“All healing is release from the past . . . It is enough to heal the past and make the future free. It is enough to let the present be accepted as it is.” Course of Miracles
Many people have survived some form of trauma. I believe it is important to make an effort to heal the wounds of the past. To do this you need a multi-faceted approach. You need patience, honesty, and the Holy Spirit.
Healing the wounds of the past can be a long and drawn out process. This process begins when you accept the fact that you were traumatized. Many people are in denial about this. They don’t remember what really happened. They have blocked out the truth because it is too painful, or they see what happened to them as normal because they have nothing to compare it with. They may also dismiss the impact of the trauma prematurely because they believe God has healed them instantaneously.
Trauma is any experience which interferes with the feeling of safety and security that we need─any disruption to our well-being that is not worked through within the family unit via honesty, love, and communication. The following experiences are considered traumatic: rejection; abandonment; abuse, toxic shame; family secrets; betrayal; peer rejection, a death in the family; serious illness—whatever severely disturbs your sense of security and self-worth.
Children are not capable of discerning trauma because they have an unconscious need to see everything as being all right. They suffer and feel pain, but at the same time they find a mechanism whereby they deny or suppress the reality of their environment. This distortion of the truth (denial) is how they survive emotionally. However, as adults, we have to break through the magical illusion that everything is all right after we are traumatized.
Once you stop denying that you have experienced some form of trauma, it can be helpful if you identify the nature of that trauma. Was it sustained or intermittent? Did it happen recently or as a child? Was it at home or at school? What was going on, and who were the people involved?
Some people will know the answers to these questions and others will not. It can also be helpful to read some books about grief and trauma or personality disorders. It is amazing how many forms of trauma can occur, both inside and outside the home. Scriptures are also important, as Christ’s love is a healing agent.
If the trauma happened in childhood, and you can’t remember what happened, it might help if you talk to people who were there at the time (friends or family). Sometimes these people will not want to cooperate, but it’s worth a try. Christian therapy can also help people identify what happened to them during their childhood. A therapist can draw out the truth in a safe environment and help interpret the facts. If the truth never gets revealed or validated, it is important to still go on with the healing process. They can refer to their trauma as “something that happened,” even if they don’t remember what that “something” was. You know a tree by its fruit. If you have severe anxiety and depression your past trauma may be festering.
Once you have begun to identify past trauma, it is important to talk about it to someone you trust. This can be a pastor, a Christian therapist, a friend, or someone in a support group─anyone who can be trusted to listen without judgement. Talking is part of the healing process because sharing our deepest, darkest secrets brings them out of the unconscious and into the conscious. Once this happens, the trauma can be worked through. Of course, talking also makes us feel better, but most of all it promotes awareness and understanding─both important steps in the healing process.
At this point, writing can help. Key memories can flow when pen is put to paper, and the documentation of these truths can be useful later on. Writing is also a good way to get in touch with deep-seated feelings about what happened. Writing can mean keeping an ongoing journal about the recovery process, or taking an inventory of what happened with regard to the trauma and how it affected your life.
The hard part of the healing process comes when it is time to feel the pain of the past. Up to this point, you have been trying to dig up the memories of the past. When you are successful there is apt to be a strong emotional response. These feelings will vary from person to person, but some of the most common emotions felt at this time are anger, shock, anxiety, sadness, and depression.
No matter how painful these feelings might be, it is important not to run away from them. These emotions have to be felt in full force, as if one were re-living the trauma once again. When these feelings come up, it is important to remember that they will pass and that this experience is just one stage in the healing process. I cannot say how long it will take for the feelings to pass, but if they are embraced rather than repressed they will subside.
As you pray for relief, remember that this is temporary. Now is the time to release these feelings to God. You have done your grief work and now it is time to move on. Ask God to take the feelings and heal you.
Sometimes God will ask you to forgive those who hurt you. This does not mean you have to like them or to associate them. It simply means to let go of the resentment. Do not revisit the anger you feel and do not feed it with negative thoughts.
At this stage, you should be feeling better and ready to move on with your life. You have done something really wonderful. You have conquered the impossible. With God’s help you have cleansed yourself and released yourself from a great stumbling block to transformation. Transformation makes you a better steward and brings you closer to God.