For the longest time I held onto resentments. I mean - really - how could I forgive those who had affected my life and changed me forever?
My life had been a nightmare. Trauma does that to a person.
Yet - it didn't have to stay that way.
But I didn't understand that by holding on to the quite justifiable anger that I was drawing out the pain, I was actually causing some of my own misery. I had slipped into the conundrum of post trauma stress as over time I struggled to avoid triggers and control my environment and those in it in an impotent effort to continue to avoid the emotional pain and feelings of helplessness that had become my "norm".
What changed that? What helped me to let go of the resentments that my life could have been different, that I could have been different had I not had the life experiences that I did?
First - it was learning to do the "hard work" of emotional healing - learning to recognize, and connect my emotions and start talking about how I felt about what happened to me instead of my past focus on what the perpetrators had done that had left me feeling helpless, hopeless.
To trust the process - the emotional healing process.
To stop focussing and thinking about what "they", "he", "she", "it" had done to me or on what had otherwise happened to me that I had no control over.
Doing this "instant replay" really served only one purpose and that was to support that "perpetual victimhood" I was experiencing by reliving the nightmare over and over; not just in my head, but in my conversations and relationships. In the beginning it was noticable that this was what I was doing but in time it unconsciouly permeated my life and who I had become.
This focus on external events perpetuated that feeling of helplessness that often comes with a trauma experience and circumvented the natural emotional process of healing.
Then to start talking about how I felt about what happened to me.
That I felt shamed, lost, lonely, confused. That I thought, as I had been told, that "it" was my fault, that I was bad, that I had feared for my life and well being.
But I didn't share this part of my journey with just anyone. Only a select few whom I knew would be able to sit with my pain and not try to "fix" it by offering suggestions that would serve only to once again place the focus on external "fixes" rather than the internal insight and awareness that brings change.
This part of the journey is not one to be openly shared with all the world but to be honored and respected amongst close and compassionate relationships. A trusted friend who is not doing their own trauma work, a qualified therapist that knows how to validate instead of dismiss this part of the healing process.
This is where the knowledge of the emotional healing process came into play. As I gradually moved from talking "story" and on to "processing" emotion - the darkness began to lift. The pain began to subside inside me.
Things that had been horrible triggers for me began to be things I could experience with intention. I began to see how events and situations that in the past would send me off the deep end were identifying opportunities for healing, grieving - that here I could go through to get out of the connected avoidance and pain.
I no longer had to hide from the world because I could now become a part of the world.
I began to use my words as an indicator, a marker of sorts, that there was more grief to be had. That there was more to be let go of in order to set myself free. When I found myself again focussing on, talking about, complaining or feeling angry at something that had been done "to" me...this resentment was telling me there was more work to be done - and that I was ready to go through this healing process in order to get out of the pain of the past that had stolen my life from me.
And as I noted in my poem of recent "A Walk in Compassion" - letting go of my anger, resentments and deep inner wounds does not give those who harmed me a free pass in life for what they did that harmed me - but finding this place brings me closer to peace.
Related posts: Know and Face Thine Enemy
You Don't Have to be an Einstien: Knowledge is Empowerment (there is no "worse" than or comparing of trauma experiences...)