Once in a while, a friend will come out of the shadows to ask for my thoughts on a particular matter. Somehow, they know I’ll act as a sounding board and a safe place for them to share. After chatting with one such friend the other day, I asked for her permission to share our conversation, and she agreed. This is the second post in my “Answers” series.*
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts. They are always insightful. I love hearing your thoughts on parenting. You are a great dad to all three boys. They are lucky to have you.
Your advice a few months ago worked with my son. Things have gotten much better. I wonder if you’d share your wisdom with me again, but on a more personal problem. In your experience/opinion/training can a person “let go” and move on from a past physical/emotional trauma without experiencing the emotions that occurred at the time of trauma? Or does a person have to relive (fully remember: physically, emotionally and mentally) the traumatic event?
Thanks in advance.
Thanks for your confidence in me. I don’t know if a person can truly let go of something traumatic without revisiting some of those emotions. But I do think it’s more of a side-effect than the focus. In other words, I don’t think that’s where you need to start, but it’s likely to come up in the process.
In my experience, the most effective way to release myself from something is to embrace it first. That’s difficult to do. There are different ways to go about this. If I can make the time and create the space, I like to take myself through a meditation in which I release bad or constricting energy. This can be specific or non-specific, but I like to allow my thoughts to take me where my attention is most needed.
This tends to work better for “lighter” issues. Issues that are more deep-seated are like miscellaneous debris that get mixed up in the foundational concrete. It’s removable, but can be stubborn…
I once participated in a conscious connected breath workshop in which I experienced a lot of discomfort, but ultimately release. I wrote a post about it once. It was about gratitude. That might be helpful to you. Also, a symbolic, physical act of release can be beneficial; like writing down the things you wish to let go of and burning it. You can mentally/spiritually offer it up to God as you do so, and the experience can be cathartic.
Hmm… So to let go of the memories first I have to be willing to remember them (in their entirety) and then let go of them. That makes sense. And because it’s memories that have been repressed, it would make sense for the emotions to be remembered and then released with the image of the event. Does that sound right?
That sounds about right. Are you seeing a counselor or therapist?
No counselor. I saw one for a few years during high school and part of college, but no one since then. I’ve been debating recently if I should or if I can work through this on my own.
I’m sure you can do some of it, if not all of it on your own, but it’s helpful to have someone who can reflect and provide some guidance. (Edit: If you are experiencing trouble like this, please seek counseling if it is within your means to do so. I’ve known Sandra for years, and she is a strong, successful woman who is presently struggling with her past. Do not assume you can “get better” without help.)
Do the voices in my head count? 😉
Hehe, they can!
I am forever grateful for the connected breathing experience because I felt like I experienced a year’s worth of therapy in 2 hours, and for $60. 😉 It was just as intense, though. All balled up into a short time.
I have learned that at times I try not to breathe so I have become more aware of that when I work through memories and I’ve been more aware of how I’m feeling physically and I use that to clue me in that something is going on in my psyche.
That’s a good self-guidance tool.
I endured several years of abuse growing up. I thought that I could just acknowledge that ‘shit happens’ and I could move on, but it seems that I can’t just hide the past in a closet of my mind. I am finding that at times, I can be overwhelmed with anxiety for what I think is no reason. Later when I stop for the day and sort through what’s going on, I find some past memory there causing the anxiety.
Generally if I allow that memory to come up and embrace it (although I can’t say it’s a happy embrace, but I accept what happened) then I’ve found that it loses some of it’s power. This has worked for me so far and I wanted to make sure it made sense to someone other than me.
Absolutely! When things happen to us as kids, we develop defense mechanisms to cope with them. These serve a purpose at the time, but we often fail to let go of them in adulthood, when they no longer serve the same purpose. This leads to faulty thought patterns that are counterproductive to our well-being. I try to go so far as to thank that characteristic or faulty belief for its service at the time, because it saved me or got me through. I guess you could say I grant it retirement status.
When you look at something with gratitude, you begin to realize on a more “real” level that things weren’t your fault. Young Sandra was strong. She coped with abuse the way she knew how, and she survived it. Kudos, kudos, kudos to young Sandra for that! Take time to honor that part of you.
Tell yourself it’s OK to remember. No one can hurt you (or her) like that ever again. Your ego-self will try to protect itself (“yourself”) from hurt by telling you to turn back, don’t pursue. This is not real. It’s no longer happening. Realize that you are not your ego. You are something so much greater and stronger than that! Something divine. You hold the key to this, and you’ll get better, stronger, happier. I know you will.
Also, thank you for feeling confident in sharing with me. I love it when friends are able to help each other, and in thinking and chatting with you about this, you’ve helped me get in some much-needed meditation. I feel more “connected” for having talked with you. Thanks for that.
I’m glad I could help you but I think you helped me much, much more. Thank you, Chris. That was exactly what I needed to hear.
I have never thanked the younger me for being so smart and strong, for surviving and always thinking of a way out of the situation.
Thank you, again, so very much. *happy tears of release*
Aw, my pleasure. I’m glad I was able to act as a sounding board. 🙂 I’m a bit choked up, myself.
Please let me know what you think about this post! Anything you disagree with? Any insights you’d add?
As always, thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing. I love it when connections are made!
*Please note that although I have a background in therapy, I am not a licensed counselor. This is a conversation between two friends. Take from this post what you like. Be well.