What does it mean to truly heal from your childhood? I’m not sure anyone knows for sure. Read Dr. Gabor Mate’s work and you will find that in his 8th decade of life, he still struggles with unhealed wounds from his childhood that pop up now and again. We probably can never heal completely. What we can do is strive to always be healing. This means whenever unhealed wounds pop up, we tend to them and look for their source. We take an honest look at ourselves and keep our gaze steady, not turning away.
Most of the problems we have with other people are due to their unconscious attempts at protecting themselves. The reason why they seek to defend themselves so strongly is that they have been hurt in the past and they are unable to risk that level of vulnerability again. That is where the anger comes from, a deep violation of their boundaries that happened long ago and their fierce wish to protect themselves even at the cost of hurting those they love.
As a society we are becoming more trauma conscious, and this is true. But I hardly see in society is an acknowledgment of the grief that trauma brings. If everyone is bristled and defended, we have lost so many opportunities for real connection and contentment. And that is very sad. There is so much loss that comes with trauma and the aftermath and we have not begun to grieve it. All the mothers who could not show up for their children because they themselves were deeply traumatized. All the fathers passed their trauma along to the next generation via their angry outbursts and physical violence. Our inability to heal our traumas continues to wreak havoc on each succeeding generation.
We may not be able to heal all of our childhood wounds but we can stop the cycle of passing them on. This requires conscious awareness and understanding of ourselves and our wounds. It means that we need to stop hiding from our pain. It means we need to grieve. We need to grieve the childhood we never got. We need to grieve our needs as children that were never met. We need to grieve how the pain that we have carried around with us for decades has stopped us from living a more full and meaningful life. You see, trauma is a thief. It comes and steals our ability to be vulnerable and open to life away and we are left with armor that weighs us down. And for some of us, we wear this armor our whole lives and never release it. To release the armor means to attend to the hurt child within all of us.
Laying our weapons and armor down does not mean we accept everything into our lives. Everything and everyone is not safe. It simply means that we stop defending against and hurting those we love due to our trauma history. It means learning that not everyone is a threat and that we can be vulnerable with some people and most importantly, vulnerable with ourselves. We can be honest with ourselves and allow ourselves to feel those difficult emotions we have armored ourselves against like; fear, shame, embarrassment, loneliness, disappointment… We can learn, finally, that the defense against those emotions was much more dangerous than actually just feeling them.
Allowing Our Feelings To Move Freely Exercise
#1 Practice noticing the ways you are defended against the world, others, and/or your own emotions. Write down what you discover.
#2 Identify the feelings that you have been trying to avoid. List them out.
#3 Say each feeling out loud and notice what stirs inside of you. Notice if you feel like turning away from the feeling or if you feel like crying or feel like expressing anger. Allow yourself to move the feeling through you and into any type of expression that feels authentic. Do this for each emotion.
#4 Write down how you feel after completing this practice. How does your body feel? What emotions/feelings are coming up?