April 29, 2021
Sometimes people can hold onto traumas and other difficult emotional experiences in a way that may have a subtle ‘pay off’. This idea ask that you closely examine the ways in which holding onto the wound is potentially “helpful” to you. Perhaps, it allows you to shape your identity, tell a powerful narrative, or allows for sympathy from others. To be clear, this idea does not invalidate your experience and in no way engages in blaming the victim. However, it posits that to truly engage in letting something go, it can be imperative to understand the subtle ways in which ‘holding on’ just may allow for some forms of personal power and control. Ultimately, the aim is to move beyond these control/power coping mechanisms and come to a more emotionally complete means of healing.
Trauma and emotional wounds are a form of grief that becomes “stuck” or is unable to be emotionally processed. On the path to truly letting go of some of these types of wounds the mourning process and subsequent grief work is a necessary step and journey. Grief is one of the most personal and profound emotional processes we can have. It may include, speaking with a counselor, journaling, a journey of sorts, a vision quest, or an exploration into healing and spirituality. The stages of grief will also apply and may include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Be courageous with your own grief process and be mindful not to short-change your mourning process as a way of “checking off a box”. Grief is circular in nature and may require multiple emotional passes and iterations to be true “grief work”.
As a part of the healing process, it is common to feel confused, lost, or simply hurt by the emotional experience. It is also common to have questions as to how this occurred. Why did this happen? And a desire to want to understand more in its entirety. This larger framework and bigger picture understanding are an important part of the healing journey. The desire to “get it” may take various forms and is integral to help aide in the processing of the trauma, releasing of shame or guilt, and ultimately the mechanism of forgiveness, should you choose this path. Empathy is ultimately about understanding, and you may want to really explore various roads as you deepen your ability to utterly understand and gain genuine empathy about the circumstances surrounding your injuries.
Trauma and emotional injuries can have a way of changing your perspectives, make you question the very foundation of your existence, and leave you grasping for existential air. This “tearing” process can be scary, depressing, and downright painful. The path toward healing often includes going though this existential void so that you can ultimately create possible new meanings and substantive purpose. However, this process is often not an easy one and the lows can be deep crevasses that can seem to last and last. This process may indeed be the most challenging one. It can become easy to become cynical, negative, or hopeless and have these infuse your existential perspective further validating your pain and position. Allow this existential journey to unfold naturally and with all its variations. If you continue to stay open and present to this process, you may just find a more significant meaning or path that could have only come into being from your emotional pain or previous experience and injury.
The path to healing trauma can be powerful, life changing, and cathartic. As part ‘B’ in your existential situation, one of the most productive and substantial parts of this healing work is deriving meaning from an incident or experience that initially assaulted your previous meaning and life affirming experiences. Of course this process can take some, involve some challenging work, and illicit some extremely creative solutions. The final phase is to take steps to integrate your new meaning and substantive changes. A beautiful and powerful example to help illustrate this process is one in which your own strength and healing are found through the very experience or situation that initially perpetuated the injury.
The caption for the image in this blog post is a powerful example of the above-mentioned sentiment:
“The Navy vessel built from steel from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
The USS New York's very nose is made from steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center”
Taking the time, intention, and effort to treat with reverence the trauma and emotional wounds that have touched your mind, body, and soul is the final step in your process. This part can have many iterations and can often require some creativity. Perhaps, it looks like a ceremonial burning, a pilgrimage or trip, or a cleansing of property or material items. Your journey is all of it; it is painful, beautiful, meaningful, and personal. Remember, that often the ending of a cycle can be the most significant and life affirming part of the entire process. So, go ahead and give it all of your energy and presence as you bring this extremely important chapter to your own ceremonial close.