I love the idea of Post traumatic growth, so please, don’t get me wrong. I even have that apart of my signature on my emails. Declaring PTG as the ultimate goal of trauma therapy work.
But, trauma sucks and we need to acknowledge that too.
Not in a hopeless, helpless way, but in a let’s-be-real way. I see there is this narrative weaving itself through all of American culture and history, that goes something like, “what doesn’t kill you…”and “pull yourself up by the…” and so on and so on. I don’t even have to finish these phrases because three more are already popping up in your head. So you know this narrative. Your inner critic knows this narrative.
To be honest, though. Trauma lasts for a long time in a lot of cases. We are just beginning to learn about the effects of intergenerational trauma that is passed down from generation to generation. That sucks. Trauma that didn’t.even.happen.to.you can be embedded deep in your genes. Check out the study of epigenetics if you don’t believe me. This is not woo-woo stuff.
The Aces study told us about the long term effects of childhood abuse and neglect. Complex PTSD. Forget what your elders told you about sucking it up. Science tells us that we don’t. We carry it with us and it affects our nervous systems, beliefs about self and other, spirit, and health both in childhood and way later in life. Just because we are out, doesn’t mean we are free.
Also, trauma is expensive. I’m not only referring to the cost of therapy, although that is certainly not to be mitigated and usually falls as burden on the survivor. It’s the cost of missed work, missed opportunities, and health declines. I’ve had client after client sit with me in their adult years to grieve the very losses of not only a safe and supported childhood, but the bereavement over who they could be in the world, what they could have been empowered to do, and which challenges may have been met with grace rather than fear. I myself even once came to an existential crisis of, would I even have been a therapist were it not for my childhood traumas?? What if I was suppose to be something/someone else? Did I get a choice in this? Trust me, those questions sucked! Especially in adulthood when everyone around me was making choices about whether to have kids or buy a house and I was curled up wondering if everything in my life was a lie.
Of course, that doesn’t mean healing isn’t possible. It certainly is! That’s what picked me up off the floor, as well as every one of you who enters into their own therapeutic work. Yes you grieve these loses, but you get up again… and again because trauma sucks and trauma does make a life harder. Trauma is not, however, the ending of a story. Not when hope, love, and the opportunity for growth are possible.
But don’t rush there. We have to face the suck of trauma first. We really have to feel it to heal it.
God, it’s awful.