There are lots of difficult words in therapy. Trauma, abuse, grief, change are just a few of the hard words therapy causes to surface. There is one word though that is more difficult than all the others for most of my clients.
On the road to change there are three words. Acknowledgment or awareness, acceptance, and change. Change cannot come without the other two being ahead of it on the road.
However, it is the word and act of acceptance that most of my clients find the hardest to see, say and do. Acceptance means that one has to accept fully that what has happened to them to this point in their life, no matter how much they would wish it could just be forgotten, wiped away, not remembered, will always be a part of them, always.
Most people with trauma spend their lives ignoring, running away from, or repeatedly responding to events and relationships from a place of their traumatic experience. And yet, all the while, they are trying to pretend that it is not the trauma. That they can forget the trauma, box it up, pretend it is not the cause of all the subsequent fears, traumas, failures, and unhealthy coping techniques they employ for all the days of their life that follows.
Most people with trauma work very hard to NOT acknowledge or be aware of their trauma and the subsequent trauma responses. They work even harder on NOT accepting that this trauma will forever be in their memories.
In order to progress towards real change, one must acknowledge their trauma. Face it, understand it, process it in relation to all that has followed, recognize it and be aware of how it causes you to make decisions, respond to events, and conduct relationships.
The second step is acceptance that your trauma is part of you. We cannot erase memories. Lobotomies are not performed in many countries any longer. Our experiences are our experiences. They happened. They shaped who we became after and what we thought and believed about ourselves after the trauma.
And this is where change comes in. We cannot change what has happened. We can however change how we feel about it. We can change how we react to it. We can change how we think about ourselves in relation to it. And in changing these things, we change everything.
It is a process. Sometimes a slow and painful process. Sometimes a quicker process. Each person’s path to change will be different. It will not happen overnight. But it can and will happen if we acknowledge, accept, and then change our thoughts, change our beliefs, change our reactions.
What has your trauma caused you to think about yourself in relation to it? I am not worthy of love, I am not good enough, my feelings do not matter, I am not valued, and any of the millions of things we can be taught to think and believe by our traumas. How have these beliefs affected your choices in life, your responses, your relationships? Do you know who you are outside of this trauma? Are you even aware of who that person is?
The path to change can be frightening. For all the horrible things trauma causes in our lives, we can become accustomed to it because we know it. We know exactly how it looks, feels, and what we can expect to happen. It is known. Change is unknown. The person on the other side of change is unknown. The life on the other side of change is unknown.
And so the only remaining question is, do you wish to be the same person with the same trauma reactions in 6 months, a year, 5 years, 10 years? Or do you wish to find your truer self, accepting the past, and growing beyond it?
Acknowledge, accept, change. One moment at a time. Sometimes you can make inches of progress and sometimes miles, but the journey always starts with the same words, hard though they may be. Change is possible.
Until next time be well,