What does small feel like?
Sometimes when I am less than vigilant, the feelings of smallness takes over. When this happens I have to work very hard with my thoughts and feelings to ground myself in reality.
The feeling of smallness tells me that I am being belittled or that I am not respected or listened to. I feel like the five year old girl that was abused again. She was voiceless and powerless to stop the bad things that were happening to her. In response to the abuse, I became hypersensitive to all perceived threats.
The world is not a safe place and I can’t trust people
The world is not a safe place for an abused child and people cannot be trusted. These cognitive distortions made it necessary for me to develop defence mechanisms that I used to cope with what happened to me. They are the same coping strategies used by anyone who has experienced trauma of some kind. In some ways, I am stuck sometimes in the five year old body and my mind distorts the reality around me because that is what it has always done.
It takes effort and time to soothe myself and remind myself that the abuse is over that I am a survivor and that I am no longer the helpless little girl but a grown woman, independent and strong.
The smallness feelings comes in different forms, it can be jealousy, insecurity, feeling unloved or rejected or unheard. It is sometimes in the form of anxiety or worry that I have offended someone. It is also the feeling that my boundaries are being violated or that I am being made fun of. All of these feelings are the result of a damaged sense of self. My emotional growth was profoundly affected by the abuse and this is not something I can change overnight.
I am learning the tools to help myself through these feelings of smallness and being stuck. I have learned these in my therapy as well as through all the internet resources I have found.
I will tell you what helps me the most. When I sense the feeling of smallness, and I have come to recognise it very clearly as it is an uncomfortable feeling that anyone would want to run from. It starts in my stomach and travels up to my heart making my heart beat much faster. These are at least the physical sensations I experience. I then notice myself withdrawing from people and finding it hard to connect with people. I might avoid conversation altogether and start building a drama in my head. the drama involves me as a victim and the other person or people as controllers or manipulators.
When I start to feel like this, I breathe in slowly and deliberately and try to inhale as much self-compassion and love that I can. I have respect for the feeling because I know that it is not my fault. If I can be alone, I will meditate or write, but if not I just keep breathing and trying to correct the cognitive distortion. I do this by reminding myself that I have done nothing wrong that I don’t have to feel shame or guilt and that the person in question didn’t mean anything bad. Challenging the distortions helps me to change habitual patterns. I am trying to reprogramme my mind, I am altering the neural pathways.