When I scroll through my social media feed I see a lot referring to “Healing Trauma”. Of course the idea of healing is wonderful but sometimes I am not sure that it is always the best word to describe what we are seeking or what to expect from the process of healing.
I do believe that trauma is a form of injury. Peter Levine, an expert in the field of trauma healing coined the term PTSI -”post traumatic stress injury” as a more appropriate alternative name for what is commonly called PTSD “post traumatic stress disorder”.
I also know that this kind of injury can heal. But what does that really mean? What does healed trauma look like? Sometimes it seems to me that the idea is that healing trauma successfully means it ceases to exist and we are whoever we were before our trauma injury. And this is the issue I have with the word healing.
If we look at physical injuries we find that they usually heal no matter what we do. A broken bone will heal, a flesh wound will heal. The body will set in motion processes to heal itself without our active and conscious participation. While I will never cease to be amazed at the body’s innate ability to heal itself, the result of the healing process can be mixed. Sometimes an injury heals badly. We may develop scar tissue that continues to cause us pain or restricted movement and a broken bone might fuse in a dysfunctional way if we don’t support the healing process.
The same is true for trauma healing. Once a traumatic event has happened to us, be it big or small, we begin to heal. Sometimes our trauma injury heals well and we can move on with life. Or we may not be able to support our healing process so well at the time and we develop debilitating and chronic trauma symptoms, like a huge scar on our soul.
This makes me think that the word “healing” alone actually does not really say much about the outcome of the healing process. Of course we like to aim high and wish for the most optimal healing outcome possible. Ideally we want a 100%, which means that any trace of the original injury will go away and we are restored to how we were before the injury. But how realistic is this idea? Even a well healed broken bone will carry a scar. I also know that those who have been dealing with trauma symptoms from a very young age may rightly say “I don’t know who I was before my trauma injury.”
It can be a depressing idea to take in, that perhaps 100% healing is rather unlikely when we are dealing with a complex, old and probably badly healed injury, -be this emotional, physical or both!
But what if we aimed for transformation or evolution instead of healing? To me these words imply that I can take my past experiences, the good and the bad, to become stronger. I like to believe that confronting, embracing and working with the things that hold me back will ultimately allow me to evolve to become someone wiser and stronger than I would have been without.
We can not undo what has happened to us and we can not reverse the symptoms that result. But with patience, kindness and perseverance we can learn how to free ourselves from their grip, so they do not hold us down and make us suffer.
Many people have told me that they have come to a place in their life where they do not regret their past struggles with trauma, injury or illness, because they were able to use these challenges to grow beyond what they would have imagined. Hearing this I find so empowering time and time again.
On my low days I still find myself believing that my life would have been less of a waste, easier, better or more successful had I not been weighed down by the issues that childhood bullying has caused me. But most of the time I can sense that I am living a more meaningful life more fully and that I am a better person because of what I have experienced.
The truth is that profound injuries leave scars. We can not make what has happened to us undone. Some people find scars ugly and try to hide them. However scars are just scars, they are not the injury, they are only a reminder of it. I believe scars make us unique, interesting and inspiring, no matter whether they are on our skin or on our soul.
By all means heal and support your healing process as best you can when your soul and your body is injured. And I invite you to transform and evolve too and become more wise and powerful with all your scars. Embrace life with more meaning and power and be your transformative self.