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Healing Trauma With Authenticity: Tale Of A Recovering Workaholic

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

I’m coming up to the end of my annual month off from work. As an entrepreneur, this was a very challenging thing to do. I often joke that it took me months of therapy to finally do it.

But, it’s no joke.

It literally took loads of therapy to first, convince myself that I could do it without my world imploding, and then secondly, to actually do it.

I like to say, "I’m a recovering workaholic."

It’s a serious addiction, like any other: drug, porn, shopping, or sex. But this one is especially sneaky because it hides under social norm and can even be revered as a successful quality.

The over achiever and avid do-er; It’s a wonderful quality to have to expand and grow your business. But when you’re your own boss and there is no ‘off button', you become your own slave master.

On the outside one can look accomplished, independent, and successful. “Wow, that person really has their ducks in a row!”But with an honest look, you're exhausted from running on a hamster wheel that never stops spinning.

And on the inside is a hurt little child who just wishes they mattered. Nothing is ever good enough.

You finish something, feel successful for 5 seconds, and then it’s on to the next thing. Each task, client, or accomplishment becomes the 'drug’ you shoot up to escape the unconscious undercurrent of painful emotion.

As in all addiction, the subconscious mind uses it as a solution to avoid feeling an unbearable feeling. (Gabor Mate speaks to this).

This mechanism at place often isn’t even present in the conscious mind until one day you're burnt out, depressed, in chronic pain, or developing some sort of chronic disease.

Or the classic case of "unhappy millionaire", materialistically having all the things, yet a gaping hole in the heart remains.

For me it was depression and adrenal fatigue. (Unfortunately I didn't get to the millionaire status...)

This kind of addiction to work/productivity/accomplishment is often rooted in shame, in painful childhood experiences that your little growing psyche interpreted as, “I’m not good enough or I’m not lovable.” A part of my story is the separation of my parents when I was really young. My father remarried to a women who looked identical to my mom and even had the same job. Then, get this, they had a kid born on MY birthday, Oct 23...

A young child doesn’t understand that the reason their parents are splitting up is because of their own struggles. A child internalizes it.

So little me took it as, "I’m not good enough so dad left and replaced me. I don’t matter and I’m replaceable."

So the child develops tactics to prove their worth and gain approval and love. My dear friend Bruce Sanguin (Psychotherapist and author of Dismantled), calls this CUBS & CABS.

CUBS = Core Unconscious Beliefs, in this case “I’m not good enough.”
CABS = Compensatory actions and behaviours; personality traits developed to prevent feeling the unbearable feelings associated with the negative belief about Self. These behaviors essential form the "False Self."

CABS also show up as:

  • People pleasing

  • Repressed anger (afraid of conflict)

  • Inability to say no (poor boundaries)

  • Neglecting your own needs and/or desires (feeling like a burden)

  • Being overly self sufficient because you have a hard time asking for help

… and there’s countless more.

And here’s where things take a dark twist.

The above 5 personality traits can be seen as a diagnoses for cancer.

In Gabor Mates new book, Myth of Normal,” he presents a large body of scientific evidence showing the power of the body-mind connection; these qualities are directly linked to breast/prostate cancer diagnose and autoimmune conditions.

Essentially the body is breaking down because you’re abandoning yourself. And the body is calling out in the language of symptoms of “dis-ease.”

The call is an urgent one.

It's a call to AUTHENTICITY.

To feel your feelings. To express yourself honestly in the moment. To speak your truth. To acknowledge you needs and fulfill them. To share your desires and ask for what you want. To say NO and set boundaries. To be vulnerable and ask for help. To do for the sake of joy rather than success or money. To behave and act from a place of wholeness and love. Rather than your patterned compensatory actions which are rooted in the pain of false self. How would you act differently if you knew you were 100% lovable just as you are?

That you matter and don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. That you're safe and accepted. That you belong.

For me what had to change was my hustle for love through productivity. I needed to start showing myself the love I was looking for from outside of myself.

Because in the end, that’s where it’s gotta come from to finally get off the hamster wheel.

I replaced some of my work hours with self-care, play, art, (and microdosing!), and watched my joy and vitality return.

So my friend, if you’ve come to the end of my musings and find yourself within these words, give yourself a break. You're awesome. Take a nap. You deserve it

Aga Postawska

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