Trauma Healing is the courage to move through pain. This is pain that feels unbearable, it stretches you. It scares the hell out of you. It cuts you down the middle and purges your soul. It challenges you spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The crushing sense of loneliness, fear and shame is a heavy, heavy burden to bear. I once said to a therapist of mine: “I feel as though I want to throw up my childhood, I feel that it needs to be exorcised from me.” I have spent many nights screaming out, crying, shaking. If that’s where you are now: I see you.
Part of the reason for the intensity recovery pain is that we have not had a proper framework for dealing with emotions. In toxic/abusive families, our parents shamed us or abused us for having feelings. Or, we were in so much pain that we didn’t even know we had feelings at all. This kind of dissociation is a hallmark of complex PTSD, a condition that can be caused by chronic abuse and neglect in childhood.
Richard Grannon, The Spartan Life Coach, says that emotions are waves coming up on the shore. They have always crashed and they always will. I believe this to be true. And, I believe we are baptized each time these waves of healing crash over us. Each time we choose to get in touch with our pain, even if just a little.
In the Christian tradition, baptism symbolizes becoming “dead” to the old self. “Dead” to old beliefs and ways of living, and becoming new. It is a symbol of re-birth.
For those of us who were wounded, betrayed, and abused by our parents, isn’t this what we need? Don’t we need to be reborn? Don’t we need to feel the innocence and purity of love? Don’t we need to see that new beginnings can exist?
Yes, we do.
The metaphor of baptism can serve us here, and give us the courage to feel the pain, instead of running from it. Because, as we decide to feel it, to speak it, to own it, we sink down into the depths of ourselves. Not to drown there, but to emerge again. As whole and courageous. This is the baptism of grief, and the transcendence of recovery.
No matter what you believe about the Christian tradition, the metaphor of baptism is a beautiful symbol on our journey of trauma healing. As we heal from trauma, we lay aside old beliefs: “I am worthless” “I deserved it” “It was my fault” “I should be ashamed of myself”. With the help/love of therapists and healers, we develop new beliefs: “I am enough as I am.” “It wasn’t my fault because I was just a child and I didn’t deserve to be abused.” “There’s nothing wrong with me, I didn’t get what I needed when I was growing up, but I can give myself what I need now.” “I am worthy of love, and I am capable of loving”
Most of us who have been abused by our families spend our whole lives managing the pain. Running as far away from the pain as we possibly can. And at night, the demons scream out at us. Because running is not the answer. Because the demons are simply pointing us to the unavoidable truth that healing is our responsibility.
We must choose to feel. To hurt. To step out of denial and repression and dissociation and into truth. When we are ready and with the help of people we trust. The only way out of the pain, is through the pain. Your courage to heal and feel will at times feel like you are being plunged into the deep dark depths of all the pain you have been avoiding. But this is not a drowning, this is a baptism of grief. Remembering the innocence lost, the abuse suffered, the pain that has not yet been honoured. Let the grief lead you to your inner child, your divine and precious soul, your true self. And when you emerge from your journey into yourself, you will have transcended the pain that you so fear.