Everyone experiences trauma at some time in their lives. Someone dies, you have a car wreck, or some other unexpected event rocks your world. Yet, most people can move through the pain and into the future.
When complex trauma occurs in childhood, survivors are changed in numerous ways, including losing the ability to move into the future for living in the past.
Often, survivors of complex trauma feel they do not have a future because they feel they are broken or somehow ruined. Some mental health disorders are directly linked to complex trauma, and dissociative identity disorder is one of them.
This article will examine trauma and how to improve your healing journey.
The Healing Journey, What is it?
Once survivors enter therapy, they begin to walk down a path on a healing journey where the hard work lives. Complex trauma leaves deep scars that are hard to heal, but the journey down the road less taken is essential to have a healthy and happy future.
A journey takes you from one place to another, from fear to courage or from not taking good care of oneself to committing to good self-care. Therapy helps you to walk down your path, but you must recognize that you are on a journey of discovery, learning who you are and what you want from life.
Everyone has a different destination, and they get there by different means. You are moving from brokenness to wholeness, and that is amazing. Every path is different, with frightening twists and turns, but you can overcome them.
Six Things About Your Healing Journey You Need to Know
Walking down the path to healing on your healing journey is a complex process and a life-long project for many survivors. However, the journey is necessary to find peace in your life.
The incredible thing about the healing journey is that you must choose to walk down it. No one can force you, and no two people’s journeys are the same.
However, there are three truths you need to know about your healing journey.
Traveling down the road less taken is the most important thing you will do in your life. The trip you embark on will awaken you from being stuck in habits and cognitive traps that are not conducive to living well, especially if you do not live life the way you wish and on your terms. Living means living life as you want and having purpose plus progress. Without meaning and purpose, you are not truly living.
Your healing journey will help you heal from the relational trauma you endured as a child and the trauma you experienced in adulthood. You will learn more about yourself in your inner search than most people will ever know.
It is easy to see why traveling on your healing journey is so critical and the most important thing you will ever do.
Your journey is not linear. Healing is not and never will be straightforward and linear. You will be learning new coping strategies and unlearning unhealthy ways of thinking at the same time; and doing so is exhausting. You will drift in and out of the stages of healing, making it seem as if the journey will never end.
Undoing the conditioning you received from childhood isn’t easy, but with each step down your healing path, you will become stronger and learn how to live. Sometimes you will step backward, but that is an opportunity for growth.
Once you begin, you cannot turn back. Healing is exhausting, and you may sometimes want your denial back. However, you cannot turn back once you have glimpsed freedom and begun your journey. Even if you feel you are done with your journey and want to quit, you cannot unknow what you have learned.
The fact is that you need to look forward and not back unless it is to realize how far you have come. In other words, don’t look back; you’re not going that way.
Trauma and Trouble Seeing the Future
It may seem unbelievable that you, having had a traumatic history, can envision a future where you are not in pain or even a future version of yourself. However, as impossible as seeing your future self enjoying life might be, it will happen with therapy and hard work.
One reason it is so hard to see yourself in the future is that trauma has impacted your self-image and sense of self. You feel you must be miserable because of what happened to you instead of learning from it and moving on.
Also, trauma reshaped your brain in three primary ways that alter your ability to see into the future.
Trauma alters your access to autobiographical memories impairing your ability to remember what happened. Your ability to reach into the past is impaired, making it difficult and sometimes impossible to see into the future.
Trauma impairs executive functioning. The part of the brain that houses the frontal lobes of the brain holds your ability to allow yourself to speak, plan, and monitor your actions. You find it difficult to act toward a positive future when these skills are impaired.
Trauma alters your self-perception. Trauma causes survivors like yourself to live with negatively altered cognitions (thoughts) about themselves.
Obviously, your brain is changed by what you endured causing you to have great difficulty imagining yourself in the future. However, there are ways to learn to overcome your challenges. One such method is to form healing goals.
Forming Healing Journey Goals
As with anything else, it is critical to set achievable goals to aid you like a roadmap on your healing journey. The journey goals you will want to make for yourself may include any or all of the following suggestions.
Advocate for yourself. You must ask for what you want and deserve. Work to take the steps necessary to meet your needs and dreams. If you want to go to college, then call and make an appointment with a career counselor or search for the college catalog that contains descriptions of different career choices and the classes you must take to achieve them.
Set boundaries and limits. In all your relationships, you have the right to define your limits of what you will allow from others. These boundaries will aid you in feeling safe and comfortable. Remember, “no” is a complete sentence; you should say it if you do not feel comfortable doing what others ask of you.
Lift yourself and build your self-esteem. Remind yourself several times a day that you are a special and unique person. Indeed, you are the only ‘you’ in the entire universe, making you incredibly valuable.
Many other methods for building self-esteem will push you along in your healing journey.
Overcoming the Past by Planning for the Future
Getting past all your negative thought patterns and fear of the future is not easy. You must learn to cope with and overcome your past by concentrating on yourself in the now and planning for the future.
To help yourself on your journey, develop an action plan such as WRAP®, a simple strategy that helps you remain well and respond to symptoms where you feel well and don’t feel well. In your plan, write down a list of people you can turn to should you feel worse, such as a therapist or friend.
Another method to aid you while traveling is to remind yourself of the events or situations that might make you feel bad when they happen and plan around them. For example, you can write out how you are feeling and go to the list you made previously of things to do to relax. Doing so will aid you in deciding whether to participate in the activity or not.
Learn to recognize the signs that you are feeling worse, like sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia. When you do see warning signs, take action by using your plan. Your plan should include information for others who can follow it and get you help if needed.
WRAP® was formed in 1997 by Mary Ellen Copeland and is an excellent guide to getting and keeping well. I highly recommend it. Check with your therapist or doctor and ask if they also recommend it.
Ending Our Time Together
Traveling down the path of your healing journey will have many twists and turns. Some days you will feel you are all right and have control of yourself and your emotions; the next moment, you fall apart.
Don’t get discouraged; you will succeed if you practice good emotional hygiene by making a plan and following it. Making goals is vital to the success of your journey.
Your healing journey is personal to you; no one else can walk it for you. Setting up boundaries to tell others what they may say or do to help you in your travels is vital to keeping you from deviating from your chosen path.
Healing takes time, and the journey may be long, but I promise you sunshine is on the other side.
“Just like there’s always time for pain, there’s always time for healing.” — Jennifer Brown
“You have the power to heal your life, and you need to know that. We think so often that we are helpless, but we’re not. We always have the power of our minds…Claim and consciously use your power.” — Louise L. Hay