A Window Into the Individual Experience of Processing Trauma
Dear reader: this article contains information that may evoke past experiences of trauma. Please read at your discretion.
Reconciling your past can be a very difficult thing to do. It’s not simple or clear. It’s layered and messy.
I am honored to walk into the struggles of the human experience that my clients face each day. Together, we search for reconciliation at a peaceful pace, one that differs greatly from the world outside my door. It’s a quieter space than the hectic chaos of a traumatized world. There is room for silence, and there is space to be heard. And, there is the opportunity to reconcile.
“It was at summer camp,” he said. “I didn’t know it was wrong. I was young. He was a leader. Everyone loved him.”
This realization washed over him like a wave after an EMDR session. We sat with it. Embarrassment. Anger. A personal shame that he had yet to fully realize. This 30-year-old memory had surfaced for a reason, but he didn’t know why. He had never told anyone about it. He had buried it deep within himself — so deep that he had never even given himself the space to consider the events as “wrong” or an issue that needed to be discussed and examined. That was until the EMDR session.
The context and the circle of family and friends in which the event had occurred only makes the scenario more complex. These people. This organization. They were influential in his formation and career growing up. When boundaries were crossed within what he thought was a safe environment with people who he knew and trusted, he had no sense of guilt or shame. This enforced a warped boundary system in his young mind, and what he now realizes was a stolen innocence.
How could this happen? Were they all aware of what happened and wanted to brush it under the rug? Or, were they aware of what happened and doubled-down on hiding it by giving him favored treatment? Or worse: was he being tested, groomed, or cornered into being “one of them?” Had the leader who took advantage of him planned for this to happen?
All of these questions, fears, and realizations have no answers. As a result, he struggles with how to reconcile the event.
He feels a strong urge to tell his parents, so they can understand him for who he truly is. However, his parents are still deeply embedded in this circle of family and friends and the organization within which the event occurred. They are getting older. He doesn’t want them to have to wrestle with this discovery or lose their support system over his pain. And if he did tell them, it would mean he would have to admit his own lack of boundaries. That would be uncomfortable, embarrassing. The shame is heavy around this experience.
“I can’t tell them. I want to. It would cost them too much. They are getting older. It would be selfish of me,” he decides.
This is just one story that illustrates why people would rather bury sexual abuse or trauma forever than share it. They keep it tucked away in a quiet corner under all of those layers. Because too often, sharing the reality of their experience is a lose-lose situation.
Our deepest human desire is to be fully known. My client was willing to sacrifice his own need to feel fully known, loved, and understood for his parents’ health, happiness, and peace of mind.
Reconciling your past experiences looks different for each individual. If you are feeling weighed down, trapped, or lost, know that there is no shame in asking for help.