We can BE anything we WANT to Be. And we want you to Know and Believe this Truth. But you must be aware of the 5 Hidden Stressors that can sabotage your very right to BE who you Are!
These are stressors that no one wants to talk about. And so, right here… I’m going to divulge some pretty personal things.
Most people think of stress as all the things that sit on our plate and pile up… higher and higher. Our work load, the needs of our families, our financial responsibilities, our health, and so forth.
I’m not talking about these types of stressors. I’m talking today about HIDDEN STRESSORS.
Hidden Stressors are things lingering in your subconscious. Sometimes these stressors surface to your conscious state and you ignore them and bury them back to where they came from… telling yourself you either don’t want to think about it, OR will think about it at another time.
There are 5 types of Hidden Stressors which can permeate into our lives, sabotage our joy for life and keep us stuck - feeling tired, unmotivated and sad. Eventually these Hidden Stressors play havoc on our self-confidence and can even be the cause of “giving up” the dreams we once had as Younger Women.
Let’s look at these 5 Hidden Stressors that play havoc on our Hormone Balance! But quickly before delving into them, first recognize that these stressors fall on a spectrum. Meaning there are different degrees of severity: some so profound that even I can’t verbalize their existence… and some mild, though still very real.
- Past Trauma.
Past trauma can be just about anything that happened in your life from birth to present, that negatively affected you in a way that you haven’t yet acknowledged and accepted and come to peace with.
It includes abuse as a child, emotional or physical. This is the most significant and powerful form of Hidden Stress that MUST be dealt with. You cannot hide from this form of Hidden Stress. It will find you no matter where you go. When we are born, our brains are almost virgins. The only memories that have been laid down in our brains at birth are the memories made while you are in your mother’s womb. (And these memories count too!)
You may be thinking… “Gosh… I have memories of things that I think affected me as a child! What can I do to overcome them?” After all, I can’t imagine that there is anyone who hasn’t had some experience as a child or adult that hasn’t affected their psyche. Though this is FAR beyond the scope of this blog post, and also beyond the scope of my knowledge, I CAN share with you the basics about what psychologists say about healing from Trauma and what I personally have come to understand through my years practicing as both a Family Physician and Geriatrician.
Emotional and Physical Abuse, be it delivered by a parent, sibling, spouse, acquaintance or even stranger, has to first be Acknowledged. Acknowledging abuse is the FIRST step. If you don’t take this first step, you cannot heal from it.
Once you acknowledge what happened, you can develop some insight into how it is effecting you. You will never be able to change the past, but you CAN change the future. And by acknowledging the past and developing insight into how it has permeated into your life and INFLUENCED your life, you can CHANGE the future.
Remember, there are different degrees of “Abuse.” For some, Trauma can be things that are so catastrophic that we can barely think about them. My daughter-in-law is a child psychologist. She once told me of a trauma one of her patients experienced that is too horrific for me to even say out-loud. There is no reason to put the visual in anyone else’s mind to just make a point. Just recognize it was horrible. A good friend of mine also experienced a trauma with the loss of her daughter – also too devastating for words – and again a visual that must never be shared in order to protect you.
Individuals who have endured these types of traumatic experiences benefit from professional help, and one of the first steps in helping these victims is helping them Acknowledge what happened in their life. Without this first step, they cannot see where the trauma has affected their lives. Once they know how their lives were affected, THEN they can start to change the future and live a stronger, healthier and happier life.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are “abuses” that are far less devastating, but are non the less REAL. They can permeate your life and literally hold you back from achieving your goals.
Fortunately, I will say with absolute confidence that IF You Can Speak the Words of the Abuse… You Can Break Through It’s Chains of Imprisonment.
Examples are a child who is told she is less worthy than her sibling. Not smart enough, attractive enough, too fat or too skinny. It may be the feeling of being unloved, under-appreciated, or even too much trouble. It doesn’t take words. Actions are powerful and children pick up on everything.
These are all possible “Traumas” that may or may not have been completely innocently displayed in your childhood. From the most horrific to even innocent behaviors displayed, they can all have some impact on your life that only YOU can think about. And thinking about them IS important to Your Future. Whether we WANT to address them or not, I highly recommend You do.
- Living a Lie.
Living a lie is dangerous. I lived with a lie sitting on my shoulders for TWENTY YEARS! When I tell you about it, you are going to be shocked! And ok, ok, I’ll tell you about it. But first let me define the problems with Lies that might not be so obvious.
We all know that lies are wrong. We even have come to grips with telling lies by calling them “Little White Lies” and deciding that sometimes little white lies are okay in order to protect others.
Little white lies that are told to keep an innocent fantasy going, or to protect someone who can’t understand the concept due to cognition are NOT lies. They are exactly what I just described – Fantasies and Proper Communication based on the person’s cognition.
On Christmas Day, my son texted me asking if we had twelve AAA batteries. Apparently, Santa forgot the batteries that were needed for my 3-year-old Grandson’s new trucks. I wrapped them up and got them to my son who then “found them” behind the TV! Santa must have dropped them from his big red sack!
With my patients who have dementia, communication to their family is vital. But keeping the patient comfortable, calm and happy requires speaking to them in ways they can understand AND to keep difficult things they cannot understand in conversations with their families, not them. Reassurance is key with patients with dementia, (and children!). It’s not a little white lie. It is part of understanding the process of what people with dementia can understand and handle.
Just as trauma and abuse falls on a spectrum, so do Lies. You can make up lies to make things easier to “deal with.” That is a lie. And it’s the kind of lie that just grows and grows until it truly becomes a Hidden Stressor. We’ve all heard the saying “The Webs We Weave.” They get bigger and more complicated to the point that you don’t remember what you said to who.
The truth, upfront from the beginning, is ALWAYS the best policy. If you aren’t sure about how to define the truth, don’t say anything at all. How to define the truth will come to you later. How much you should say will come to you later. And whether you should say anything at all will come to you later.
Always tell the truth.
So, you want to know about my Big Fat Lie that I lived with for 20 years?
I have always been a little bit of a rebel in my life. (Big surprise, right?) Well, the first time I went to college, right out of high school, I was more interested in living in the country (45 minutes from my college), organic gardening and hanging out with my dog and ferret. High school was easy for me and I don’t recall ever bringing a single book home. So why should college be any different? Well, when you rent a dilapidated trailer on a tree farm that is 45 minutes away from your school, and spend your time gardening and walking for hours on end through the woods, contemplating the purpose of life… you don’t have a lot of time to make it to class! So, when finals came around and I realized I was about to flunk… let’s just say that I started to worry!
One of my classes was a Creative Writing class. I hadn’t gone to class at all – except the very first class. So, what is a naughty girl to do? I went to my professor’s office not knowing what on earth I was going to say. I just figured it would come to me at the last minute.
I introduced myself and then started to cry. Somehow what happened next was the biggest Lie of my life! (Oh gosh I hope my professor isn’t reading this now – but if she is… let me say in advance, I’m SORRY!)
I told her with tears running down my face that my parents had been in a car accident. That my dad was killed instantly and my mom died 2 weeks later!
Uh… I am STILL shocked that I made up that lie! But I did! And well… it didn’t end there. I told her that I had actually been writing little things here and there all semester. (I hadn’t.) She was a kind, young teacher who was very compassionate and told me it was going to be “okay.” And to bring her in everything I had written and she would use that to determine my grade.
Well, now what? I had a girlfriend who was living in a dorm for a nearby Community College, so I went to her with my “challenge”. She told everyone in her dorm that I needed anything anyone had written to turn in as my own writings! I must have been given 30 or more essays and poems and all sorts of writings from that dorm! And yes, I turned it in. I didn’t even read them!
Ok… now ladies… if you have a lie that beats THAT… you get a PRIZE!
I got a “B” in the class. Shame. Shame.
I suffered with that lie for 20 years. No one knew what I had done. When I was about 40, after I had already become a doctor, I told my mom and dad, my husband, and my siblings about the lie. It was a HUGE relief. For 20 years I was fearful that my lie might actually cause something terrible to happen. Getting it off my shoulders was the best thing that could happen to me.
Lies aren’t worth it. People will forgive you if you tell the Truth. Lies are another story. And not a “good story” either. Always tell the truth. And if you have a deep lie that you are also keeping a secret… share it. Tell someone. Tell EVERYONE. It will Free You!
That leads to the next obvious Hidden Stressor.
- Keeping Secrets
My husband taught me the truth about Secrets. He told me that a secret is not a secret if two people know about it. In other words, if you don’t want anyone to know about something… don’t tell ANYONE! Not even one person!
How about other types of Secrets? A REAL secret. One we keep to ourselves because we want to avoid consequences that might happen if we let others know something we did. This is a really tough spot to be in if your secret can hurt someone else AND your secret is something that is very old and a “single” mistake. None the less, THIS is a true secret and one that will hang out in your subconscious until you acknowledge it and do what ALL of these Hidden Stressors require – looking at the Insight on how it is affecting your life.
Having a “true” secret like this is not worth the damage it does to your subconscious. There has to be someone in your life that you can trust to release that secret to. It is time to change it from being a secret to getting it out in the open! Just like I did after holding my “Secret Lie” to myself for 20 years! If you don’t have a best friend to “confess” to, think about going to your minister, or priest, or even doctor.
Fortunately, I have already done this work and I don’t have any more secrets. I’ve “come clean” to all my secrets – by admitting them. And since doing this work, I haven’t kept a secret since! When I do something that needs correcting, I acknowledge my wrong doing right up front so they don’t become a secret! In fact, telling the truth about my “big lie” was the start of my work in negating all the secrets and lies I told! Including apologizing to my son for kicking his “Sweet Pickles Bus” across the floor spreading a hundred organized cards across the room in all directions.
There are a handful of things I inflicted on my son when he was growing up. Things I didn’t admit to anyone, but kept a secret to myself in hopes they would “go away.” The “Sweet Pickles Bus” was just one event that I did that I regretted immediately after doing. But I guess I wasn’t mature enough to stop at the very moment I made the mistake and correct it! These are things that were immature and wrong that required admitting and apologizing for later in life when he was grown. Most of them he didn’t even remember. But I did. He forgave me.
Admitting where I went wrong as a mother has actually made us closer. It helped him come up with things HE remembered that he thought were wrong, like giving his Weeble Collection away to a poor family without asking him first! I never even knew this hurt him! It required an apology too… because HE saw it as “wrong” and it hurt him. In fact, it shocked me that it hurt him and I couldn’t get over it for years. I finally figured out a way to put it behind me. I bought every Weeble I could find on Ebay for Christmas one year. Whatever it takes – YOU need to Free Yourself from what hurts you. Remember the Weebles from the 80’s? How dare I give them away without asking him first! Stand corrected!
So far, we have Trauma, Lies and Secrets. Think to yourself… The Truth Will Set You Free. And, Apologize for the Hurts You Caused Others – even if you don’t think you’re guilty! If they were hurtful to anyone, there was a miscommunication needing an apology.
That leads to fourth Hidden Stressor.
- Guilt and Other Insecurities
This is a big one. Guilt is one of the worst emotions we can have. It will eat you from the inside out and is always associated with additional insecurities. It commonly comes from either one of the other Hidden Stressors, or from your parents. It was common for Our Generation of Mothers to place guilt on their children in order to get Us to do what they wanted. In my family, this was definitely the case, as it is so commonly for Us Midlife Women of Today. And that is important for you to recognize. If anyone used guilt to get you to do what they wanted you to do, THEY were wrong, Not You. Today we call that manipulation, selfish, and at a pathologic state, Passive / Aggressive behavior. They all cause guilt to a different degree - based on the Severity of Exposure and the Sensitivity of You. For most of us, it was just a way of parenting that had no major hidden agenda. None the less, it still instilled that “guilt complex” that can serve as a Hidden Stressor.
Guilt is quite ugly. And to make it worse, our parent’s generation also had the mentation that their children “owed” them something. This is a very dangerous way to think. When it comes to parenting, there is nothing farther from the truth. It causes extreme guilt. And it’s selfish.
Our children didn’t ASK to be born. WE chose to give birth to them. WE OWE THEM. Our children don’t owe us anything. I had one parent tell me once “I had five children because I figured if I had five, at least one would take care of me in my old age.” Well? At least she was being honest! But if you think like this, rethink your ideas. Our children don’t owe us anything. Except a return of LOVE, that we have given to them.
We’re not “supposed” to take care of our parents. We’re not “required” to do anything for our parents. But we SHOULD. We SHOULD because they are our loving parents. (NOTE: this is referring to LOVING parents. Not parents who were abusive and neglectful.)
If we were fortunate enough to have parents who loved us, and did the best they could for us with what they had at the time, that is all it should take to love them back and do whatever is necessary to help them when they need it. Sure, it might be hard to do that if they are the type of parent who “expects it.” Really hard. But, none the less, if they did for you… with love… you SHOULD give back. Getting over how they “expect it”, is another story.
If you are expected to take care of your parent, you actually need to delve deep into what came from your parent’s life that caused him or her to be mixed up over what “Unconditional Love” really means. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help them. It means you don’t need to feel Guilty about anything you cannot help them with.
Freedom comes from forgiving them for what THEY were dealt with that caused Their misperception of Unconditional Love.
Discover it. Acknowledge it.
And Gain Insight into it.
And Be Free.
Your loved one may never understand or recognize this… but that doesn’t mean YOU can’t.
This is exactly why it is so important to apologize to Your children for any guilt or insecurities that occurred from Your mistakes. Acknowledging that none of us are perfect, not even the best parent in the world is perfect. We do the best that we can do with what we have at the time.
When you apologize to your children for anything that you may have done that caused them harm or hurt, you Free BOTH You and the person you love. It gives them the opportunity to think about what might be causing their guilt or insecurities, and letting go of whatever that is, for themselves.
My mother never told me she loved me, not once, until I was a grown woman and mother myself. One day out of the blue after hearing me tell my son a million times how much I loved him, she wrote the words “I love you.” I can count the number of times on one hand that she has told me that. But I know she loves me. She always showed me she loved me. It’s not MY fault that she can’t say it or write it. And action is far more important than words. Imagine the suffering that she must have endured to have the beautiful gift of saying these 3 beautiful words, “I LOVE YOU” taken away from her.
I read all the time about “Forgiving.” Forgiving is a whole lot easier if the person who hurt you has apologized, right? So, BE that person. Apologize for any Guilt or Insecurities your children and loved ones find have surfaced in their lives - now and in the future. Don’t be afraid to apologize. It’s NOT our fault in the end. It’s all from things we had no control over that were embedded deep into our subconscious.
It goes a Long Way Back. Letting Go is the Key!
That leads us to the last Hidden Stressor.
Subconscious Fears are based on the fear of failure, rejection, abandonment and loss. They are based on someone or something that threatens the very security of our being.
I used to fear losing my job, my means of income that helps support my family, allows me to have “things” and what I viewed as “comforts” of life. In fact, it has only been THIS YEAR that I have eliminated this false fear. Once David and I got an RV and realized how little it takes to make us happy, that fear dissipated. I basically need nothing of material nature at all. As long as I have a clean pair of underwear I’m doing okay!
But I think many women have this fear. It goes along with caring for those we love. But in reality, nothing is important if you have two things: Your Reputation and Love.
TRUE Fear, that lies in our Subconscious, is Fear of Rejection, Abandonment and Loss.
Think about how you feel when you first enter a relationship. The relationship is new and without an established commitment you feel Vulnerable. Even as time passes, and a commitment is made, Vulnerability is still always present. We are humans and can only control our own actions. What others do is beyond our control. This makes us always Vulnerable.
You can only do what you know is right. You can love, cherish, be true, honest and committed. And these actions are almost always brought back to you double fold. But sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes someone does you wrong anyway.
This is life. We are always Vulnerable. We never know what the future will bring. We can fear it. Or we can accept it and embrace it.
Vulnerability can cause insecurities. And insecurities can cause the feeling of Vulnerability. We have to recognize that when we are afraid, our actions are less than Unconditional and Fully Giving. We simply cannot allow Fear from Vulnerability to enter into our lives. It is inescapable. The only way to eliminate Vulnerability, is to be a hermit and love no one.
I have so many stories that represent Overcoming Fear of Vulnerability. But there is one woman in my life who has served as probably the bravest woman I know. And that is my sister-in-law, Cathy. She had event after event that could have caused her multiple battles with Vulnerability. In this respect, she has served as a leader in my life.
The one story that has a funny twist to it, worth ending this article with a funny twist, is a story around one of her “blind dates.”
Cathy is like her brother, my husband, David. She is committed and dedicated to those she loves. When she makes her mind up over something, nothing stands in her way. Years after a divorce she decided to check out one of the dating sites on the internet. She tells us the story after the fact, and we had quite a giggle about it. But what she didn’t know, is that I learned one more thing about my sister-in-law that day. That she was POWERFUL.
Cathy was getting to the point in her life when she really wanted a relationship. She met this guy on an internet dating site. She checked him out very well. Checked out whether he was posting on other sites, posting on gay or bisexual sites (which she wasn’t interested in), did internet searches for anything “scary”, and basically, just doing her homework. She finally decided to meet this guy – in a public place. They met a local day/night hot spot and shared a drink or two and some good laughs. Enough laughs to agree to see him again. They met at the same location and really hit it off. The second time, they left the hot spot and went to a dance club by way of his car, leaving her car behind. They had a great time! She thought to herself, “Humm… I like this guy.” They met the third, fourth and fifth time – repeating what they did during the second date. Driving to other local hangouts, dancing and having a few drinks. She was really thinking that it was time to let him pick her up from her house. Then the bomb hit at the END of the sixth date.
He told her he didn’t have a driver’s license! It had been permanently revoked because of too many DUI’s!
Cathy had a decision to make. She was really liking this guy. They were having a great time together. They had a ton in common. He had a good job. He was kind. Funny. Good looking. Hey, it mattered.
She didn’t tell us, or anyone about this. She just made her mind up. It was over. She wasn’t about to see him again. He was drinking and DRIVING HER in HIS CAR with a permanently revoked license. And he did it SIX times without telling her.
Sure, she felt Vulnerable. She was Vulnerable. And she really liked this guy. But she realized, on her own, that it wasn’t real. What she THOUGHT he was, wasn’t what he was at all. That’s pretty hard to do after you’ve invested a lot of time, energy and money into a relationship that felt good.
She never saw him again. She wrote him a Dear John Letter and told me and David about it. I respected her more than I could even say in words that day.
Vulnerability is real. It goes with intimate relationships. It goes with motherhood, daughterhood and sisterhood. It goes with friendships and every single relationship we have. It goes with jobs, and responsibilities. Simply put, we are vulnerable.
Fearing loss of “stuff” is not worth it. Stuff means nothing and there isn’t a single one of us who can’t live without “stuff.” But fear of rejection, abandonment and loss is very real and makes us vulnerable.
But we CAN live without fear. Instead of fear, we can live with comfort that our place in this World goes hand in hand with loss.
Without loss, we have no Love. Without Love, we have no Life Worth Living.
Vulnerability is a Good Thing. We need to Embrace it and know…
when we hurt, it’s because we Loved.
Putting It All Together:
There are many consequences to these 5 types of Hidden Stressors that lie deep in our subconscious. Just remember… no one is going to pull them up and acknowledge them for you. You have to do that for yourself. Sure, if you go to a psychologist or a counselor, they will try to help you pull them up. But YOU are the one that has to do it. AFTER that, you have to LOOK for how you may act or behave because of their existence. This is where the true power and magic happens. This is what I call Developing Insight into Your Psyche.
How about one more example to bring it all together.
My mom had a tough childhood. Eleven kids growing up, poor on a farm. My Granny was an Angel. But I guess my Granddad wasn’t so nice all the time. That’s probably why God gave those eleven children a true Angel for a mother. I’ve heard some stories that probably weren’t much different than many other families back then who were large, poor families, growing up in Rural America. But compared to my personal upbringing, and what we believe is acceptable today, there is sure to be a lot of pain in all eleven of the children, somewhere in their subconscious minds.
That same pain, though certainly not as profound, is in MY brain too. Because my mother experienced it, I have pain from it too. Though she broke the chain of “abuse”, it still affected ME because it affects HER. My mom has a difficult time with trust and I suspect doesn’t completely trust me. And so, her pain STILL affects me today every time this pain surfaces in her!
This is an important point. When someone YOU love displays behaviors that cause YOU insecurities, YOU have to Acknowledge it and come to an understanding and INSIGHT about it FOR YOURSELF! By breaking down where it originates, you gain the first piece of Insight that you need to heal. THEN you can look at HOW it plays a role in your Life… You can Change your Future and Free Yourself from what Never Belonged to You in the First Place.
The only thing that belongs to you 100% - Is YOU.
No one else’s experiences “belong” to You.
Equally critical to recognize is to understand that what affects YOU, effects your children. And for most of us, we likely don’t start recognizing our own problems until we are older, more mature, when we benefit from the beautiful wisdom of aging. This means that it might be “too late” for your children. You might have already passed it innocently to your children. And THEY might not even know it yet, which means it passes down to your Grandchildren!
Remember, it started Generations ago. Not with You. THAT IS KEY!
I’m asking you to think about Hidden Stressors. And to talk about something no one really wants to talk or think about.
The Key to it All:
Acknowledge your Hidden Stressors. Take a little time to contemplate your life. Ok, take a LOT of time. It’s worth it. Think about what affected you negatively. Then think about how it is manifesting in your life. What Hidden Stressors are you dealing with?
You have a God Given Right to BE the Beautiful Person You Are. And, whether you like it or not, You ARE Vulnerable - always have been and always will be - like every other human being. You don’t have to dwell over and over again once you Acknowledge Your Hidden Stressors. You just need to use that Acknowledgement to gain Insight into how it affects you. THEN you can overcome it and Break the Chain of passing it down to others in your family.
In fact, it’s important NOT to dwell on it. When you dwell on something, you’re put yourself on a merry-go-round that doesn’t stop. An annoying merry-go-round, that isn’t so merry. Only YOU can get off and stay off. You need to go there. But you don’t need to “stay” there.
It’s never too late to start where you need to start.
Acknowledge. Insight. Forgive. Apologize.
Break the Chain.
Because in the end, it makes a difference with the Balance of Your Entire Life, including every single Hormone System in your body. Since it all starts in the brain.
I LOVE YOU.
Dr. Karen (DO)
Bioidentical Hormone Creams