Micro-Trauma, Broken Relationships, and Learning to Tell the Truth
This is my safe place, my words I mean. This is where I have always felt comfortable telling the truth. Just “letting it rip.” And God, when I am done, my soul feels twelve times lighter like a dropped off a load of unnecessary weight and came back with someone to help me carry what was left
But lately I have had this question nagging me: WHY is it so incredibly difficult for me to tell the truth out loud?
Now, I am not talking about the kind of truth that is the opposite of a lie. If someone asks me, “Sydney, does my outfit match,” I will answer, without hesitation, “hell no honey your color palette would need Michelangelo to rise from the dead for that outfit to come back to life.”
I am talking about the kind of truth that sits inside your chest, bubbling up, growing, and then eating you alive when you don’t say it out loud. Like when your boss says something condescending to you in front of your coworkers, or your significant other stares at his or her phone while the two of you are eating dinner together, or your friend cancels on coming to your birthday party. Are you getting a hint of what kind of truth I am talking about now? The seemingly “insignificant” truthful feelings that are planted inside of us when we feel neglected, overlooked or undervalued. And instead of speaking up – “telling our truth” – we back down and just let it go because “why bother rocking the boat?”
Why, why, why, WHY do we think it is okay to NOT speak up when we are feeling these things, or in other words, to refrain from telling our truth, when we know that it will fester until it reaches full blown anger?
You see, I think we can stuff little truths like this for so long, but eventually, they will turn into big truths. And in my experience, when I let my little truths stay silent for too long, the big truths came out of me like a roaring lion, who suddenly remembered every micro-aggression caused by one person and decided to yell it in their face because well I just couldn’t handle holding it inside of me anymore. YIKES.
I regret to say I have lost too many relationships this way, by avoiding little painful moments for the sake of comfort, only to have those moments build into one BIG moment that might sabotage the relationship entirely. I think my ex and I especially suffered from this. I refrained telling him about things he did that incited feeling of neglect in me for fear it would make him angry, and he struggled to tell me when he was suffering from his own personal demons for fear I would think he was weak. And when those things finally did come out, they had built and grown and morphed into these gigantic and uncontrollable bowling balls of emotion and resentment that hurt us both beyond repair when they finally came out.
Fortunately, we were able to see this after the fact, and promised each other as friends that we would never let it happen again. But still, what a waste that our fear of telling our truth could lead to the end of a love that may have lasted forever.
So, what is the common denominator of all these situations, these black holes where truth seems to disappear? What causes these zippers to be placed over our mouths when we need to speak up and tell someone how we are feeling? Well, I think answering those questions is where the deep work begins-
Because I believe the answer is fear – fear caused by microtraumas from trying to tell our truth and then having it backfire on us, which caused us to subconsciously promise ourselves that we would never experience that trauma again. Stick with me…
Can you remember a time, maybe when you were a child, when you went to a friend, or a parent, or maybe even a teacher, and shared something vulnerable with them?
Truth: “My feelings are hurt.”
Response: Why are you being such a wuss?
Truth: “I feel like you never ask me how my day is going and it makes me feel neglected. Can you ask my how my day is going every once and a while?”
Response: Why are you telling me I am such a bad friend? You ask for too much.
Truth: “I have a learning disability and I need extra help with this assignment. That’s why my grade is so low.”
Response: You are just lazy. Get a grip.
Receiving these responses after we have just shared something vulnerable, are direct causes of shame. And queue micro-traumatic event that causes our still developing brain to rewire its neurological connections in a way that will protect us from ever feeling the kind of rejection or shame again. I.e., “I will never share anything like this again.” Up come the walls.
We humans have so much power over each other, simply with our words. And when we neglect to use them to encourage, accept and empower, we can have a lifelong impact of shame on another human being. And I truly believe that hurting people hurt people.
BUT, healed people heal people! And that is why I have become determined to start taking a hard look at every moment in my life that made me want to hide my truth. And then, to forgive the person whose words made me want to hide that truth, knowing that someone else probably made that person want to hide their truth too, making them incapable of handling mine with love and grace.
I am going to forgive that person, those people. And I am going to forgive myself from withholding my truth from the people I love and who love me.
And I WILL begin telling my truth, even when it is scary and uncomfortable and I am literally shaking with fear. And if that truth is not received well? I will forgive that person and pray for their healing, because they have probably experienced a microtrauma that made them afraid to tell their truth. And if it is received well? I will hug the receiving person and thank them for their kindness.
And lastly, I WILL accept and hear someone else’s truth with grace and empathy and open arms. Because I am determined to break this ugly and detrimental cycle of microtrauma, fear, and hiding truth.
From now on, starting with me, the cycle will look like this:
1. Tell my truth always.
2. Be grateful for those who hear it with love and want to engage in conversation about it.
3. Forgive and pray for those who shame me for sharing my truth.
4. Listen to others’ truth always.
5. Embrace them with grace, gratitude, and open arms.
6. Encourage that person to keep telling their truth.
7. That person is now equipped to hear others’ truths with grace, gratitude and open arms.
And this is how I believe we begin to heal broken relationships and broken hearts that were shattered by fear and shame – by becoming a safe place for ourselves, so we can become a safe place for others, so they can become safe places for more people.