In my previous entry in this series proposing a Cure for Trauma and Grief, I noted that by focusing on our breath, we will notice that things come into our minds: thoughts, feelings, actions, scenes, images, sensations, beliefs, etc. Whatever comes into the mind, just notice it. Acknowledge it. “Oh, there’s a thought. And there’s a feeling….” Whatever it is, notice it and come back to your breath. Better yet, identify it as something specific. “Oh, there’s a thought about work” or “there’s a sad feeling, or a pleasant feeling, or an angry feeling, or an affectionate feeling…” Notice it. Identify it. And come back to the breath. Practice this for at least 20 minutes each day. It is another trick – actually a test of commitment to oneself – to actually focus on the breath for 20 minutes a day.
You’re probably thinking, “It can’t be that simple.” Well…it’s not. It is complicated and involves more steps, more tests of your commitment to yourself.
The next step is to bring the little pieces that make up the Wall one by one into view. These pieces might be bricks or mortar or wood and nails or screws. Let’s choose bricks for the sake of simplicity. Whatever building materials you have used to construct your wall can be difficult to look at directly. After all, they aren’t really bricks or wood or nails or screws.
No, they are the painful reminders of past traumas and losses. Because they are painful, they can trigger unpleasant feelings we have learned to associate with pain. They are the pieces of ourselves we have lost along the way, the parts of ourselves we are blind to, the elements of our very being we cannot face, the judgments of ourselves as guilty, shameful, and wrong.
This leads us to the next part of the cure. This is probably the most difficult to hear, especially when we are starting out on the journey that will stop our heroic inner repair-person from fixing the holes that we are already beginning to put in the Wall. The next part of the cure is to tolerate and forgive. We must tolerate our own inability to take down the Wall as quickly as possible.
We must forgive ourselves for being incapable of showing as much love to our families and friends as possible in an ideal world. The trouble is, we don’t live in an ideal world, and all our dreams don’t come true. If we don’t accept this, and if we don’t forgive ourselves for all the time we may have wasted failing to recognize this, we will remain stuck. The heroic inner repairperson will keep fixing those holes in the Wall and our true feelings, the parts of ourselves that are genuine – the “real self” – will remain cut off from those whom we would choose to love.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we must love everyone. There are many folks in the world who would abuse us for even attempting to speak to them or for looking at them the “wrong” way. Are we to love them like we would love a best friend or a life-partner? Perhaps we can be compassionate enough with ourselves to forgive ourselves for recognizing from whence trauma and loss has come and to calmly go along our way, forgiving ourselves for passing by the psychopaths of the world, and for recognizing that some people’s Walls simply cannot be broken down. Perhaps their Walls are so strong, so thick and so tall, or there is no will to overcome the roadblocks. In these cases, there really is no point.
Willingness to engage in the process of healing is key to the cure!
Only those who wish for a cure and are open to a cure can be cured. But it takes more than the will to change to actually make a change. No, it takes discipline and hard work. And that hard work and discipline can pay off. It can influence and change those who might not presently have the will to change. But some of these may be in the process of realizing there is something wrong. They might be starting to think about the possibility of change. It could be a while before they admit there are some very helpful ways to achieve change and to actually put these into practice.
Practice some more and let’s wrap up this short series of articles on Curing Trauma and Grief next time…If you’re getting tired of practicing or you’ve been noticing you’re not practicing anymore but you recognize the need to get back to it, I have some tips to offer you in my next blog…