"Everything in your life is there as a vehicle for your transformation. Use it!” -Ram Dass
Knowledge is power. (Refer to any poster in a library from the 1990s.) Self-knowledge is the ultimate power. Why do we seek knowledge in the first place? To grow our minds and have a new perspective. When you learn a new facet of yourself, you don’t see yourself through the same eyes anymore because you have more information to form your perspective. It’s like another piece of the internal puzzle. So how dare we limit ourselves to being confined to the same person we have always been, especially when we have more information to work with! Confining ourselves means letting our wounding be bigger than our healing. This is easier at different times, but man we deserve more freedom from ourselves.
I was 19 years old when I started the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. I was thrown into an intensive world of how emotions and experiences shape our entire sense of self. (#crazycollegedays) One of the concepts taught was about emotional wounding. Wounding could originate from an isolated incident or from repeated events in your life, but it had a profound impact on you. I rejected this idea with everything in me. I hated the notion of focusing on areas in my life that had caused me pain. It felt like a blame game of trudging through misery. It felt like consenting to suffering. It activated every cell of fight-back-with-empowerment! that lived within me. Oh, young Kara...I couldn't see the bigger picture of the process.
*fast forward through years of massive self-development work and a decade of doing energy healing with clients*
Many years later, I have a different perspective on this. The word trauma is used frequently now, it’s become a mainstream word. I’ve been on my own healing path for years now and work daily with assisting people on theirs. I’ve heard stories and experiences that make my own heart break for what people had to endure. One thing that I’ve realized is: no trauma is created equally. One person’s anxiety about a future family gathering can be on the same perceived scale as someone leaving a toxic relationship. To the person actually having the experience, this is the most high-stakes you can get. Who are we to judge suffering against suffering? You will always find someone who has it worse than you, just as you will always find someone who has it easier. Isn’t the whole point in this wild life to become more aware so we’re no longer bound to our suffering in the first place?
I’ve done my fair share of emotional excavation on myself and keep coming back to the quote: “your wound probably isn’t your fault, but your healing is your responsibility.” THIS is it. This is why I do healing work. This is on the wisdom spectrum of why I rejected the idea of wounding so admittedly at first. Wounding happens. Trauma happens. But healing is where you get your power back. When you heal from the deepest, darkest, ugliest, hardest parts of yourself, you get to not only reclaim a part of you that was injured or lost, but you gain more freedom in becoming who you actually want to be. Trauma is of the energy: this happened to me. Healing is of the energy: this is who I truly am.
Can you feel the difference in those statements? Power lost versus power reclaimed.
Owning your story can be very empowering. Not being bound to the version of yourself who suffered, or the level of emotions you experienced as that version, is even more empowering. An example of this is being able to talk about something that happened to you without feeling like you're back in that experience. This is the process of healing trauma: this happened to me AND this is who I truly am. Both statements are true and both can exist.
When you can do the energy work, therapy work, or whatever mental health or bodywork that serves you best, you get closer to freedom. It doesn’t mean that the wounding didn’t happen, it means you can have a new perspective from the wounding. Sometimes, on the hardest days when your spirit is feeling like disappearing into the dirt, you will feel the wound directly in front of you. You can taste the experience because that feels like the proof to confirm all of the bad feelings that are swirling around you. Other days, other moments, you might not even notice the wounding. Maybe it’s on the other side of a field and you have to squint to see it. You see that it’s there, but it’s not calling you the same way.
I've personally done major work around the theme of abandonment. Stumbling through my own healing, here are some takeaways I learned:
1. Triggers are when a present event activates something from a past experience. We might not even know what the past experience was, but all of the internal alerts start going off. When these responses come up, everything feels unsafe, so we grasp onto our old reflexes as a means to guide us because it feels like we need something to hang onto for dear life. This creates major friction and complete unease around everything. We look to the person standing in front of us to blame. "You triggered me." However, triggers are not the other person’s responsibility.* Triggers are your cue around what you still need to heal. We cannot put others in the position of having to perpetually walk on eggshells for fear of triggering us. That’s not sustainable for us or the other person involved. But when you start to heal, you can experience your triggers differently because the heightened level of emotion isn’t as present. Being less triggered is a sign of growth. The more that's healed from the original trauma or woundings, the less you'll identify with certain triggers. This is the messy progress of healing.
*Note: If someone is causing you pain, whether in an abusive relationship or as a form of direct manipulation, this isn't your trigger to own. This isn't the type of trigger I'm talking about in this post. I'll discuss more about those scenarios in an upcoming blog post around Boundaries and Expectations.
2. When you start to feel like you’ve gotten to the root of the issues/triggers, you’ll be cautious. Like, “oh shit. I think I realized why I’m feeling this way but what if it creeps up on me again? I better stay on high alert.” It's feeling like you'll jinx yourself by finally feeling differently. At a certain point though, you have to take this new self out for a spin. You have to show up and interact like the part of you who isn’t confined to the same character that was written into your story. THIS is how you begin to change. When you notice that you’ve responded differently internally, this is when you get to ACT differently. Hardest part of the process, but crucial. “That comment usually would’ve made me feel small, but for some reason it’s not hitting me as hard…should I react from feeling okay (which I actually feel), OR should I jump back into that comforting room of unworthiness? It does sound appealing…” This is actively allowing yourself to see the wound from the other side of the field. At a certain point, you have to let the distance be there purely because you have a right to feel at peace.
3. When you slip up again and get triggered and feel the wound in front of your face and scream, “DIDN’T I JUST HEAL FROM THIS SHIT?!” Well, congrats on being human! How many times in your life did you unconsciously act from your wounds and triggers? Oh, only a billion? You can see that slips happen. The healing response here is having the awareness of where the rabbit hole started for you and when you decided to jump all in. We all know when circumstances get the better of us and we also know when we’re on an internal warpath. This is when you make amends to yourself or to the other person involved and pray to every power at large that you’ll respond differently next time (and you can be sure that there's always a next time). You heal in the moments when you're confronted by the old triggers and then act/think/feel/respond differently. Anyone can feel like they've healed when they're alone and not met with noise in the outside world, but the true victory lap is seeing how you show up differently in old circumstances. This is validating for yourself that change and healing are possible. So, what if we stay vigilant with responding and feeling differently? This is when our focus comes from a healing vigilance of, “look at how capable I am of changing" instead of, “when will I be hurt again?” Two entirely different energies. When you know better, do better.
We can crawl, beg, march, run or trip our way to healing. It’s different for each of us, but the same intention must be true: to be free from suffering. Purely for our own sake. Purely because we want to feel better in our lives. Purely because when we heal, our relationships can grow stronger. Purely so we can be in the present moment and not be held in the cage from our past. Purely because this is your goddamn life and it can be better than the story that was already written.
meet the author: Kara Laudenslager
Kara is the owner of Radically Whole and is a Brennan Healing Science Energy Practitioner, Massage Therapist and Empath. She’s most passionate about helping people return to their truest selves through energy healing. She’s also the creator of the self-guided course, “Radical Instincts”, which helps you tell the difference between, “is my trauma misleading me or my gut instinct guiding me?” She loves all things involving spirituality, the mind-body connection, and trees.