HOW BIG IS YOUR BRAVE?

When I first heard this lyric in the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, I was struck by what a profound question it is. How big is your brave?

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This week, as our hearts are turned to Paris and the traumatic events there, the idea of courage and bravery come up for all of us. We all have questions: What would I do in that situation? Are we living in a new normal? How big is my brave?

Trauma survivors know the answer to that. Wherever we are in our healing, we know we have survived what would be unthinkable for most people. If you are new in your healing process, that is enough to know. If you are well into your healing, you know the courage needed to heal is sometimes more than that of surviving the trauma. But you also know the well of courage is bottomless. Even if we lose courage one day, the next day we awaken ready to fight the good fight again.

A Course in Miracles states “there is no order of difficulty in miracles.” I often apply that thinking to trauma and healing. There is no order of difficulty in surviving trauma. If 100 people went through the exact same trauma, they would react and deal with it in 100 different ways. We bring into our trauma a set of beliefs, feelings, thought patterns, culture, and maturity that are uniquely ours. We can never say another person’s similar trauma is more or less difficult than our own.

There are traumas we can look at and know they are more harrowing and difficult to heal, yes. I’m talking about similar trauma. We have an unnecessary tendency to make comparisons. We need to remove all judgment from trauma healing. In a situation needing love, judgment is a profound lack of love.

If we follow this line of thinking, then there is no order of difficulty in courage. What it took for me to survive and heal from rape, was courageous for me. What it takes for you to survive and heal is courageous for you. Don’t play small in acknowledging your courage.

And for those days when your brave feels small, ask the Divine for strength. Ask the Divine to hold you up. I used to imagine sitting in the lap of the Divine and being rocked. It comforted me and gave me strength to go on. Sometimes the well “seems” dry. That is when we need to turn to God to fill it again, and rest in that Holy comfort.

As the initial coverage of the Paris attacks subside, we will start to be hear the small stories. The everyday people who became heroes for others. But we will most likely not hear the stories of the survivors and the witnesses to this violence who may have their own PTSD in the months ahead. They will have to become heroes to themselves as they heal. Join with me in asking God to be with them, and with the families of those whose lives were lost. Their brave IS big enough. My brave IS big enough. And when it isn’t, dip from the well of God’s immense and indefatigable LOVE.

“Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in

Show me how big your brave is~”     – Sara Bareilles

 

Victoria McGee

11/15/15

 

 

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The Power of Acceptance

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”   ~ Viktor Frankl

This quote applies to so many of us who deal with PTSD. Whether your trauma is from war, physical attack, abuse or any of the numerous situations humans go through, we often feel helpless in the face of our darkness.

Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor, knows this all too well. It’s difficult to think of a situation more helpless than being in a concentration camp. Any person who is held against their will and subjected to horrific losses of human dignity has suffered beyond that which we can fathom. And how astounding is the human spirit that comes to realize in that instance, the only power we have is within our own mind.

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You may be thinking, “Wait, I’m the victim here. Why should I have to change? Why should I be the one who has to do all this work? It isn’t fair.”

You are 100% correct. It isn’t fair. It is what it is. The trauma happened. We didn’t have a choice in that. But we have choices from this point forward. We can choose to spend our time thinking about how unfair it all is. We absolutely have that option.

Or we can set about accepting what has happened, and move forward in our healing.

But acceptance can sometimes be the place we get stuck. The muddy quicksand our mind will not move from. Why is acceptance so difficult?

Sometimes, it’s simply that accepting what happened makes it real. Once you truly, (and really, and awfully) accept that this trauma happened to you, it can be terribly frightening. It leads to thoughts about the world not being a safe place for you. It leads to thoughts about how to make certain this never happens again. It leads to thoughts about how you have no control or power in your life.

That is huge.

No wonder we are reluctant to accept. There’s fear beyond that. However, notice all of those fears are thoughts. And thoughts can be changed. This is where healing begins.

I went through this struggle with acceptance. When you’ve had a fairly “normal” American upbringing (meaning no major horrors, abuse or neglect), it’s difficult to believe you’ve been assaulted. Each morning, I would wake up and wonder if it actually happened. Each morning it was my first thought. I went over it again and again. I wanted to go back in time, to lock my patio door securely, to do whatever I needed to do to make it un-happen. I was so afraid to accept that it had happened. I was also afraid to do what it would take to heal. What if I wasn’t strong enough? I turned to God again and again for that strength.

There is such lovely and simple wisdom in the Serenity prayer. It should be a PTSD mantra:

“God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The courage to change the things I can – this starts with our own thoughts. Our thoughts often require a warrior chant to beat them down. But we know, through practice and now science as well, that our thoughts are entirely our own choosing.

And this, my friends, is where we start to reclaim our selves.

This is often quoted, but always bears hearing again:

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. 

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There is nothing my holiness cannot do. 

~A Course in Miracles

Still Beloved

Victoria McGee

August 30, 2015

 

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