Processing trauma means you are going to the trenches in order to heal. You’re wading into the deep, murky waters of your subconscious mind to free up the gunky messes that rooted themselves long ago. It’s expensive financially, and even more so energetically. It’s hard, painful, all-consuming work, and it requires a ton of courage and grit to do it. Anyone who faces their trauma deserves a medal, all the ice cream, and an extended exotic vacation to their destination of choice. But let’s also remember that being in a position to even begin to process our trauma is an amazing privilege and a gift in of itself.
There are a lot of people who never get the space to process trauma. Perhaps they are not in a safe environment, which is required for opening up. Perhaps their abusers are long gone, but their coping strategies lead them down the road of other toxic relationships. Perhaps they are workaholics who keep themselves so busy (as a coping strategy) they have no bandwidth for personal growth. When someone adapts to “survival mode” as their primary way of life, it is extremely difficult to feel comfortable in an environment where there is no stress trigger. For these people, just getting through the day is enough. Diving into their stuff is not going to help them if they are still in an environment that contributes more stress to the pile. In order to get to the starting line for trauma processing, the journey of creating a safe, stable environment must come first.
There are a lot of people who want to start, but are too caught up in their own cognitive dissonance to “go there.” The funny (and by funny I mean sad) thing about trauma is that it gets in its own way. Even when someone desperately wants to release trauma and step into a new way of experiencing life, the negative voices of trauma get in the way. Oftentimes, an abuser’s discouraging messages get internalized into relentless de-motivational thoughts. The “tape” can be so loud and so strong, nothing else can break through. “You can’t do this.” “You’ll never heal.” “It’s useless to try.” Other types of cognitive dissonance can be in the form of minimization or denial. “It’s not that bad.” “I don’t have is as bad as other people.” “That was a long time ago, I should just get over it.” These thoughts do virtually nothing to heal trauma, and oftentimes are the very blockades to growth. For those who struggle with similar thoughts, it is essential to recognize them for what they are. Sometimes, cognitive behavioral therapy or other types of therapy that address negative thoughts rather than traumas can be a first step to be ready to get to the deeper issues. Just be careful not to confuse the two. Trauma is somatic, and needs a different approach.
There are a lot of people who simply have no interest in wanting to open that closet and look those skeletons in the eye. They are not interested in growth, even though it would mean releasing what hurts them and drawing them closer to those who love them. Many are totally cut off from their own feelings. Some may have personality disorders which prevent them from any form of self- reflection. Perhaps outwardly, they come off as confident or even dismissive, but inside (regardless of their level of awareness of it) they are rooted in their own fear and deep shame. Recovery is least likely for this group. People simply can’t heal from something they fail to acknowledge. Sadly, being cut off from their own trauma is what makes them most likely to project their trauma onto others.
It has taken me an entire lifetime to become ready to face the deep, dark ick that once controlled me. For many years, I was aware of it, but knew, or feared, I wasn’t ready to really face it. I eventually got to a place in my life where I was free of any abusers in my immediate space, but so worn down with the load I was carrying, I simply collapsed physically, mentally, and emotionally. From that place of sheer exhaustion, I surrendered to the process of uncovering the root causes of my stuff, piece by piece. I had to let go of work that was keeping me too busy. I had to let go of thought patterns that shielded me from the truth. Processing trauma, allowing myself to feel my feelings, letting myself grieve, acknowledging that my feelings and experiences were valid, these became the building blocks for my new life. In this new life, I am grateful for the journey. As hard as it is, I see that it is a privilege. I don’t think I’ll ever be glad that the abuse happened, but I am able to acknowledge that this journey I’m on has shaped me into one kick-ass, rad, lovable human. And for that, I am grateful.