Trauma all too often traps us in the present and past but won’t allow us to move through it. We get stuck, really stuck. The twists and turns of perspective can help us see a way out of the trap.
I know why, but how do we dare ask those who have lived through trauma to open up, be vulnerable? Being vulnerable can mean life or death to the traumatized. When we have experienced trauma, we never forget, whether consciously or not.
Instead, those survivors of trauma may still be on guard, all the time, trying to protect ourselves from retraumatization. Telling our story and not being heard is the same thing, to us, like our story has no validity. Others do not have the right to take the hard edges off of our stories much less obliterate the entire experience. Those cold reactions to our stories feel like we are being retraumatized so we tend to get quieter or we come out screaming, fighting ourselves and others at all times.
How To Tell Our Stories
As hard as it may be, our stories matter. By telling them we have a much greater chance of moving through it and into the person we were originally created to be. My hope is that we all chose to speak the truth that lies within us. As an example, I personally believe DeRay Mckesson is a great representation of someone exploring truth through the story of black lives.
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ~ Carl Jung
Recently I saw this and found it quite useful while I continue to find my way through telling my story, and learning when to NOT tell my story. There are times when others have not earned the right to hear my story. It is okay to be an open-book without choosing to expose ourselves to more abuse.
Tanya Markul presents;
11 Kinds of People to Stop Telling Your Stories to:
- The person who tunes out or ignores you.
- The person who makes themselves superior.
- The person who passively attacks & blames you.
- The person who acts disappointed or judgemental.
- The person who says, “Yeah, but… I/so & so has had it worse.”
- The person who uses it against you in the future.
- The person who you have to comfort.
- The person who won’t keep it confidential.
- The person who becomes aggressive or impatient.
- The person who doesn’t believe you.
- The person who has time and time again shown no interest.
~ Tanya Markul at eatmystardust.com
There is a sting to that list right along with a ton of truth. I know I am guilty of having done those wrongs to others in my lifetime and for that, I am deeply sorry. I also know that as I have moved through my own pain from trauma, I have learned how harmful those actions and attitudes can be so that I can now treat others with more compassion and kindness. Just simple humanity goes a long way. In our own pain, we can terribly hurt others. As we become aware of it, we can love others with acts of kindness and make their worlds a little more bearable.
These words are close, but not exact: “Regret every act of unkindness. Kindness is courageous. When I get pushed into my own fear, I am not kind. I mostly regret my unkindness. When I am self-righteous or not understood or I hear something hurtful, I can become unkind. People shrink in front of me when I do this and that does not serve what I am trying to accomplish and it goes out of alignment with the person I want to be.” ~ Brené Brown
When was the last time someone verbally attacked you and you responded in kindness? How did that turn out? It usually diffuses the person. Usually, the attack is about them and not you. For those of us who have not fully healed from trauma, it is exceedingly difficult to step back from verbal attacks and see this. Once we can get to a place where we realize it is not about us at all, we can practice showing kindness in those situations.
How do we personally define vulnerability? For those of us who have survived trauma, it is not a fun word. Yet, in some ways, it should be. Brené Brown sheds a light on it that I have never seen before, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, intimacy, trust, creativity, innovation, adaptability to change, belonging.”
Personally, I do not even know how to navigate that concept because it is so foreign to me. I am practicing so that I can experience what in the world she is talking about but even the thought is a scary one.
Only because of my pain can I begin to understand others. Only because I have walked that emotional roller-coaster can I empathize how difficult it is to be vulnerable to open up when it feels like all we do is get stomped down again every time we open our mouths or trust. Without vulnerability, we will not be able to find that joy, intimacy, trust, creativity, innovation, adaptability to change, sense of belonging that Brené Brown spoke of. I want it, so I choose to keep working my way through this.
“Vulnerability is the greatest casualty of trauma.” ~ Brené Brown
Suggestion To Getting Unstuck
If you find yourself stuck in this vulnerable state, try writing a personal journal and tell your story to yourself, again. Your story is real and worthy of telling. You can start with paper and pencil (or computer). Your private journalling can be a safe gateway to opening up in baby steps to others, only when you are ready. One of the things I like best about journalling is that no one can do any of the 11 things on Tanya’s list that prevents us from wanting to tell our stories. Paper and pencil (or computer) do not interrupt, be nasty, ugly or ignore in any way. Instead, you have a captive audience, waiting for you.
We can also write our stories at our own pace. You know what I am talking about. When we try to explain or write sometimes it gets so emotionally charged that it becomes too much and we have to take a break or find a way to word it correctly. Creating some distance gives us the power to come back when we are ready to add to the story.
No one should ever get stuck in their trauma because of others insensitivity to the story. That is easier to say than to live out. We need more people who are worthy of our stories to help us get unstuck and help all of us to learn to be real with each other.
How are you doing with your vulnerability journey? Have you encountered any (or all) of Tanya’s 11 people NOT to tell your story to?
Maribeth Baxter, MBEC (Certified Mind-Body Eating Coach)
Dig Deeper: Take a stand, your story matters.
Donations are accepted to serve others on their chronic illness journey. Maribeth Baxter, MBEC provides voluntary certified health coaching services to the financially limited during their time of crisis.