Updated: Jan 22
What 12 Years of Providing Hypnotherapy & Coaching Taught Me About "Nice Trauma"
I've heard thousands of stories from my clients about their childhood conditioning and traumas -- often resulting in the pattern of "being nice" in adulthood to "stay in control and keep the peace" in their relationships.
For many, this pattern resulted in toxic cycles of repeating traumas. It was hard to hear over and over again that I wasn’t alone.
Defining "Nice" as a Trauma Response
Since we use the term "nice" in several different contexts in the English language, let’s first be clear which type of “nice” this article addresses.
I’m not talking about being “polite”, which according to Oxford Languages means ”having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people.”
We also use “nice” in reference to objects or appearances, as in “that’s a nice house” or “he has really nice hair.” Obviously, that’s not what we’re addressing.
I’m also not talking about whole-hearted compromise. When we agree to forgo our own preferences, out of love for another human being, without remorse or attachment (aka generosity).
The “nice” I’m talking about in this article, is when we decide against our better knowing, preferences, morals, or values to appease another person and/or avoid addressing what’s real for us.
#1 We're Conditioned to "Earn Love" by being "Nice"
How many time as a kid were you told the phrase, BE NICE to your _____ [sibling/classmate/friend/parent/etc.]?
If you're reading this article, you likely grew up in the early 2000's or long before. And, you probably cannot count how many times you were told this.
I'm not here to blame our parents for our short-comings (as they also had parents who told them this). I'm here to help you see your potential conditioning, so you can take responsibility for it and heal (if that's what you deem necessary).
There's a point in early childhood where we learn "sharing" and how to treat others, this isn't usually where most of the trouble herein lies...
---> It's the continual praise and re-enforcement of abandoning ourselves for others that hurt us.
---> It's the punishment and abuse that came with being honest about how we really felt.
As a result, what most of the clients I worked with (and myself) learned is, "I'm lovable when I'm nice."
+ To learn more about your beliefs about being lovable, I recommend reading, "Lovability" by Robert Holden!
#2 We Learn to Deny our Shadow-Self
When learn that the "nice" part of us is lovable and our "shadow-self" (aka anger, frustration, sadness, etc.) is not... we often suppress these emotions.
If you've experienced this, you might find yourself ruminating about what you're going to say, only to find yourself never fully saying what you wish you could.
Not to say that our real feelings are never expressed, it's that more often than not, we hold back.
We end up identifying with statements from others like, "You're so nice!" Awesome! Guess what though ... we also have bad days, weeks, months, and sometimes years!
This was a tough one for me to come to terms with a years back. I went through severe trauma and felt sad, angry, and depressed for what felt like a pretty solid year afterwards. It felt like a part of me was gone, and that made me even more upset. Had I previously recognized that I wasn't only lovable when I'm "nice," I might have been gentler with myself and less fearful about being upset.
#3 We Attract Harmful People
What's more convenient for a person who is looking for someone to take advantage of (consciously or subconsciously)?
---- > Person A: Practices kindness and considers their feelings to be valid and worthy of acknowledgment (and is considerate of those around them to the extent that it's not harmful to them).
---- > Person B: Denies their real feelings and doesn't speak up about their wants and needs (and considers the needs and desires of the people around them to be more important).
Obviously, Person B, is a better collaborator for someone who's intentions are less than kind.
Like many of the clients I've worked with, I attracted steady stream of people who were naturally/intentionally drawn to taking advantage of me.
AND, I'm thankful for it. There was no other way at the time, available in my awareness, for me to learn this otherwise.
How to Start Healing
The first step is always awareness, and that's what this article is designed to help you with... I'm also publishing a book called, "Nice Trauma" to expand deeper on this subject.
Practice compassion towards yourself. I've recorded a meditation called, "Restoring Self- Compassion."
Address your B.S. (belief system) about your lovability and worthiness to express your wants and needs with a therapist, coach, or other licensed professional. Join my waitlist for 1:1 clients if you'd like!
Learn new ways to communicate, i.e. through self-help books (like "Nice Trauma" coming soon), videos, therapy, coaching, or other modalities.
Find community with others that can understand your experience and be a support system for healthy communication. I invite you to join the "Find Your Voice" Healing Circle if it speaks to you!
Start creating boundaries and expressing yourself authentically with existing relationships that may need revisiting. Follow me on Instagram for helpful tips!
Practice healthy habits that help you tune in and listen to yourself, like meditation.
Explore options to express yourself in new ways, i.e. writing, spoken word, dance, etc. The "Find Your Voice" Healing Circle combines Meditation + Spoken Word + Community!