The Gift of Trauma

After years of suffering from issues such as migraine headaches, chronic shoulder and neck tension, an eating disorder, low self-worth, lack of self-confidence, and unsuccessful relationships, I realized that there was nothing inherently wrong with me, but that I was experiencing the consequences of unresolved trauma.

Like many people, I had a limited understanding of what trauma is and had never considered that experiences I had as a child that I just thought were normal were, in fact, traumatizing. In the sixties, for example, many U.S. hospitals separated mothers and babies shortly after birth; childrearing 'experts' promoted training babies to sleep through the night by letting them cry; baby boys were routinely circumcised; mothers were told that formula was better for their babies than breastfeeding, and that sleeping with their babies was dangerous. Most in my generation, as well as many before and even now, were/are victims of these practices in addition to others such as corporal punishment, on the more severe end and, on the subtler side, a general expectation of unchallenged obedience or compliance which impedes the ability of children to develop their own thoughts, perspectives, desires, and identities. These are examples of traumatic experiences that could be easily dismissed because they were/are so common. However, I now understand, through my own work and from witnessing others in their healing processes, that these so called "normal" practices were not without serious consequences. 

 

Today, we are increasingly aware that infants and children need touch in order to form secure attachments with their mothers and fathers and that, during the first hours of life, close, loving, physical contact with the mother is extremely important. Throughout childhood, children need loving touch; they need to be loved and wanted for who they are (as opposed to for how they meet the parents' needs/desires); they need to be able to feel their feelings without being neglected or punished; and they need to be protected from harm. When these needs aren't met, the child's psyche has to split in order for them to bear the circumstances they find themselves in. These splits lead to coping behaviors that block our ability to enjoy life and thrive.

 

The blessing is that, having gained this understanding of trauma and acquired tools to work with it, I recognize that my trauma is, in many ways, a doorway to freedom. By noticing when I am triggered, I get a clue as to where and how I am stuck in past traumas. With this awareness, there is an invitation to lean in a little, gently questioning and exploring in order to reconnect with my hurt parts -- parts that, when seen, heard, and embraced, bring me increased vitality, resiliency, energy, and joy. I speak in the present tense because embracing our trauma is an ongoing process, even for people who have worked through a lot. Few ever 'arrive' at a state where there are no longer any triggers or pain, but life becomes much easier and more fulfilling when we adopt a habit of leaning into the places in our lives where challenge surfaces. 

I understand if 'doing the work' sounds daunting, particularly if you feel overwhelmed with challenges, pain, or years of habits that aren't conducive to thriving. The word "trauma" itself might carry a weight in your mind that makes you want to run the other way. However, I can say from my own experience that the reward is well worth the effort. There are many excellent tools, practices, and practitioners who can assist you on the path of healing from trauma, so you don't have to go it alone.  The services I offer allow you to move at your own pace with my support and, should you wish, the support of others who are on their own healing journey.

 

The gift that awaits you is a reconnection to yourself -- not the 'self' that you see and judge when you look in the mirror, but the Self that came into the world as innocent, worthy and absolutely whole. This is the Self that knows how to live with joy, and how to love and be loved. When we set the intention to heal, develop a curious and compassionate stance toward ourselves, and make the time and space to encounter the authentic parts of ourselves that went into hiding long ago in order to survive, we step gradually back into wholeness.

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This is me, 'Trinka', at age three. This photo has been a treasure to me for many years because it captures the joy and vitality I know is still mine, but that has often been obscured by layers of pain.