Politics, trauma, racism, sexism, all the other isms, assault, abuse- the outside world can seem brutal at times. These types of trauma can truly take a toll on our systems and can leave us feeling powerless. When we are children, we NEED caregivers and the outside world to help us learn to regulate our emotions and make us feel safe. In fact, children regulate through attachment. If the world feels unsafe, will learn to operate strictly in our limbic system- flight, fight freeze, collapse, submit or dissociate. When we do not have healthy, secure and safe attachment, we have to navigate that as adults and become responsible for re-teaching ourselves how to regulate our emotions, how to shape our view of the world and how to create lives worth living.
It is difficult to say when a child that is raised in an abusive environment now becomes responsible for their own lives. Is it simply the day they turn 18? The line certainly seems fuzzy. However, if we truly want to create lives worth living, we at least need to ponder what is in our control? How can I step back into a position of power? How can I feel happy, joyous and free?
It’s like laying down on a hard table and screaming, “THIS SHOULD BE A SOFT, SQUISHY PILLOW!” The quicker we radically accept that it is not a pillow, but a table and stop banging our heads about “what should be,” the quicker we can relate and interact with the table AS A TABLE.
There are many things that truly do have an impact on our lives, abuse, neglect, cost of living, poverty, the various forms of oppression. It is so hard to wrap our heads and hearts around where our own sense of power lies within the context and real world impact of all of this. There is a deep sense of injustice in the idea that if you are victimized by one of these phenomena, that it is absolutely NOT your fault AND that you are then responsible for how you choose to act, react, and respond. For many survivors of abuse and neglect, the strategies they used to survive the abuse like dissociation or never trusting people, were truly helpful in surviving the abuse and now they are getting in their own way of surviving. Even if the perpetrators came back and said “I was so wrong and I deeply apologize and I am going to get help and even turn myself into jail,” the pain is still theirs to carry. Those memories are still stored in their brains in isolation and need to be reprocessed and they are the only ones now that can walk their own paths towards healing. Even as an EMDR therapist, I am not a healer, I am not a fixer. I am not in charge of my clients’ systems. I see myself as the path sweeper. I only lay the conditions for clients own systems to heal. The quicker we can radically accept that the abuse or trauma was 100% NOT the fault of the victim AND that the victim is now 100% responsible for their own healing process, the quicker we can walk the path toward healing. Is there a deep sense of injustice in that? Should perpetrators be held to account? ABSO-frickin-LUTELY! AND there is also a deep sense of empowerment to know that everything we need to heal is within our own system. We just need the right conditions.
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
Victor Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.