Childhood trauma robs us of the ability to flow into our adult personality. Those who have experienced trauma have an unstable, fragile, shaky and undefined identity. Survival for many of us meant numbing/dissociating or putting on a mask – becoming and playing the part demanded by our caregivers.
Healing from our past also means letting go of those false selves and finding what and who we want to become. It is refashioning a new ME, a post-trauma identity.
The pioneer of identity studies developmental psychologist Erik Erikson said identity is: “A sense of personal sameness and continuity over time and across situations, a sense of having one’s inner agency”
I wouldn’t call it finding your authentic self. For me, it is more about creating a robust post-trauma identity. Erasing my earlier survival persona of people pleasing, fearfulness and codependency. Changing my identity from doormat – everyone come wipe their shit on, I am available. To one that gives out the vibe ‘Don’t mess with me.’
Amara – The Don in ‘Get Shorty’
I found the ideal character to model my post-trauma identity – Amara De Escalones from the TV series ‘Get Shorty.’ The American comedy-drama television series is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel of the same name. The main protagonist Miles Daly works for Amara who heads the murderous Nevada crime family.
Her character is unapologetically womanly but uncompromisingly brutal. One moment she is making romantic overtures and next she is ordering a hit. She exudes brash confidence under a cool, calculating demeanor. And boy, she is calmly terrifying.
Watching Amara take on the opposing cartel with nothing but a deadly look and a few menacing words makes me root for her. She shows one how to be a bad-ass – dominance without overt display of violence. She is ruthless and everyone fears her.
Every day I stand in front of the mirror practicing lines of her dialogue ‘You think you can walk over me because I am a woman, …………..I’ll cut your f**king legs off.
After years of being ‘the good girl‘ and being walked over, it feels good to be bad-ass
Movie Therapy and Mirror Neurons
Anytime I feel intimidated I imagine myself as Amara and mentally playing her most lethal dialogue and it works. I don’t feel that helpless little girl anymore.
In my earlier blog post Movie Therapy, I had elucidated how moving pictures trigger and trick our mirror neurons in believing something is real.
Vittorio Gallese, one of the discoverers of mirror neurons, states that movies “are more powerful than real life events.” This may be because we can “fully simulate them.” – we mirror more effectively because we feel safe, therefore “our emotional involvement may be greater.” And the chance to unravel, process and release could be easier than in normal talk therapy.
Finding this series has been another stroke or serendipitous luck. I dream Amara and try to awaken my inner psychopath.
Jordan Peterson – Cure For Trauma
According to Jordan Peterson, the cure to post-traumatic stress disorder is to no longer be naive and no longer be victimized. This way to keep abuse and psychopaths at bay is to develop your own inner psychopath. So you know one when you see one.
Jordan Peterson – Developing Your Inner Psychopath
Getting Strong – Post Trauma Identity
Though, I know I may never ever become brutal like Amara. Watching her emote with ruthlessness is the perfect way to imagine becoming assertive and build a tough and strong post-trauma identity. One with good boundaries, able to stand up for me and say No’. I now realize that being good and nice should be tempered with astuteness and toughness. It is up to me to protect myself and not be pushed around or used.
Jordan Peterson states that ‘A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man who has it under voluntary control.‘
Besides Amara, ‘Get Shorty’ is great entertainment. It has everything you want in a show. Impressive acting, witty dialogues, dark humor, unusual romance, and of course unforgettable characters. Entertainment and therapy, what better way to heal.
You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter – Dr. Joe Dispenza
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant
Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success – David B. Feldman, Lee Daniel Kravetz