The healing process is one that takes time, patience and practice. Often when people go through a traumatic experience they think that to heal they must review the details repeatedly until the feelings melt away. This can actually work against the healing process and cause you to stay trapped in the overwhelming feelings causing you to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
Repressing your feelings all together can lead to outbursts of anger and cause you to live in resentment and bitterness. This will manifest in fits of rage over miniscule things that come up day to day.
Trauma can come in the form of divorce, job loss, moving, death of a loved one or pet, and abusive relationships emotionally, physically and/or sexually. You know you have been traumatized when a past event stirs up powerful feelings that make you feel like the situation is occurring in the present. Your brain does not process feelings in the past or the present so when you think of the trauma you will feel flooded as if the event is taking place at that very moment.
The key to healing from the inside out is to take the time you need to acknowledge your feelings with compassion and acceptance. The best thing you can do to work through painful, challenging times is to be who you needed when you were younger.
For example, if you felt unloved and neglected in your childhood and went on to marry someone who continued the cycle of neglect, you will be recreating trauma all over again. The only way to break that cycle is to be the parent you wanted to your present self.
An effective way to begin the healing process is to picture yourself at the age the trauma occurred. You could see your 14-year-old self or even your 40 your old self. It doesn’t matter as long as you see yourself as the age you were when you went through a painful experience.
Begin to say the things to your former self that you needed to hear from other people. “I’m sorry you felt so unloved, I’m sorry you felt invisible, I understand how sad that must have been for you.” Keep flooding your former self with compassion and acceptance. This process will allow you to really work through your feelings about the situation and help you feel heard, accepted and understood. Keep talking out loud to the former self for as long as you need to.
When you start this process, you may begin to feel shame and turn on your former self. This only deepens the wounds. Offer only acceptance and compassion. Keep doing this when you are alone and won’t be afraid of having someone hear you.
This exercise over time will help you begin the much-needed process of healing. Each time you go back and become who your former self needed you will open your heart to experience true healing from the inside out.
You will start to feel a peace wash over you and over time you will notice that you are no longer flooded with feelings of shame, anger, sadness or regret.
Remember, healing is a process. If you think of falling and skinning your knee, first you notice it is red and swollen, over time it bruises and turns purple to blue in color, and then it may turn slightly yellow. Eventually the skin will return to its normal color and your body will do what it needs to do to heal.
Healing trauma is a process full of many colors that takes compassion and care to move forward.
Don’t live paralyzed by old wounds; be who your former self needed and begin to only offer acceptance, compassion and understanding. You will be amazed at how this process can free you from the hurts of the past.
Be who you needed today and always.
You are worth it!
Meghan Fritz is a psychotherapist practicing in State College, PA.