Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Seeing Sadness In The Rearview Mirror

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

As the leaves throughout Minnesota change to varying brilliant shades of gold, orange and red I sense an immense change unfolding within me.  I am finally, finally, beginning to overcome the significant impact of my early life history of trauma.  It’s been a true journey to reach the milestone I find myself at now.  And I am by no means done with my personal inquiry and related transformation.  But at least the pain is no longer as exquisitely sharp as it once was.

The sadness and grief I feel regarding my choice to walk away from my paternal family of origin is still within me.  But it is changing.  The mere passage of time does indeed have a way of healing wounds.  Does the passage of time lead to the healing of all wounds?  That is a very timely question.  I am inclined to say not necessarily but with the following proviso: bringing conscious awareness to that which pains you, and then choosing a course of action to address your pain, greatly increases the likelihood that you will find healing.  There are some wounds that we would be very unwise to completely ignore.  And, in my opinion, wounds suffered in childhood fall within that group.

In her book Too Scared To Cry child psychiatrist Lenore Terr makes the astute observation that childhood trauma that goes unaddressed does not often heal of its own accord.  It isn’t often a wise practice to make sweeping generalizations (as there are often exceptions to any rule) but I believe this generalization essentially holds true.  I myself am not a medical doctor.  But I am a man with twenty years of adult life experience who has traveled extensively, obtained two graduate degrees and worked with many types of people.  I thus feel I am well rounded and can make educated guesses and inferences.  And of course I can speak from my own experience.  And my own experience aligns with what Terr has observed.  Traumatized children who receive no treatment for their psychic wounding often go on to perform less well and lead less successful lives than their non-traumatized (or traumatized but later treated) counterparts.

My own experience caused me such sadness, in part, because much of my suffering was preventable.  My paternal family of origin is comprised of intelligent people.  If they set their minds to it they can indeed listen.  And I believe they could even effectively listen in a dispassionate, present way if they chose to.  But they do not choose to.  There is enough suffering in the world for everyone who is alive today.  Some of that suffering cannot be prevented despite our best efforts.  And this is unfortunate. 

But then there is the suffering we cause ourselves and others due to our manifold ways of avoiding addressing problems.  It is my sincere belief that pain avoided in the short term only leads to deeper pain in the longer term.  In short, it is best to deal with your problems now rather than continually postpone addressing them.  But that doesn’t mean it will be easy to do.  But I think it can be said that later, in hindsight, such diligence and conscious effort applied to resolve our problems will prove its value many times over.  We just have to be patient.  But being patient is also not necessarily an easy virtue to practice.  And I think American society is a great example of an impatient society.

I have come to learn patience over the last two years.  I have begun to learn patience in a way I never conceived I might learn it.  In some regards I felt forced to learn how to be patient when my world seemed to be imploding some sixteen months ago.  Sometimes we may feel virtually dragged into a scenario in which we must change.  To fail to change can have any number of consequences.  In the worst of circumstances a refusal to change or adapt can lead to the end of marriages, the loss of relationships with children, terminated employment, illness and even death.  Engaging in a bad habit for a single day, week or even month may have little long term impact.  But the cumulative harm of lifelong bad habits can eventually lead us to places of desolation we never imagined we might experience.  For those of us with a reputation for stubbornness a failure to change may ultimately result in a more immense crisis developing later on.  And if such a crisis does come to be we may find our very life hanging in the balance.

Last year, when I first began another leg of my journey of conscious healing, I had my moments when I felt as if the future quality of my own life was somehow radically contingent on the smallest of daily choices.  This way of thinking was not really healthy at all.  An ounce of chocolate or a single afternoon spent doing absolutely nothing productive will have little bearing on what our individual lives will be like in ten years.  It’s those habits we practice day in and day out that we must pay attention to.

It has become radiantly clear in my own mind that one of my self-destructive patterns was excessive rumination.  I would spend prodigious quantities of time and energy reliving and rehashing the past.  Re-exploring experiences in your earlier life history and more clearly understanding how these experiences have influenced the person you have become can be quite a healthy process when done in the appropriate time and place.  But to ruminate on old hurts and wounds time and time again will rarely produce anything of real value.  Instead, it’s very possible that repeatedly recalling hurtful imagery and events to mind may aggravate existing trauma related symptoms and slow the healing process.  In order to thoroughly heal we eventually have to come to a place of learning to forgive and release the past.

Post Script

Fifty Day Challenge, Day #12

My healthy activities for today:

  • I went to what ultimately proved to be a productive and enjoyable interview
  • I spent time chatting with a good friend
  • I went to a birthday dinner party with another good friend
  • I went to bed at a reasonable hour so I would feel rested the next day

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I invite you to accompany me as I document my own journey of healing. My blog is designed to offer inspiration and solace to others. If you find it of value I welcome you to share it with others. Aloha!