My response to the question “Why do I have look back at painful experiences to help my business?”
Triggers can be tricky things. If you feel overwhelmed by this article, walk away. Take care of yourself.
I have been interviewing small business owners and entrepreneurs who have identified having some kind of trauma that they believe is impacting their business. My mission right now is to study the impact of trauma on entrepreneurship, and how it contributes to depression and anxiety — which can also directly impact success.
I interviewed someone recently who asked me, “What is the benefit of looking back? What is the benefit of stirring up experiences that I would rather forget? I feel like it will make things worse for me, as opposed to better.”
This is a fair question and I get it. I understand. Stirring up old memories or experiences can be very difficult. I don’t recommend doing it with just anyone. You need to be in the hands of someone who is trained to handle the impact. However, the truth is that you are living under the influence of those experiences whether you look at them or not. This is how trauma works. You do not even need to have a clear memory of the trauma for it to impact your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the present.
Trauma creates a fight or flight reaction and heightened arousal becomes your baseline. Your mind does not know the difference between danger and the anxiety created because of waiting for a big proposal to be accepted. It creates a story about who you are in the world — and in your business. It impacts decisions, opportunities, and relationships with your clients, employees, partners, and yourself.
Let me be clear that I am not part of the blame mommy and daddy club. I also want to reassure you that I do not think you are broken. We have so much judgment and stigma around the subject of trauma and mental health. It is a healthy practice to slowly uncover, repair, heal from, and partner with your resilience. We must look at it without judgment.
Given the choice between ignoring the impact of adverse experiences on my business and suffering through alone, or looking at the impact and revealing the patterns in safe hands so that I can change the future of my capability for success, I will take the latter.
We need to take an honest look at our life experiences and how they support us, how they can create challenges, and even create a pathway towards change, we do not drop our baggage at the door when we start a business, take a job, or enter into a relationship. It is wise to look at everything we bring to the table.
Many people wonder if their “messed up childhood” really meets the criteria for adverse childhood experiences. The ACES study and scale gives an excellent overview of the types of trauma, and the impact on the person who experienced it.
I found a great article and quiz on NPR that I wanted to share with you. Please only take this quiz if you feel like you are open to the information and able to process it safely. “An ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other hallmarks of a rough childhood. According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, the rougher your childhood, the higher your score is likely to be and the higher your risk for later health problems.” Click here to take the test.
There is freedom in naming something. Many of the people I have interviewed reported feeling relief, and hope when they uncovered that their experiences were “traumatic” by definition. They were able to take the self-judgment out of the impact of their experiences, and gain a new perspective.
I am still conducting the interviews. If you are open to being interviewed or have a recommendation that I meet another expert you believe would support this type of work please email me. If you need a moment to debrief on what you read here or what your score reveals, I am here. Reach out or e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.