“We need the courage to learn from our past and not live in it.” – Sharon Salzberg
Courage. It is one of those words that has so many subjective meanings. Depending on your life circumstances, it can mean the bravery to face a military battle, or the bravery to face another day.
People living with PTSD know that the battle to return to “normal” takes courage every single day.
I say “normal” in quotations marks because everyone’s definition of that will be different, and because we never return to what was normal before, but to what can only be called a “new normal.”
The Serenity Prayer brilliantly encapsulates what a survivor must do.
“God grant me the ability to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I have written previously about acceptance, and how that can sometimes be the toughest hurdle to cross when you start healing.
But today we focus on courage. “The courage to change the things I can.”
When we have been victimized, traumatized, and shaken to our very core, it can be difficult to see what can be changed about that. And truly, nothing can. The event, the trauma, the attack, the war, happened. That cannot be changed. So what is within our power to change? More than you might imagine.
- Our thoughts about the trauma.
Of course our immediate thoughts about the trauma will be dark and tragic and a little insane. For a while, sometimes a long while after, random thoughts and flashbacks will enter your thoughts. Sometimes fluttering through, other times ramming into your brain like a freight train. Realize that you have control over these thoughts. At first, you will feel helpless to their insistence. But practice this: thank each dark thought for sharing and speeding you toward healing, then turn your mind to something else. It can be as mundane as what to eat, calling a friend, or reading. Making this choice in your thoughts helps to disarm the part of you that wants to dwell. I used to sarcastically say to my memories “Thank you for sharing. But I choose not to think about that right now.”
- How we heal from the trauma.
We have many choices in this realm. In my experience, trauma requires a menu of healing, not just one domain. We can choose traditional therapy, hypnosis, regression, art, drama, group, the list is literally endless. When you add holistic methods it grows exponentially. This is the appropriate place to speak and deal with those dark thoughts! The important thing to remember is to move on if you don’t feel you’re making progress. The healing and the healer has to resonate with you, for healing to happen.
- How we feel about the trauma.
When we speak of the courage to change the things we can, our feelings about the trauma are integral. There are so many different types of trauma that it’s impossible to address individual emotions about it. You can choose to feel like a victim or a survivor. You can choose to feel different from others, or you can choose to see how our struggles make us all the same. You can choose to isolate, or you can choose to join.
All of these choices take courage. Inner healing takes tremendous amounts of courage. Most people in your daily life don’t know what you’re so very earnestly doing each day. Healing. Loving yourself. Getting up and going out in the world every day. They don’t know that you’re a warrior.
In his book, The Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav says, “When you choose to learn through wisdom, to evolve consciously, your fears surface one at a time in order for you to exorcise them with inner faith. That is how it happens. You exorcise your own demons.”
We all respond to trauma differently, based on our own perceptions, formed by our own life experience and level of resilience. Everything informs our response, from our genetic makeup to our upbringing.
But we all have a warrior inside us as well. And courage. If we ask, the reservoirs will open to us, and all that we need will be provided.
“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep. God is awake.”
– Victor Hugo
You are Still Beloved –