Hilary shares the story of Robert in this piece and I think it’s an illustrative story for all survivors of trauma:
“Processing core emotions the way we do in AEDP requires a compassionate stance toward ourselves — a stance that many people have difficulty finding. When I first met Robert, he grappled with disdain for his inner child. When I coached him to approach himself with radical compassion and acceptance, he said things like “I hate that part of me for being weak, and I blame myself. I should have been able to escape.”
I asked him, “Would you ever blame your son if a teacher or relative mistreated him?”
He retorted with an emphatic, “No!”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because he is innocent and just a helpless child. He deserves to be seen, loved and treated kindly.””
She goes on to talk about “mourning for the self”, in essence feeling the pain of that trauma so that you can begin to move beyond it.
It’s unfortunate that so many survivors do not take the time to do this. Whether you want to call it mourning or grieving for what was lost, I do think this is an important step in healing.
It’s the step where you can truly understand at the deepest level that what happened was not your fault. Many a survivor will say that without ever really feeling it, and you can tell because they will say that and immediately begin talking about how weak or needy they were as a child. As if that explains why they were abused, when in fact the only explanation necessary is that someone decided to abuse them. This state prevents us from feeling that, and truly being freed from the blame and shame of abuse.
It’s not our shame to wear. But in order to understand that we need to understand what really happened at a deep level. We need to come to grips with the fact that we were victimized by another human being and we need to feel that sadness and anger.
Look, this is not easy. It’s hard to feel those feelings. No one enjoys it. But not mourning or grieving can oftentimes lead us to carry shame that we have no business carrying, and allow that shame to get in the way of our adult lives. Instead of feeling it we do everything we can to avoid it. Telling ourselves that the trauma was really just a chance to grow (toxic positivity), or that we can just forget about it, or that the real key is looking forward and leaving it in the past, all the while we carry the baggage forward.
That’s no way to live. It’s not healing. It’s carrying things through our lives that we don’t deserve to carry.
Take the time to truly understand what happened, feel it, and grieve over it. That way lies healing.