“When we understand the reasons we react to our children in the way we do, we can begin to change the way we parent.”
Janet welcomes a return visit from trauma survivor Elisabeth Corey, who suffered throughout childhood and her teens from severe physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. As an adult, that horrific period of her life was wiped from her memory, but the birth of her twins triggered painful flashbacks. Elisabeth has not only championed her own recovery but dedicated her life and work to helping others—breaking the cycle of abuse through conscious parenting. Janet and Elizabeth share a brave conversation about how emotional suppression distances us from our true selves, which makes caring for our children much harder. Alternatively, awareness of our feelings leads to healing and sets us free.
Elisabeth’s website is BeatingTrauma.com where she offers one-on-one coaching, workshops, a blog, a free video series, and much more.
Transcript of “Getting Real with How We Feel (with Elisabeth Corey)”
Hi, this is Janet Lansbury. Welcome to Unruffled.
In this episode, I have the pleasure of reintroducing you to one of my favorite parent advocates, Elisabeth Corey. Elisabeth joined me in the early years of my podcast, actually, in a popular episode called “Losing It – Understanding What Makes Us Snap.” She’s a survivor of severe, complex childhood trauma. She’s a parent of twins. She’s dedicated herself to sharing her experience and wisdom and hope with others as a trauma recovery coach.
Today, we’ll again be discussing topics that resonate with most, if not all, of us as parents: emotional suppression, why it happens, what we can do about it, and how the emotions we suppress, specifically our anger, can make it harder for us to manage our triggers and our temper, assert healthy boundaries for our children, be aware of and in tune with our emotions and therefore ourselves, to be more self-aware and self-accepting. And by doing so, encourage our kids to be all these things too. We’ll talk about the problem and finding solutions that work.
Hi, Elisabeth. Welcome back to Unruffled. I’m so glad you could be here.
Elisabeth Corey: Thank you, Janet. I’m so glad to be back.
Janet Lansbury: You are a hero to me. You are one of the most courageous, generous souls that I’ve ever been able to connect with in my life. I’m so moved by your whole story. Just to share with listeners, Elisabeth has had severe abuse and trauma starting when she was two, and she now is not only bravely working through her own recovery many years later, but she coaches others to recover from complex and severe trauma. And that’s become your passion in life, right?
Elisabeth Corey: Absolutely. It’s everything to me, truly. It feels like all the years I spent not being permitted to talk about this is now, it’s all for this. It’s come to this point. And it feels so validating now that I can not only heal myself, but heal others too. So thank you for that really, really kind introduction, Janet. I’ll tell you what…
Janet Lansbury: Well, you know I love you.
Elisabeth Corey: I do. And you know, honestly, there are not a lot of parenting experts out there who will go this deep. You know, it’s not easy to talk about this stuff. It’s hard and I love that you bring it back to this and I think that makes you just so invaluable.
Janet Lansbury: Aw, thank you. Yeah, well I’m definitely not any kind of expert in the healing part, so that’s another reason I value people like you. And really, I don’t know anyone else that’s exactly like you in this work. I mean, what you’ve gone through was beyond the pale. As a parent it’s even hard to read your story and imagine that that could be possible, even that you’ve been able to recover and become a parent yourself. And I love seeing how your children are thriving and that your life with them is thriving. It’s huge hurdles, so you have so much to share.
Can you talk a little about where you are now in your journey, both as a person recovering from your own trauma and also in your work with others, especially parents I guess, for this podcast?
Elisabeth Corey: Yes, absolutely. I’ll talk about my past briefly. You know, in general, most people who work with me or follow me do know that I have a very severe traumatic past. As you said earlier, you know, it’s not trauma-lite we’re talking about. This is significant complex trauma for the majority of my childhood. When I talk about trauma-lite, by the way, I am referring to one or two instances of trauma or something like that. This is pretty severe stuff we’re talking about. Child abuse by both mother and father. Not only the sexual abuse, but also sex trafficking from my family members. So, big stuff.
You know, I came out of my childhood with almost no memories of anything that happened to me because I became so dissociative. And all of the emotions from all of my experiences are just bottled up inside of me. Which did mean, yes, that there were emotional explosions when I couldn’t hold all of that in anymore. But I was doing a pretty good job in my twenties of just shoving it all down and really working very hard to do that. I think probably most of my energy was going towards that effort of just putting it all deep inside me, never to be seen again. And I was dealing with some anxiety, certainly, and I was seeing a lot of physical symptoms in my body that just didn’t make sense for someone my age, like being arthritic in my twenties. It didn’t make any sense to anyone, let alone me.
But as you may be guessing, because I’m here on this parenting podcast, when my children came into the picture, everything changed. I like to refer to my children affectionately as my two little triggers, and they most certainly were. It is a very loving term now, probably wasn’t always very loving when I was being so triggered by them. But they really started bringing forward a lot of my trauma, both in memories, also in emotions, and also just in the impact it was having on the relationships I was still maintaining with very abusive people. I think something deep down inside me was saying, Get these kids out of here. And that really just opened me up to my trauma recovery. That really started —I pretty much counted down by the age of my children, who are now 16— and this journey started for me 16 years ago.
Janet Lansbury: Wow. Yeah, you say on your website: “They would cry and I would feel my own suffocation. They would express anger and I would feel threatened. They needed my constant attention and I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know how to practice self-care and I started to fall apart.”
Elisabeth Corey: Absolutely. It was just this downhill spiral for me. And as we know, the early years, there’s a lot of emotion going on with those little guys. They have a lot of expressions. They really want to say a lot and they don’t know how to say it. And they’re reacting to this big, crazy, scary, overstimulating place. And I did not know what to do with any of that, but something in me said, This isn’t really about them. At first, of course, I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but I knew it wasn’t about them. I knew it had something to do with my traumatic experiences in childhood and the abusive relationships with my own parents.
As I started processing through the big, big emotions in me —which were usually triggered by the big, big emotions in them— I was able to get to a place where I could, in a very grounded way, respond to them without those trauma triggers. I mean, this is years and years of work. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s a six-week program because it isn’t. We didn’t get traumatized in six weeks and we aren’t going to heal it in six weeks. But by staying dedicated to working with these emotions, expressing and processing them, we can get to a place where our kids can have these strong responses and that doesn’t necessarily mean we fall apart when it happens.
Janet Lansbury: Do you feel like you were a stranger to your own emotions? Most people that have experienced that kind of intense trauma, they disassociate, right? For survival.
Elisabeth Corey: Yes.
Janet Lansbury: So with all of that, what did you even make of emotions? I’m reading this book right now, The Body Keeps the Score, which you’ve probably read, but he talks about the studies they did where they figured out how to survey people to find out about their trauma. You know, because oftentimes people don’t remember or it’s not something they’re just going to tell somebody, You know, this sexual abuse happened to me or, This incest happened to me. And he said that one of the questions was, Was there anyone in your life as a child that you could feel safe with, that you could trust? Because what they found was the people that said no to that question had the hardest time of all recovering. Did you have anyone?
Elisabeth Corey: I didn’t. You know, sometimes when I get a memory back I think, Oh maybe that person was trustworthy. But then I get another memory back and I’m like, Nevermind.
Janet Lansbury: And so it’s almost like you don’t even have a framework for what kindness even is or feels like. All the emotions, like, what is this even? What does love feel like? What does caring feel like?
Elisabeth Corey: Exactly. And this is something, one of the biggest complaints, I guess you could call it, not really a complaint but, that I get from my clients is, How am I supposed to know what love and trust and compassion and caring is, if I haven’t experienced it? How am I supposed to embody those feelings for my kids or just in any relationship, if nobody ever showed that to me in my own life? And the truth is… and this isn’t something everybody believes when they first hear, by the way: all that stuff still exists within us. It actually isn’t something we have to be trained to do. We don’t have to learn it from another person. We are inherently compassionate, loving, trusting, and kind.
The problem is when we have all this trauma, all that trauma kind of sits on top of who we really are and blocks our access to what I refer to as the “grounded adult self”, which is the true self. It’s the aspect of self that we’re all trying to get back to on this journey. So when you said that at the beginning, you must have felt really disconnected from yourself. That’s exactly what I was disconnected from. I was disconnected from my adult self, my true self. That self that inherently is loving, compassionate, trusting, kind, that I had to lock away so I could put in place a bunch of survival mechanisms. One of which, of course, the biggest one being dissociation and the detachment from self that creates. So I had no access to that self and no access to all the emotions, whether those are grounded or ungrounded emotions.
I actually used to pride myself on basically being a robot. I would tell people nothing affects me, nothing. And to some degree that was sort of true because to the outside world, I was just stoic. There was no me, it was just sort of this shell of a person walking through life. Right?
Janet Lansbury: Yeah.
Elisabeth Corey: So the healing journey for me, healing our trauma is all about creating a new emotional connection to self. It’s about coming back to our emotional self and being authentic in that, truly.
Janet Lansbury: And to sort of generalize this in how it affects every person and parent, because we all have some level of emotional suppression that we’ve had to deal with just from our culture, really, and society. And our parents and their parents and telling us, Shh, don’t cry, and I’m going to reject you if you get angry at me. I can’t possibly hold those emotions for you and you’re going to lose me, or whatever it is. So many of us had some level of that and I’m not even saying there’s anything wrong with our parents for doing that because they got it from their parents and their parents. And it’s a very challenging thing to shift even those kinds of cycles, much less what you’re doing.
Elisabeth Corey: Well, society encourages it too. You know, we hear from all levels of society, anger is bad and crying is weak. And you know, we get all these messages, even for those of us without any significant traumas, where you learn at a young age that emotions are just not acceptable in their most authentic raw form, really.
Janet Lansbury: So how do we retrain ourselves? I think that what you have done with your severe situation is a really amazing model that we could all learn from. How do you get your emotional intelligence back? Or how do you reconnect and have a healthy relationship to emotions again?
Elisabeth Corey: Right. Well yes, it definitely requires us to unlearn a lot of what we have learned. And in the case of significant trauma, it’s a bit of an un-brainwashing because we have aspects of self that are very convinced that this is a horrible idea. And I’ve had to work with a lot of my own defenses, you know, and then of course with my clients and their defenses, to get to where we could accept our own emotions to some degree. So there’s definitely a big unlearning.
The process that I use with myself and with my clients, to simplify it, is kind of twofold. One is we want to start grounding. Now, grounding is very, very scary to people with trauma and even to people maybe without a lot of trauma. It feels scary to get back into the body and feel what’s there. So we do it in very small increments.
But in grounding ourselves back into the body, we are already in a better place to parent because kids live in the body. Kids live with energy and emotion, they don’t care about thoughts. They don’t want to have a big verbal conversation with us. They’re reading what our energy is saying to them, right? So if we’re in the body, we’re already going to know and be much more connected to how we are communicating with our kids in ways that we don’t even know we’re communicating with them. It’s all happening completely outside of our conscious mind, right?
So that grounding process is absolutely key, especially for those of us who are highly dissociated. We probably won’t get too much further if we’re not bringing in some practice of grounding into our lives. So that’s a very important part of what I do.
Janet Lansbury: And can you just talk about the tip of the iceberg of what that process is? How does that start, where you’re becoming aware, Oh what is this feeling? Where is it in my body? Is it something like that?
Elisabeth Corey: I like to tell people that there are so many options for grounding for us to explore. And we should explore as many as possible because something is probably going to feel right to us that maybe doesn’t feel right to everybody, but it really helps bring us into the body. My personal favorite is to just focus on my breath and my feet at the same time. For some reason doing that, even for 60 seconds, just brings me down. I can feel my energy moving down at the bottom of the soles of my feet. And in doing that, all of a sudden I’ll be like, Oh, I have some tension in my hip, or Oh, I’m hungry, or Maybe I need to go to the restroom. Like quite literally when we’re dissociating we can forget about almost everything happening in our bodies.
But what also happens when I ground is I can say, Oh, I’m sad. Or, I’m suddenly feeling a little bit of anger that I wasn’t feeling before. Right? And that’s the process we’re really looking to do.
The other side of grounding is something I refer to as “grounding the mind”, which is more about giving ourselves little breaks from the constant ruminating, cycling thoughts that we have all day, every day, so that we can actually do the focusing on the body. And so that process is really an important part of coming back to self and our healing journey.
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t feel good to ground, especially if you have trauma. Because the first thing that happens when we ground is we feel stuff, we feel emotion. We feel places in the body that are tense or in pain or not well. So even though we hear a lot of stuff that says when you ground you feel, you know, relaxed and calm and centered. You can get to that place, but that’s not often what we feel first.
So I’m a big fan of working in little teeny-tiny increments. Like when I say teeny-tiny, I mean a minute or two at a time to bring ourselves back into the body. Because that’s a rewiring process we’re doing there. We are rewiring the way we inhabit ourselves, embody our world, by doing the grounding. Right?
Janet Lansbury: You know, and just hearing this, I’m thinking about myself, that I have a very common thing that maybe a lot of women have, which is that I don’t know that I’m angry, ever. I feel myself tear up. I feel myself, you know, shaking. But I don’t realize until much later, Oh, you were angry and it’s okay to be angry. And it’s just weird how, or maybe it makes sense how, little girls aren’t allowed to have that feeling. That’s a scary feeling because it pushes everyone away from you when you need people to be there reassuring you that they’re still there when you have something that you can’t control.
Elisabeth Corey: Yes. And for so many of us, you know, depending on the way we were raised, emotions bring on conditional love for us. Which means certain emotions might be acceptable in some households and certain emotions might not be. And for every one of us, those emotions may be different. But there are some emotions that are unacceptable for, like you said, entire genders.
Janet Lansbury: Sometimes tears for males for some reason.
Elisabeth Corey: Right. No sadness for boys and no anger for girls. And you know, these have been some of the sort of gender approaches we’ve taken toward certain emotions. And one of the things I love doing in my work is working with women on being angry. Get angry, get mad, get raging, let it all out! You know, just get rid of that stigma that says we can’t be angry because the truth is we are angry, we’re so mad.
Janet Lansbury: Suppressing it does bad things to us. You know, it’s been known to create depression.
Elisabeth Corey: Yes. Like actually being in a state of depression is a suppression for anger. It stops anger because the futility, which I see as the emotion behind depression, actually is like this blanket that just blocks, it blocks lots of things, but it definitely blocks anger.
Janet Lansbury: Yeah. And I think it’s also the result of, though, right? It’s the result of that suppressed anger that is just kind of eating away at you and your feelings about yourself and your feelings of having any power in the world.
Elisabeth Corey: Yeah, some people say depression is anger turned inwards. And I think that is definitely a way to look at it, it is like that. And it creates this futility that’s just not able to really do anything, because what’s the point? And I think that “what’s the point?” message comes from, I can’t be who I am.
Janet Lansbury: Right. And I can see where you’re coming from, with this trauma past, that it also does what you were saying, which is it makes it so you don’t have that healthy anger to want to have boundaries and take care of yourself and do things. It just suppresses that into, Ugh, what’s the point? It’s all useless and I’m not even going to try to keep those abusive people at bay.
Elisabeth Corey: Yeah. We give up. And to be honest, within the abusive circle, the goal is to make the child give up. And that’s when futility is essentially born. And it teaches us to stop trying to get help or tell our story or, you know, succeed at anything, really. And it can completely squelch our lives. It certainly squelches any positive aspects of life, like joy and love and trust and all the things we were talking about earlier just are unavailable once we move into that futile, giving-up state that is really in many instances the basis for depression. But yes, underneath that is a whole lot of anger as well that just can’t even get to the surface. And so yes, no boundaries, right? And when we have kids that no boundaries thing becomes a pretty major issue.
Janet Lansbury: Very major. Because our kids are going to keep demanding and demanding it, with their positive instinct to have a parent that cares, to have a parent that’s willing to take care of them. You know, boundaries are a big part of that for young children.
Elisabeth Corey: And we’re doing that thing that we’ve always done, which is just keep saying yes until we finally explode because we’ve said yes to everything.
Janet Lansbury: And then we feel naturally like, You keep pushing me and pushing me! But, we didn’t say no. So yeah, that’s a common thing.
And segueing that into, I received a question in the mail today, right before you and I were going to talk. I thought, this is perfect. So, this woman wrote to me, she says she has two young kids, ages two and four. She thanks me and says that without my guidance they would’ve defaulted to the same bad habits they were raised with —so they are shifting cycles.
… and would not now have such deep, meaningful, and trusted relationships with our kids.
My question to you is perhaps an unusual one. It’s not about the kids’ behavior, but about my own feelings. You’ve given me such deep understanding and compassion for my young children that I feel really uncomfortable being angry with them, because I know that they’re always just doing their best and do not deserve any anger.
I have a very long rope of patience and self-control, having grown up with a very volatile parent. So I’m actually able to control myself and not react angrily, even when I am mad. I stifle my anger when it comes and hold it in. It usually passes quickly. And from experience with your teachings, I know that the better I can control my angry reactions, the quicker my kids can pass through whatever is bothering them or causing them to exhibit the behaviors that made me mad in the first place.
And while I know logically that anger is a normal emotion and that it’s actually helpful for me to teach them, I am mad right now. It’s not up to you to fix my feelings, so I’m going to take a break until I feel better, or something like that, I feel totally guilty, uncomfortable, and wrong when I’m mad at them. And I just happen to be someone who can almost always control my anger. I am skeptical that repressing all of my anger is the right thing to do or the right lesson to teach my kids. Out there in the world many people will get mad at them, and yet I can’t get over this conflict that I feel: How am I allowed to be mad if I know that their behavior is natural, the best they can do, a cry for help, a developmental need, etc.?
Your teachings have left me feeling that I don’t ever have a good enough reason to be mad at my kids, but have I misunderstood? I hope I’ve articulated this decently and that you can offer some insight. How can we be comfortable with our own anger if we know that our children don’t deserve it?
Elisabeth Corey: This is just amazing and I love that it came in to you today.
Janet Lansbury: Isn’t that crazy?
Elisabeth Corey: I mean the truth is both things are right here. Yeah, we don’t want to target our anger at our children. But she’s also right when she says, Hey, human beings get angry. Shouldn’t I be letting my kids know that human beings get angry? And the answer is yes, absolutely you should. It’s about the nuances and in the ways that we express our anger that really matter here. So I can kind of break this down a couple different ways.
First off, I’ll just talk about the anger we feel when our kids are pushing us, like we were just talking about a minute ago. The most important thing to understand about that anger is it is likely a flashback experience. Now most people think, Oh my gosh, flashback, that’s like this really horrible trauma thing where you become completely unable to function in it. That’s not actually what a flashback really is. It can be, but a lot of the times flashbacks are things we don’t even know we’re experiencing and they often come in emotional form. So when we get the angriest at our kids, that’s usually because they’re behaving in a way that we have experienced before. They are kind of reenacting patterns that we’ve seen throughout our lives, and this is getting triggered for us. I like to say it’s kind of like this current event is making us angry, but it’s tugging on this thread which is full of previous experiences that follow the same pattern. So the anger at our kids is not grounded because there’s all of this ungrounded anger from all of the times people have done something similar to us before.
And since kids are really, really good at pushing our boundaries, you can imagine that is a big pattern. That thread that gets pulled is often around people who don’t respect our boundaries starting at a very young age. So our job as parents is to recognize the flashback of the anger. Not to completely invalidate the fact that yes, your kids are likely making you angry right now, that’s true. But without all that ungrounded anger, the anger right now would be one, grounded and two, a lot less intense. Right? It wouldn’t be like holding back the volcano and things like that.
So once we see that it’s a flashback, we can work with that anger. We can do things like express from it. And my personal favorite way of expressing from anger is to write from it and really let it go where it goes. It will often move in the direction of whatever that thread, that pattern is for us. It won’t even necessarily stay specific to our children. It will move into, like sometimes I’m writing anger at my daughter and the next thing I know I’m writing anger at my mother, which is actually who it’s about. And that I find to be extremely powerful for processing our anger.
But there’s another side to what she’s asking here. She’s like, Isn’t it okay to show our kids that we’re angry? Right? Like, that’s an emotion. We should express it. And that’s very true. What I like to say is powerful to do is to actually express anger with our children because they’re picking up on your energy. They actually know you’re angry even when you don’t say you’re angry.
Janet Lansbury: That’s very true. I can vouch for that.
Elisabeth Corey: My kids always knew.
Janet Lansbury: And actually it could be even more uncomfortable for them than if we let it out because they’re like, What the heck’s going on here? This is weird. They’re acting like they’re fine. But I can feel the seething or the volcano inside, as you called it. And that keeps me stuck here wondering what the heck is going on.
Elisabeth Corey: Yes. So what I like to say, even to my kids now, my kids are 16 now. We’ve talked a lot about emotion. Probably more than they ever wanted to talk about emotion, we’ve talked about it. But one of the things I’ve always liked to say to them is, I am feeling a certain way right now, whatever that is. It’s not because of you, but I need to feel it.
So sometimes with anger, especially when the kids were younger, we would do things like stomp our feet together or throw things that don’t hurt anyone. We used to have this thing my daughter and I would do where it was like a pot holder, but it had this kind of rubberish bottom to it. And when you slammed it into the countertop, it made this popping noise that was just so satisfying. So let’s find ways to express our anger without hurting anybody, without targeting anyone in our immediate family. But we just need to get the anger out. Like last night, my 16-year-old daughter and I were throwing a stuffed animal back and forth, kind of like a baseball, and just kind of really hurling it at each other, just like a game. But for us it felt like an anger release and it worked. It helped us both in that moment to express that physically.
Janet Lansbury: I love that. So are you saying that if you’re angry with your kids in the moment that you would say, I’m angry, you want to be angry with me? Or are you talking about generally, like not in those moments but another time, sharing your anger that way with your children?
Elisabeth Corey: Yeah. Well oftentimes what I do, if I’m really angry in that moment and I can leave my children safely for a few minutes, I will go and write first because that will help take the edge off. For me, that keeps me in a more grounded state with my anger if I write first.
Janet Lansbury: And then would you say to them, I’m feeling angry. I mean, I love that Susan David and other emotion experts talk about not “I’m angry” but “I’m feeling…” and how that puts that little important distance between us and the feeling. So do you say that to your kids? I’m feeling angry, I’m going to go write. Or what do you say?
Elisabeth Corey: I do, yes. I’ll tell them, I’m having this feeling, and it doesn’t have to be anger. Like sometimes I’ll get anxiety or panic that’ll come over me. And the good news about that, I always know that isn’t about the kids. I don’t have any problem knowing that. I just say, Hey guys, I’m feeling anxiety for me. I often will say, I think I might, you know, have some memory coming up. I’m just going to go take care of this so I can come back to a better state of being. So I will do that. But after I write, especially in the case of anger, I’ll be like, you know, I could really use a little physical release and let’s do a little, you know, an anger movement, whatever feels right. When they’re little kids you can make the stomping like elephants or you know, you can turn it into something cute.
Janet Lansbury: With a two-year-old. Would you do that then?
Elisabeth Corey: Definitely with a two-year-old, elephant stomping is fantastic for a two-year-old.
Janet Lansbury: So you would feel yourself getting angry, hopefully noticing it early and then say, I’m feeling angry, I’m going to stomp.
Elisabeth Corey: Yes.
Janet Lansbury: Yeah, I guess it’s the work that you’re talking about, the grounding work, that helps you recognize as early as possible, This isn’t at you, it’s because of the situation.
Elisabeth Corey: That’s the hardest part. Honestly. That’s the hardest part by far. Because oftentimes we have to remember that the anger and the literal rage that’s coming up in us is a trauma response. It’s a survival skill. There often isn’t very much space between when we get triggered and when the anger is right in front of us, doing all of the talking. So our goal through writing from the anger and really building up that grounded connection with self is to put just enough space between the trigger and the angry response that we can kind of drive a little wedge in there. Okay? That is much harder than what it sounds like
Janet Lansbury: It sounds hard.
Elisabeth Corey: Okay, good. Because it is really, really hard. And, you know, my clients beat themselves up a lot about not getting that wedge in there. But honestly, if we are getting that wedge in there just even like 25% of the time at first, we are doing really, really well. And we build it over time. My kids will tell you now that I’m a different person, they’ve told me this. They’ve said, you are just not the angry mom you were when we were two.
And that also adds credibility to me because now when they’re angry and they want to take it out on me and I can say, maybe you could write about that instead of taking it out on me. So when we learn how to manage our own emotions, it helps us come to the table to help them manage theirs. Because they know we’re not being a hypocrite, we’re not telling them they can’t feel something we didn’t feel. We’re saying, Hey, do this too. It’ll help you like it helped me.
Janet Lansbury: I feel also like even when we’re not able to do that, even that noticing, Oh I didn’t put a wedge in, you know, after the fact. That’s actually helpful practice too because it’s awareness, right? You’re just practicing awareness, practicing awareness. That helps you more— the next time, maybe you will. And if you don’t, forgive yourself. That’s really normal.
Elisabeth Corey: Exactly.
Janet Lansbury: I also just want to speak to, I’ve actually used this and I got it from you, the writing out of the feeling. So it’s quite different than writing about a feeling, right? And you were the one that taught me about this. Gosh, it was only a couple years ago. I somehow started processing this real hurt from very young that had happened. It started in a body work someone was doing on me, that I started getting emotional and that had never happened before. And anyway, the person had enough knowledge about what was going on. In fact she said, “Oh this is actually what I do. I was wondering when it would ever happen for you.”
Elisabeth Corey: Good.
Janet Lansbury: I know, it was cool in a way. But it brought up lots of deep hurt and fear and shame and just, you know, stuff. And I remembered what you’d said about writing out of the feeling and that helped me so much because I was like, Okay, let it spill out, instead of, Well, I’m feeling this because you know… I wonder why. And you’re right. It gets you right to the source because you’re opening up that space to let it out in a way that’s different. And I don’t know, just that little switch in mindset of writing from rather than writing about, it’s huge.
Elisabeth Corey: Exactly. You know, I like to say, give that emotion a voice, let it write in first person. We want to hear what the emotion has to say. And when we do that, it has a much greater releasing effect on our system. We really can actually move the emotion out. We are releasing that emotion from our physical systems and we do that by writing in that way. And on one level it feels like it’s just a tweak. But then on another level it’s a major, major shift in the way we acknowledge ourselves and our emotions.
Janet Lansbury: Yeah. And I also want to say, though, it wasn’t like, Oh that was great. It was two full days of really going to the depths of sadness and everything I went through in my twenties all over again, like I don’t want to go on, I can’t face life. I had to cry a lot and it was really rough. So that it wasn’t a cure, but it got me there. It got me to the healing. So yeah, I can’t recommend that enough.
Elisabeth Corey: Yeah, it’s almost like it’s the bridge you need to cross to connect with yourself to heal. Like you’re saying, it gets you there. And of course a lot of us are going to have really strong defenses to that and we’re going to say, Nope, I’m not going to do that! But living in that defended state is actually more painful than sitting with that emotion itself.
Janet Lansbury: Right, because that doesn’t pass. Even when I was at the depths, somehow I knew this was going to pass, the healthy part of me knew. But with the suppression it just gets harder, I think.
Elisabeth Corey: It doesn’t get easier ever if you leave yourself in that emotionally suppressed state. And you know, it can eventually have a pretty significant impact on behaviors as well as our physical body and what it’s going through.
Janet Lansbury: So just to answer this parent, where she said, “I’m skeptical that repressing all my anger is the right thing to do.” That’s a good instinct there because what Elisabeth and I are saying is that we don’t think repressing your anger is going to help or be the right lesson to teach her kids.
So yeah, and that whole thing about accepting our emotions that we were talking about earlier, and getting in touch with them, we almost have to do that work alongside our child. I mean, ideally it would be first, but it’s probably not going to work that way. It didn’t for you, it didn’t for me and the things I had to process. So we have to do it for ourselves to be able to really give our children that gift that we want to give them of emotional intelligence and emotional health.
Elisabeth Corey: It’s one of the best things we can do for our children because they can go into the world and go, Oh, I can see how my emotions are impacting what I’m doing and the decisions I’m making. To give our children that gift, that ability, is truly priceless. It doesn’t mean we have to get it perfect ourselves, but if every time we get angry when we didn’t want to, we can say, Hey here’s what happened. I got angry, I’m working on it, you know, I’m going to work to be better with my anger. Then we’re teaching them that they get to do that too.
Janet Lansbury: Yes, absolutely. To this parent and all parents: I’m not talking about controlling ourselves. I’m talking about working with our feelings and understanding them and keeping them in their own place with us instead of creating a situation where now we’re going to have a lot more to deal with because we’re letting them out on our children. But that’s often part of the process, too. So that’s okay. I think because my podcast is called Unruffled, people think sometimes —and understandably— that we’re walking around just fine over here!
Elisabeth Corey: Yeah. My favorite way to describe the emotionally suppressed is, I’m fine, just fine, totally fine. Which I was for many, many years before I figured out that I was in fact not fine.
Janet Lansbury: And we want the depths of life, right? We want the heights and we want the depths, and in theory we want all of it, right? And we want our children to have all of it.
Elisabeth Corey: On a very grounded self level, we definitely want that. Unfortunately our survival skills are saying, Nope! So we have to work through that battle. But yes, I think we’re meant to live an emotional life and to me, true self-acceptance is living the most emotional life we can. Now that doesn’t mean we’re swinging all over the place and we’re ungrounded about everything. It means we’re in touch with who we are, how we feel, inherently. All the time, if we can.
Janet Lansbury: Wow, you’re such an inspiration.
Elisabeth Corey: Aw, thank you. So I love that you’re giving me this space to talk about this because it’s a brave conversation. Truly, it really is. I like to say my clients are some of the bravest people I know. It’s not easy to go here, especially in the world today, which is unfortunately a bit of an emotionally suppressive world. It’s hard to open up this discussion. Really. It’s so important.
Janet Lansbury: Well, you’re the perfect person to engage in it with me. So thank you so much again and everybody go to beatingtrauma.com.
Elisabeth Corey: Beatingtrauma.com.
Janet Lansbury: And take advantage of all Elisabeth’s incredible resources, workshops. You offer lots of free written materials, right?
Elisabeth Corey: Yes, yes.
Janet Lansbury: And hopefully you’re going to write a big book soon.
Elisabeth Corey: Yes, there are multiple books in the works and then I get stuck and blocked and they don’t get done. But they will, they will get done. In the meantime, I do offer a lot of one-on-one coaching, which can be a great way to get familiar with connecting with yourself on a deeper level. So please do reach out.
Janet Lansbury: Yes. If you have the opportunity to work with Elisabeth, jump on it, is all I can say.
Elisabeth Corey: Thank you so much.
Wow. I so appreciate Elisabeth Corey. I just want to add that we broached some very heavy topics and gave advice based on our experience. If you have your own concerns or issues, I urge you to please seek the advice of a licensed mental health professional.
Thank you so much for listening. We can do this.
I can’t say enough good things about this post! As a survivor of severe childhood abuse and neglect, I thought that I was “fine” and had everything under control until I became a parent! Boy, I was not fine and was confronted with triggers everywhere. I blamed myself for being a bad parent because of my struggles. After completing a course of CPT for my C-PTSD my world changed: I learned to feel and process my feelings and knew that I could give my children a healthy/safe home environment. If you are caught in a cycle of being triggered and taking it out on your family please don’t shame yourself! You are doing the best you know how and there are therapy treatments that will help you to overcome your traumas!