One of the most difficult challenges we face as adults is to heal from past traumas. If we don’t, those traumas drive our thoughts, beliefs, and fears, thereby negatively affecting our current experiences. I look at them as ghosts because they aren’t real in the now moment. Instead, they are like beings that are shackled to our ankles dragging us back and again so we are unable to enjoy our present.
These past traumas may come from our parents or other family members, teachers, friends, pretty much anyone that hurt us in some way. When we first experience this as children, we lack the necessary tools to deal with the trauma. We go into survival mode and cope in whatever way is best for us at the time. Often, what happens is that these traumas resurface when we are adults. The protection mechanisms start to fall away, often by someone or something triggering the familiar pain of the trauma. Without the protection, we feel raw and more prone to feeling the hurt that was perpetrated when we were young.
The trauma is exposed; and therefore, ripe for healing.
This presents a critical juncture. We can choose to process the trauma through various means and methods and in a loving way that will result in forgiveness, love, and healing. Or, we can choose to seethe in resentment, anger, blame, hatred, and victimhood. The choice is ours. I have seen it both ways.
When we choose the latter, it is out of defensiveness. It is the ego’s way of protecting itself. If I get angry and resentful and blame everyone else for fucking up my life, then I’ll be safe. I can make them out to be bad and I can be good. What is really happening here is that the self-hatred is spewed out at everyone else. What we feel within is what we show to others. This self-hatred was likely produced during the time of the trauma, so it only feels fitting that it should then be transferred to those who you perceive perpetuated it.
But do you see how this can be a downward spiral? Hate, blame, and resentment only poison us more. We still hold the trauma, the self-hatred, the unhappiness, the discontent, and this is the energy that we bring to all of our life experiences.
So what’s the alternative?
Many think that they can let go of these negative emotions when they get an apology from the person who they perceive hurt them. “All I need is for him to apologize to me and he won’t even do that.”
The problem with expecting an apology is three-fold:
1. We all are human. We all make mistakes. We all perceive situations in very different ways. When you are a child, you have a point of view as a child. Yes, the child’s feelings are just as important as an adult's, but the perception is very different. The child isn’t aware of what the adult was going through at the time. Often, when an adult does something to hurt a child’s feelings, the adult isn’t even aware. The adult learned a certain way of managing life from his/her parents and experiences, and therefore, has a completely different perspective. We can not expect others to see our experiences in the same light as us. If we do, we are fighting a losing battle. We may think it’s obvious why we would want an apology, but the other person may not feel that anything was done to warrant that apology because of the difference in perspective. In any given moment, we are all just doing the best that we can, even if it doesn’t feel that way from the outside perspective.
2. If we do receive an apology, those words won’t heal the inner self-hatred that has taken over throughout the years. It usually doesn’t heal the anger or resentment either.
3. Waiting for someone outside of us to apologize and therefore "fix" us is to give our power away to another.
So what is the answer to healing these past wounds? How do we let go of the blame, resentment, and anger, heal our inner self-hatred, and allow ourselves to experience life in a new way?
Healing is an inside job. The damage has been done. Now it’s up to us to do the work to heal.
Every one of us is unique, with unique personalities, experiences, gifts. We all go through hardships in our lives, some could be judged worse than others. To some, getting kicked off of the volleyball team might be traumatic. Others may have been physically abused. It is all relative depending upon our life’s blueprint.
You may have heard this before….it’s not the experience that is important. It’s what you do with it.
I have a book on my bookcase called Speak Truth to Power. It is filled with stories of people around the world who have suffered unspeakable horrors throughout their life and used their experiences to create awareness and change. They could have spiraled down into victimhood, blame, hatred, and resentment, but instead turned it around to fight for change.
This may seem like an extreme example, but I don’t think it is. We all have the choice to remain in victimhood or to take the experience, learn what we can from it, and use as fertilizer for our future. When we are in that victim state, we are saying to whoever hurt us, “you hurt me and therefore, you took my happiness away.” You are completely giving your power away! Why should they be able to steal your happiness? Why do you think they can have that kind of power over you? Take your power back by letting go of victimhood. Say,
“this happened in the past and it was awful. At the time, I felt sad, scared, abandoned, abused, mistreated, unloved. But the truth is, today, I am none of those things. I lived through all of that to be who I am today. I refuse to live in the past. I refuse to remain a victim to that experience as a child. I release that energy binding us to each other and I take my power back.”
I recommend journaling about what you felt at that time. Identify all of the feelings that reemerge for you when they are triggered by an outside event. Identifying these feelings allow you to shine the light on the ghosts that keep you tethered to the past. When you feel triggered, try to identify what you are feeling. Most likely it has nothing to do with the current event and everything to do with your past event. If someone said something to hurt your feelings, likely the comment triggered something from our past. What is it you’re feeling at the core? When was the first time that you felt that? Then send love to that hurt inner child. Tell the child that you understand the pain that was caused back then but that is the past and you choose to let that go. It was an experience and it sucked but it’s over. You choose to let go of the past and embrace a new now based on love, forgiveness, compassion, and peace.
The way to create a life without the pain of triggers is to become aware of the emotions, acknowledge and validate them when they arise, send them love and compassion, and make the choice to let them go. Do this again and again, every time the feelings resurface. You have the power to overcome anything from the past without involving other people. YOU HAVE THE POWER!
See? Letting go of the past has nothing to do with the person or people that hurt you. You can heal all on your own. When you do, you’ll be surprised at how your relationship with yourself and others begin to change.
Love and light,