There are things that happen to us in the course of our lifetime that can affect the trajectory of our lives, leaving us forever changed. That is the nature of the beast; we are the balls in the Dukes of Hazzard pinball machine doing the best we can. This is true of all events big and small but today I am talking about major traumas like being a survivor of incest, cancer, abuse or the death of a loved one. There are just too many events that fit here but you get the idea. Surviving trauma is heroic but reliving trauma can become a full time job and all consuming. Surviving trauma is somewhat a badge of honor. The death of anything, whether our innocence, a marriage, our health or a person, is life changing on many levels. It causes us to step back and re-evaluate who we are and what life means. These events become part of us and we carry them into every relationship we enter.
What frequently happens after a trauma is we end up honoring that battle by identifying ourselves as the event. We put a stake in the ground to hold fast in the fight but remain tethered to that stake as a matter of principal. What that does is leave us tied to the wound and walking in circles around a firmly placed stake, never being able to move past it.
What happens to us is not us. Trauma is something we live through and learn from; it alters us but does not define who we are. The incidents of our lives, no matter how horrible, become a part of us but they do not make up our whole. We are not honoring the dead but choosing not to live. By choosing to move forward we don’t minimize struggle or the effects of these events but rather go with the flow of life. We are moving away from the impact, taking our hard earned lessons and choosing to leave the limitations that we once imposed. This is the gift life gives us, the opportunity for a different perspective from down the road to deepen the learning. We honor ourselves and our struggles by leaning in, moving forward and learning from our traumas.
By accepting what is instead of what we would like it to be we are then able to choose different behavior. By seeing people and circumstances for what they truly are we work with what is true rather than our tired fiction. In doing this we release the beliefs that keep us tethered to the stakes we have planted about others and ourselves. We no longer invest in the image of what we should do to uphold principals that no longer fit or serve us. By letting go of those ties we can forgive others and ourselves for our human frailty. Healing is not a disingenuous act. It does not take power away from us or events but rather it brings us full circle giving circumstances meaning and context. Pulling up stakes is an act of growth, honesty and courage all of which make the journey a much better story in the end.