Every day as I go out into the world, I am aware of walking in the midst of people who carry with them all sorts of traumas and scars; some as fresh as that day, some decades old and others ancestral, that are lodged in their cellular memory. I send them compassion and healing energy, wondering a lot how they keep on keeping on. Not very well at times, I imagine. Many turn to self-destructive behaviors just to manage what might seem like unbearable pain and heartache. I remember several years ago, while sitting in a continuing ed. class for Social Workers on the concept of self injury seen through the lens of trauma, the instructor Linda Curran told us that everything is a coping skill.
Part of my work as a therapist has been to help change the bandages and offer healing balms to clients as we together, help them see that their ‘broken places’ really mean that they are ‘broken open’ to more love and life. It takes a great deal of courage for them to face the wounds without feeling like they ARE the wounds. As I listen to their stories, I remind them that they are not their stories. I can only imagine the nightmares they have faced and the courage it takes just to get out of bed in the morning.
When I sit with some of my clients, they express how hard it is to resist the lure of the drug or behavior that for a brief time silences the tormenting voices that tell them they are inadequate or flawed, irretrievably damaged. Our shared task is to have them see beyond their perceived weaknesses to their strengths. It seems to be about reframing their history, using it as fertilizer to feed their life-garden.
Sometimes the wounds are messy and festering and no one wants to touch them. Other times, they are scabbed over and the person picks at them until they bleed. It takes courage on the part of both parties to sit in the mess until it finds a place of healing. As a therapist, it’s important for me to view them as resilient thrivers and not hopeless victims of choices that other people made that have had negative consequences in their lives. I also need not take responsibility for either their recovery or relapse.
It is when they loosen the hold that their past has on them that they can move forward with greater ease and grace.