When we experience a traumatic event, intense emotions and thoughts are generated. To heal from the trauma, it is crucial that we are able to express and work through these thoughts and emotions. Oftentimes, it happens that this process is thwarted and the emotions and thoughts have no outlet. We think they have simply disappeared, but we know now that this is not the case. Anything we resist, persists, and in the case of suppressed emotions they certainly do not dissolve into nothingness, much as we'd like them to.
The brain is a marvel of human anatomy that serves to protect us from that which we cannot handle. Research has shown us how memories of traumatic experiences have the ability to bypass the prefrontal cortex where our regular memories are analysed, sorted and filed into the long term memory storage banks. Instead, these trauma memories and associated emotions head straight through to the hippocampus. Here is where they wait, biding their time for when there is a safe and healthy space for them to be excavated and processed. Sometimes, we will see some of these suppressed memories, emotions or thoughts coming out as dysfunctional behaviour, as nightmares, or emotional outbursts. Anxiety, difficulty sleeping, relationship struggles and chronic illnesses and allergies are symptoms of the unprocessed trauma.
The good news is that we are not the helpless victims of our circumstances. We can and must work to resolve and ultimately release what we have suppressed. Below, I will identify and guide you through the five steps that our emotions traverse on their path to freedom from pain. The starting point, or first step, may be any one of the first three, but he final step is always the same, and it is Love, Non-duality, Letting Go.
Too often, we are desperate to do what society tells us to do: Just let it go! Let in Love! Forgive! But it is literally impossible to make that leap to the end without taking each of the four steps in between.
Let us examine the steps we need to take in order to reach the goal.
First, there is Anger. This step is where we feel the fire of rage and outrage at what was done to us, at the unfairness and the ordacity of it all! Here we also feel the resentment and possibly blame. Women have traditionally be disallowed to take this step. We are told that it is unbecoming of a lady to raise her voice, and more often than not an angry and outspoken woman was labeled crazy. What does that do to our healing journey? It is thwarted. The feelings we resist, persist and being suppressed, they fester.
A second step, is Sadness. Here is where we feel the full brunt of the pain! The hurt! The disappointment, the loss. Grieving is done here, allowing the tears, feeling the hurt. If we consider ourselves to be too strong to cry, we do ourselves a grave injustice. Tears are healing, tears are the medicine of release for the pain we feel. When we suppress the feelings of sadness and don't allow ourselves to grieve, the original wound festers below the surface, and comes up more often than not as blind rage, as anger and resentment.
A third step, is Fear. There is some confusion that says you are not brave if you are afraid. This is in fact contrary to the truth. It is in facing and feeling the fear, that you are brave! We may choose the path of avoiding, dismissing and disassociating from our feelings of insecurity and the bad memories as a way to distract from the fear, even as a coping mechanism. When the time for healing comes, we need to put to rest these coping mechanisms and face these uncomfortable feelings head on. This is when we are truly courageous! Oftentimes, the ghosts that haunt us dissolve in the light of day, but it is only in looking them straight in the eyes that we are able to do this.
The fourth step, which usually follows after all the previous three have been dealt with, is that of Understanding. This level is not as feel-good and easy as it sounds. It can be just as traumatic, and problematic as we see with new eyes, now infused with Empathy, our own Responsibility in the trauma, or perhaps in the resulting actions we have taken since then with other people. Here is where we may choose to discard the victim-perpetrator mantle we have worn for so long, and step back into our authentic, unadulterated selves, who we once were, before the trauma. This step requires mindfulness and humility, and usually
we find that anxiety and stress melt away when we have taken this crucial, fourth step on the path to healing.
Finally, we reach our summit, where we have Love! Here we finally see that non-duality of the lives we live, the webs we weave, the intertwined connectedness of all people and things. Here we find ourselves having climbed the steps of Anger, Sadness, Fear and Understanding, and arrived at a place where we can clearly see solutions, have wishes and hopes for the future that is suddenly different and more hopeful than it's ever been. Here, at Love, we are able to let go of the trauma. Feeling free and unfettered, our souls remember the innocent joys of our youth, and we can run unencumbered down the mountain, feeling more alive having gone through the trauma, and I daresay, even thankful for the lessons learnt.