard and validated. Often as children we have felt unloved, wrong and broken, but we are not. We were raised by people who could not see themselves, so they definitely cannot see us. Many of us were shamed for being human and Ruby’s story dissolves that. She makes it safe to talk about what happened to us – breaking the dysfunctional family rule ‘Don’t talk about it or tell anybody.’

Your childhood trauma does not have to define you

It’s healing to learn that you are not broken, but in fact the environment you grew up in hurt you and you want to protect yourself by making sure you don’t get hurt again. Reading it through the eyes of a child who has survived, reinforces how truly courageous and resilient you are. It gives you hope that you can overcome it too.

This is my story, is it yours too? 

Meet Ruby. A fiery, 10-year-old red head who can’t sleep. She’s restless, hypervigilant and her curious detective brain won’t stop. She’s crippled by perfectionism, and terrified of making mistakes. She works harder and harder to make her family proud, but she’s exhausted. There was no way out! Ruby’s family are obsessed with how things look, but nobody talks about feelings. There is always drama. Ruby tries to hide her anger, but it keeps exploding without warning. Ruby is a big bookworm. She also loves cheese and the rain. Books are how she escapes from the chaos around her.

Ruby felt trapped in an impossible double bind

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Like a mental assault course with no training. Some days she did it blindfolded or with her fingers crossed behind her back hoping somehow she would make it through the day without getting into trouble. It was a crazy topsy-turvy whirlwind that swept you up and spat you out. Even mega observant Ruby with her super detective skills couldn’t predict or stop the monumental levels of emotional chaos. She tried to make her parents happy, but it was impossible – too often they would say she was mad or bad to deflect from the truth. She was sent to her room for hours & hours to calm down, but she didn’t know how to. What she did know was that the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes! Whenever she spoke up, she was shamed, blamed or punished. It was about her attitude. If only she wasn’t so rude and angry.

Turns out Ruby wasn’t a bad kid

She was a Wildheart. A highly sensitive soul who absorbed all the unspoken words, the unacknowledged feelings, the blame and shame. Her nervous system was often dysregulated (she lived in survival mode). She had no idea how much pain she was carrying. Until one day a magical stranger appears and lead Ruby to the Wilderness, where she learns another life does await her. As Ruby discovers her true power, one question remains—will she stay in the Wilderness with her Wildheart friends, or will she return to her family and their secrets?

Join Ruby as she learns to use her Wildheart superpowers for good. As she navigates the challenges of the Wilderness, she learns valuable life lessons including how to manage her worries, overcome her fears, and deal with explosive anger.

Stuck Between Two Worlds by Lisa Parkes is available to buy on Amazon now or work with me to unearth your story with my coaching programme, Write to Heal.

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