Why Trauma Might be at the Root of Your Scarcity Mentality

“I’m not enough. I don’t have enough. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough energy. I am not skinny enough, pretty enough, young enough, happy enough, grateful enough….” The list goes on and on if you struggle with scarcity mentality. As I was processing with a client who was struggling with some of these negative belief systems and has a very long and traumatic history, it occurred to me how deeply linked scarcity and trauma really are.  Part of trauma and having a trauma-organized nervous system- one that goes into flight, fight, freeze, submit or collapse often- is believing that we are not good enough and/or that we are innately bad, broken or deserving of the abuse or neglect.  These core-beliefs are actually PART OF the survival skill because believing that abuse, maltreatment from people who are in power does two things: it allows us to maintain the fantasy that those people are loving, predictable and safe AND it gives us a false sense of autonomy and control.  “If it is about me, than I can do something to change it.” Then we go on to try to get unconditional love: “Maybe if I’m cuter or skinnier, or better at school or worse at school or louder or more fun at the party, then I might get the love I want.” The problem is- the abuse isn’t about our worth or lovability; it is about the perpetrator’s unresolved shit.

So believing that we are innately bad or broken and that the abuse is somehow our fault maintains the fantasy of safety and creates a false sense of autonomy. The good news is- all of these negative beliefs are lies.  As we move through our lives that way however, we inevitably end up with a deep sense of shame and of not being enough- sounds like a scarcity mentality to me.

An abundance mentality on the other hand is the deeply-held belief (not just in our heads, but in our hearts and on a deep cellular level) that we are good enough as we are, that we have enough, are enough, that we are whole, worthy, lovable beings just as we are in our imperfectly, wonderful human selves.  It is the idea that we can be empowered, engaged, energetic, grateful, curious and non-judgmental AND be imperfect. It is the idea that we learn from mistakes and that we are constantly growing and changing AND that we are whole and good enough just as we are. SOUNDS PRETTY GREAT- right?

All of these great things, empowerment, energy, engagement- they are all impacted by trauma. Abuse, neglect, witnessing and/or experiencing violence, even dealing with the effects of poverty- these are all examples of trauma and they all impact our sense of safety, worth, empowerment, lovability and the feeling of being whole and good enough as we are.  I think it is important to walk a fine line between recognizing the impact of these events, having compassion, patience and empathy for ourselves and others that have survived trauma.  At the same time, we want to do our best to heal from them, find our way back to empowerment, energy and abundance.  Finding a competent therapist, perhaps one that specializes in EMDR (especially with an attachment and somatic focus) or another trauma-informed approach can help to literally change the way that traumatic memories are stored in the brain and body.

Trauma almost always produces a flight, fight freeze, collapse and/or submit reaction.  As we continue to be in survival mode, these various forms of dissociation and survival defenses can create a life where we can only see the next thing in front of us.  We are just living paycheck to paycheck or just living crisis to crisis.   Rather than taking a stance of blaming, let’s take a stance of empathy with ourselves and others to see what is needed in order to thrive.  How can we remember our wholeness and start creating more abundance?

It is not helpful to simply tell people to have a better attitude, or to add thoughts of abundance, gratitude and positive thinking.  Although this may help slightly for people to practice these thought shifts, trauma does not heal from the top down (“Think positive thoughts and the rest will follow”). In fact, telling people to “just have a positive attitude” might exacerbate feelings of self-blame and shame.” Trauma heals from the bottom up. Looking at the trauma as it is stored in the system in the present moment, leaning into the pain and walking through it with mindfulness and compassion is what I mean by bottom up.  EMDR therapy is the most effective way I have found that helps clients in this process. Of course, there are other ways to heal, but all the ones I know require us to walk through our pain with some sense of self-compassion.

My hope in writing this blog is for people that have experienced trauma is to walk that delicate line. On the one hand, I want to encourage a deep understanding and compassion of the effects of trauma on their system, to have a nonjudgmental awareness of how trauma might be at the root of their struggle with scarcity.  On the other hand, I encourage folks to push their growth edges and comfort zones to walk through the pain and take responsibility for their healing process (this is very different than blaming yourself or being at fault for the abuse- YOU’RE NOT!). We need to have compassion and understanding AND ownership and responsibility for our lives and working towards creating abundance.  It is this magical tight rope of “You are whole and good enough in the present moment AND you can and want to change, grow and do things different in the future.”   May you find a way beautiful badasses to create an abundance of joy, love,  compassion,  wealth, happiness, compassion, freedom and love.

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