We all have trauma of some kind in our story. I’m an advocate for owning your trauma, doing the agonizing work of digging through it, and actively participating in your own healing. Eventually, everyone has to choose to dive down into their pain so that they can finally come back up for a real breath.
If you’re still getting up the nerve to start your healing process, what I have to say next may not be for you. Here I’m going to be talking to the people who, like me, are somewhere in the middle of the healing process. Still gasping for breath, not quite breathing fully yet.
I’m talking to you.
You’ve been hurt. You’ve been trampled by others. Whether they meant to or not, someone took their pain out on you. They did to you what someone did to them, and what someone had done to that someone before. They decided to rope you into the cycle of pain that has been going on for eons, because they hadn’t yet gotten to the place of participating in their own healing.
And you have paid the price.
Are you angry?
I’m angry. I’m angry that someone hurt me badly enough that I’m almost seven years into the healing process and the wound hasn’t scarred over yet. And anger is okay. That is, anger is okay, depending on what you do with it.
I keep trying to speed up my healing process, expecting that I can let the scar cover up my anger. Unsurprisingly, it’s not going very well for me, because anger left untended causes wounds to fester. Anger left untended in my heart leads to anxiety attacks, bouts of depression that drag me down into suicidal thoughts, and violent tendencies. And that is not okay.
Anger left untended leads to me being in danger of doing to someone else what my someone did to me, and that someone did to them. When I choose to let my anger fester, I am in danger of perpetuating that cycle of pain that put me in this position in the first place.
And that’s not just what unchecked anger does to me. Friend, it’s what unchecked anger does to all of us.
We have to stop the cycle of pain.
Anger is a part of trauma. When we go to the effort of owning our trauma, we have to own our anger as well. We have to acknowledge it, process it, and use it in a healthy way. Even as survivors of the worst kinds of trauma, we do not have permission to inflict pain on others, or on ourselves.
So what does that mean?
It means two things.
First, it means that we can and should acknowledge that the anger we feel is valid. It is real, and it is honest. That anger is our bodies’ way of telling us that something is wrong. We have to pay attention to the anger that comes from our trauma, and allow it to be real.
First things first, you have to own that anger and then you have to let it be what it is: a sign that something is not okay. Some things are just plain wrong, and it is not only okay to call it out and demand justice, it is necessary.
Second, stopping the cycle of pain means engaging in radical healing.
Friends, I mean radical. I mean ugly, crazy, merciful healing. After we acknowledge our pain and allow it to be what it is, we have to start to deal with it. This means something a little different to everyone, but let me tell you what it means for me.
For me, radical healing of my anger means that in my prayer journal, there are pages where my abusers names are written in my very best handwriting, and next to those names are prayers for blessings, and healing, and reconciliation. My radical healing means that when I know important information that my abusers probably have no way of obtaining, I break the silence to get them that information.
Radical healing means finding a way to get to a place where you can acknowledge the full humanity of the person or persons who hurt you.
The full humanity. That means that the people responsible for your pain are also worthy of love, respect, and kindness. They are worthy of God’s blessings by virtue of being human.
To be clear, I would never ask someone who has been through trauma to put effort into a relationship with an abuser. That is not what radical healing means. Radical healing means that we have to come to the understanding that just because we were on the receiving end of violence does not mean that we then get to dole out violence in turn.
This healing is relinquishing the right to get revenge.