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  • Writer's pictureErika Sardinha

Do you Know How to Read a Room? It may be a Survival Mechanism learned from past trauma...

I have always seen myself as the person who can read a room, and I've said that with pride many times. You may agree with me that it is a beautiful gift to have. Isn't it?

I would say it depends. Allow me to tell you a story:

Growing up, I lived in constant fear of being hit, abused, mistreated, and violated. I have learned that one misread sign would lead to terrible consequences. There was nothing I could do to avoid it, but I had to read to the room to at least prepare myself for what was coming my way. And let me tell you, it was usually not good.

Don't get me wrong, I believe there is nothing bad with reading a room. In fact, it is a valuable skill. The problem is when it comes from a place of fear, anxiety, PTSD, and not feeling safe. If you come from trauma, you probably don't read the room. Let me include myself in this one: We dissect it and write a thesis out of it. On top of it, we sprinkle it with trauma-related assumptions.

We simply can not avoid reading the room. We have to because it's a survival mechanism we have learned in our childhood, or maybe later on, after encountering a traumatic situation. So, what do we do about this? You may ask. Don't worry; I won't tell you to "chill" or give up on your gift. It's still a beautiful gift!

But here is a different approach to entering and reading a room:

Ground yourself every time you can during the day. If you can do it before entering work, a meeting, home, or a situation, that is even better!

There are several ways of doing it, but I find it helpful to remind myself that I am safe. A simple affirmation followed by a deep breath may do the work. Place your hands on top of your heart and say it to yourself: "I am safe." If possible, breathe deeply. You may have to do this a thousand times before it comes naturally, and that is okay. Remember that we are trying to change decades of learning behavior!

Another good thing to consider - and that goes for so many issues that people who have been through trauma face - is to tell your mind and body that you are not a child anymore, you are not in the situation you were in any longer, nor you are the person you were. The new you do not need to hold on to old survival patterns. Journal about how the 'new you' behaves in a room full of people and put it into practice! Slowly, at your pace. You will soon notice the differences in how you feel and carry yourself.

I hope this helps you navigate some beautiful and empowering rooms in life.

Love and light,


Survivors Coach 💖


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