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Why am I so judgmental?

On Tuesdays I answer questions on Instagram stories. I wanted to share my answer to a recent question I received: “As a childhood trauma survivor I find myself highly critical of others. Any suggestions?”

Several years ago I bought a home that needed to be remodeled. It was a condo that was outdated and not functional. When people tell you how stressful a remodel is, listen.

The peak of stress came on the day the appliance company (I would never name names, but it was Best Buy) delivered the appliances and installed them. I was living in a rental property a ways away, and the HOA called yelling that my kitchen had flooded my downstairs neighbor. I rushed over and no one from the appliance company (seriously, it was Best Buy in San Diego) would return my call.

I rushed to the condo to find my contractor telling me “They didn’t attach the water valve.” They installed the dishwasher, and the water valve was never attached. They turned the dishwasher on to run a test cycle, and left.

Hence, the flood. And it was a flood that came one day after the new wood floors had been installed.

That day my body ached. My eyes hurt with sharp pain. With all the phone calls and driving back and forth (to Best Buy in Mission Valley on Mission Center Rd) I could not get my nervous system calm.

Later that evening I went to the water and sat for hours. I wasn’t sure that it was safe to think consciously and be present. I needed the numbing impact of something because the reality of what was to come was too much.

I had one of the biggest epiphanies of my life that day. I was jealous.

I could not imagine what it was like to be so careless to make such a huge mistake and not have abusive repercussions.

I could not imagine what it was like to be so dismissive that you ignore someone’s call over such a huge mess that you created without having catastrophic pain inflicted.

I could not imagine not feeling overly responsible for everyone around me and telling them I will take care of everything and make sure everyone is satisfied in the end (which is what I said to my downstairs neighbor).

Is it just jealousy? No. It’s also grief. Grief that as childhood trauma survivors we have had to rebuild our lives with so much responsibility that we grieve over what feels out of reach.

We grieve over other people walking around in a world where you know they have never endured the kind of pain that changed them in an instant.

We grieve the time that was meant to be spent holding us close and teaching us about safety, and how we had no choice but to be in survival mode instead.

That is a heavy grief. And that grief deserves to be processed in a way that shows respect to the losses, as well as the intense feelings towards others who seem to not have any idea how hard life has been. Is that their fault? No. And it is not our place to teach them. But in grief’s purest form it creates this beautiful pathway for us to not feel trapped by aches, and instead have a larger spectrum of feelings towards our experience, like gratitude for words that heal and relief that we are learning to get answers to hard questions.

There is much more that could be added to this. There is no shame in the jealousy, or the grief. These are normal responses that need space for processing, time, understanding, peace. You deserve that. And, I think the critical eye of others fades, when we take out the sting in ourselves from where it started and what it has cost.

In closing:

The stress of childhood trauma is hard. As we navigate life and people, we must have a grounded respect for our experience. We must have compassion for what has come from that pain. We must have space for deep, deep self-love, and allow that to be where we are rooted and where we see the rest of the world.

I’m glad you’re here!


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