“I’m so ashamed to admit this, but I believe I’ve been traumatized. I’d hoped it was just damage from the wrecking ball of my husband, who has swinging moods. But unfortunately, I’ve done the exercises faithfully, and they have really helped! But one more swing of the ball to shatter my heart over the weekend made me realize how I don’t even recognize myself,” my client said as she fell into her chair in desperation and shame.
I totally understood. And you, like her, may feel the same way.
It’s always sad to me how painful and shameful finally realizing we’ve been traumatized can be.
Why would we feel pain and shame about being traumatized?
Because too many times when we have been sideswiped by the wrecking ball, we have been blamed for it, and told that the swings were our fault.
When I shared that with my client, she burst into tears and said:
“Even this weekend, after the wrecking ball swing, I was told/lectured… ‘I’ve never had this kind of trouble with anyone else in my life, and the only difference is you. I knew I shouldn’t marry you, but I did, and you’ve turned me into this!’?”
With great empathy, I commented: “I know how much this hurts. And, although I’m certain that you’ve not been an angel in the marriage, and there are probably moments when you were provoking…who he is and how he responds is 100% his responsibility…not yours!”
She stared out the window trying to soak that in. Then I continued.
“That’s why you feel shame and pain about identifying the trauma to your heart.”
One of the great contributors to trauma recovery says…
“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” ~ Bessel A. van der Kolk
“I’m delighted to hear that you got some relief from the exercises I gave you last week about healing from the damage of the wrecking ball. Those 3 things are actually the first steps in healing from trauma.”
We reviewed her experience with the three steps and the results she had had. You can click here to read about that if you missed it:
“It’s not your fault that your heart got traumatized, but it is your responsibility to begin the healing. Obviously, you’re willing because you did a great job on the exercises from last week.”
This is our moment to begin the healing for the trauma. As you read, take heart that you’ve finally awakened and this droning numbing abnormal way of living has awakened you to the pain of it. And you/me/we know…that’s not living but … barely surviving. And you/me/we were meant to live abundantly.
Whether you have been traumatized, or whether you know someone else who has, here are the steps to begin the healing process from trauma as a result of the wrecking ball from someone you love who has swinging moods.
1. Write the letter and let it go.
This step is so important, because many times we’ve stuffed all the things that we would have like to have said. Most of us have failed at times and said things we shouldn’t have said.
This in turn solidifies our resolve to do better.
Now, let me clarify something before we go further here. I’m not suggesting, nor endorsing any blowing up and communicating in ways that are not respectful and healthy.
However, in situations, we normally stuff things that are brewing down deep. The purpose of this exercise is to release those things and give voice to them. These are not likely the healthy communications that cause healing and growth. But, it does not mean that their content and emotional backdrop are not valid and real.
“If I got started on a letter, I would use up every ream of notebook from every Walmart in town,” my client proclaimed!
We both had to laugh.
Laughter is indeed,
great medicine at times.
As someone has said,
“If we don’t laugh a little, we’ll cry a lot.”
I handed her a clipboard with several sheets of paper. I instructed her as I would like to instruct you.
“Don’t worry about grammar, don’t worry if it’s legible. Just begin to write about what has happened, what you would have liked to have said, and how you’ve felt. “
Because we were only getting started, I gave her 7 minutes, but told her to keep writing. And she didn’t even have to write the whole situation if she had written enough to get it out of her.
After a deep breath she began to write. Slowly at first. Then more rapidly. I could see she was writing pieces of sentences and scratching at the paper furiously. Then she’d rip that sheet off and start on the next.
After 7 minutes, she looked as if she’d run a marathon, and the tears, the trembling, and the anger all came pouring forth.
I leaned toward her, and as gently as I could I remarked, “All of that has been pent up in you. You simply must release it!”
I sat with her while she cried and made a few angry statements like, “You act like you love me in public, but at home you’ve beaten me so far down, I feel like dust on the floor! Beneath your feet! Stop it! STOP it! STOP IT!”
I sat quietly. After a few moments, she looked up and said to me, “I had no idea all of that was in me.”
I responded with deep understanding. “Most of us don’t. But we simply must get it out!”
I asked her to sit with pen and paper a few minutes between sessions to see if there was more. I’d like for you to do the same.
Sure enough, she returned with a stack of scribbled, some crumpled, some torn pieces of paper.
After processing it, I asked her how she would like to symbolically get rid of all of it.
After a moment of thought, her eyes landed on my paper shredder.
“I’d love to see it shredded up, because when things are shredded, there’s simply no way to reassemble them.”
We keyed up Reba McEntire’s song… “Walk On!” And she sang along while two-stepping around the room… with Reba…
“Oh, isn’t life wonderful
When everything is right
But sometimes wonderful
Can fall apart sometimes
When your troubles knock you down
Pick yourself up off the ground and
Nothing ever stays wrong that long
Oh, walk on
Don’t just stand there in the storm
Walk toward the light until you find the sun
And you’ll be better off in the long run
And walk on!”
The important thing is that you do not hang on to what’s in the letters. The purpose is not to use them later. The purpose is to pour out what’s been festering down deep within!
This is also a powerful signal to your brain to release and stop focusing on these things. In turn, it resets your (RAS)…reticular activating system.
Immediately follow this exercise share from your heart a moment of gratitude about the one you love with the swinging moods.
Somewhere, at some point, you were grateful to them for things.
I asked my client, “Even if you have to reach way back, can you tell me what you are grateful for in your husband?”
At first, she looked blank. Then I saw a bit of a smile. “He’s funny. Really funny! He just knows how to make me laugh…”
I prompted her.
“He sometimes has a really tender and sweet heart.”
“One more?” I asked.
“He’s a great cook!”
I could see her demeanor take on a whole different feel. That’s the power of resetting our (RAS) reticular activating system with gratitude.
(A note from my friend in recovery in AA… “It’s impossible to be negative and grateful at the same time.”)
Don’t misunderstand. We’re not grateful for what you have been through. We are not grateful for the tough times. But we can still find some things to be grateful for.
Are there still difficult things to work through?
And we will do that later in this series. But for now, rest in gratitude, my friend!
Gratitude is a precursing path for change. Think of it as a tangible, almost physical virtue of God’s Spirit; that has weight, desire, will! That’s always ready to walk towards us, then with us. Think of it happening with every grateful and thankful proclamation you voice and believe.
Grateful is an attitude of surrender. With the power to reset to our (RAS) reticular activating system to think free, clear, and healthy. For us to know and sense and feel and eventually know that…the best is yet to come!
Grateful…is the genesis for joy. And God’s will for us to live joyful and know the strength of this surrender. Which happens, as our gratefulness grows into a lifestyle.
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
2. Identify and resolve the toxic beliefs that were set in stone during the trauma.
My client immediately responded.
“I know that my beliefs have gone straight to hell. They’re so different than what I used to believe. And it’s certainly not helping me!”
“I understand totally!” I assured my client.
What most people do not understand, is that at the moment trauma happens, whatever intense words, beliefs, or actions coming at us… immediately are carved like letters in stone inside our brains.
We don’t go back to revisit those moments to just replay everything. We’re going back to identify what was carved into our hearts. The new way we will eventually live from those moments of trauma.
Once again, I’m not suggesting that you go back and replay the events moment by moment. But I am suggesting that you identify 3 to 5 traumatic events that you know had a huge impact on you. Do it long enough to remember what was coming at you either in words, behaviors, or aggression.
I barely had that explanation out of my mouth when I noted my client was at a similar moment.
I leaned toward her and asked, “Can you tell me about it?”
With a look of partial dissociation and partial horror, she said, “He said…you should be afraid! Very afraid! I’ll ruin you!”
She dissolved into tears.
After a moment, I gently asked.
“What was set in stone in your mind and your heart at that moment?”
With her head in her hands she tearfully said,
“I knew at that moment,
I’d never be safe again.
I’d better walk around in fear all the time.
Or he’d ruin the one who loved him.”
After a deep breath, she said, “And that’s who I’ve become…I am afraid. I walk on eggshells. I believe ruin and destruction is coming. It’s awful. It’s… absolutely awful! I have not been living AT ALL!”
It’s crucial that you take some time to remember just long enough to see what beliefs have been carved in your mind in your heart and your soul. So that we can reprogram those to truth!
(A note…don’t overthink it. Especially if you’re reading this and feel overwhelmed. What got you to this point in your life IS the ‘overwhelm’. What will get you out of overwhelm is to untangle the simple. Then know these simple new truths (over time) will become new and your strength…it’s like my friend says of their AA recovery program… ‘It’s a simple program for complicated people’… keep it simple. Complicated is ‘simple’ made ‘difficult’…which in and of itself is a lie. It’s truth that sets you free time!)
When we finished processing her, she had things on her list. Such as:
- I am powerless and nothing I can do will make a difference.
- I am flawed and will never be the same.
- No matter how much good I try to sow, nothing good will come of it.
- I have been such a disappointment to God, that he is no longer with me.
After realizing what had been carved within, because of trauma, her life began to make more sense. No wonder she’d been depressed, isolating, withdrawing from things that once inspired her.
Of course, we were not done! Now we must look at those, scramble them, and replace them with empowering beliefs.
So, let’s scramble them … They aren’t your friends!
After hearing what I’ll share with you here, some people roll their eyes as if saying: “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of.”
But before you make that judgment, hear me out on the research.
We all know that if you take an LP 33 1/3 record (which are now back in vogue) and if you hate one song on that album…you can identify where the grooves are for that song. Then you can scratch all those grooves up, and your record will no longer play that song.
The concept of neuroplasticity is one of the most amazing discoveries we’ve made about the brain.
We know from great research that you can absolutely accomplish that same thing regarding what’s installed on the hard drive of your brain…on our subconscious…the stuff that’s not on your conscious radar… but it’s flying our plane (our lives)!
You can scratch up messages that you no longer want to run your life.
Yes! They run your life. Let’s be grateful we’ve lived long enough to know that the healing sciences (of which I’m a doctor) have proven … it’s not our fault.
We’ve built a reactionary thought process, from a reactionary life … which trauma caused us to have to react to? Sounds like a curse to me. Not living. Life becomes the movie ‘The Shining’ on loop…daily dodging fear…which is impossible…and it definitely needs to end.
You’re not even aware, but every moment of every day your life is driven by those messages. You have possibly never even brought them forth to the front of your brain.
We know how to create discord in the brain that’s the SAME concept of scratching out the grooves in a record of songs that you do not want to hear.
How is that done?
I explained to my client the 3 things that could remove these things from their hard drive:
- Brain dissonance
Research has shown that when our energy level is increased with movement, our heart rates are raised…which makes the brain more receptive.
So, we must use energy for this exercise.
You need to choose a movement, whether it’s dancing, jumping up and down, running up and down stairs, or whatever else.
There must be volume. When we project our voices, the reptilian part of our brain that holds old memory is activated. The louder the voice of the person doing the scrambling, the more attuned the brain becomes.
It helps many people to have music playing so their voice is drowned with the music, instead of just sounding like they’re being loud. (This is especially important to people who’ve been told they talk too much or talk too loudly!)
Choose a song…and then begin saying these things aloud backwards.
My client chose the song…’Brave’!
Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Show me how big your brave is
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
Then we began with the old “carved
into their hard drive” belief.
(I’ll never be safe again).
But as BRAVE was playing loudly, together over and over, we said it backwards. “Again-safe-be-never-will-I” until it no longer held meaning. Do this with each of the beliefs! It is critical to scramble them!
Get someone to do it with you. It’s fun! Make it fun!
Then finally, take the old beliefs and create empowering beliefs to take their place. For example, here are some of her new empowering beliefs she crafted:
- I am safe in the arms of God!
- I have all the power I need to shine and make a difference!
- I am fearfully and wonderfully made and becoming the best version of me!
- Every good thing I have sown is coming back with dividends!
- I’m the apple of God’s eye and He is with me!
Now you must install those. You may choose another song, but MOVE! And repeat them again and again!
My client chose the song: “Graves Into Gardens” by Elevation worship.
It told her: “You must repeat it again and again:
- Until that moment ‘you know’ what you’re saying goes from your head deep down into ‘your heart’!
- Until that moment that you know you’re ‘actually believing’ what you’re saying!”
We did it with each new empowering belief until tears of joy and relief streamed.
Get someone to do this with you.
It’s a powerful exercise!
You can do it!
You deserve it!
The goal is and will always be to align your heart with your head and your head with your heart! It’s NOT your fault for the chinks in the gears but it is your call to fix and heal it.
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to your mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
3. Set a new emotional home.
When we have lived around a Wrecking Ball, we take up an emotional home that usually involves fear, dread, uncertainty, and disappointment.
We live out survival.
The sad part is, even when there’s reason to be happy, or at peace, that dread lifts its head and takes the place of great things. That’s why we must set a new emotional home.
You can discover your emotional home in several ways:
- By identifying what feeling you find yourself feeling most often?
- By asking those who live with you or spend lots of time with you… What feeling do I revert to when I’m tired?
Why is it so important that we discover our ‘emotional home’?
Because we will always filter things through the lens of our emotional home. Not only that, but we will automatically revert to our emotional home, even though we try not to.
Humans, and most animals too, have a natural internal instinct to returning home. Therefore, our brains are always interpreting things so that they take us home. That place that is familiar!
But discomfort should never be settled for. That’s why you/me/we awaken to face those… Wiat a minute here?!
This is not good!
Change is needed…yes?!
Decide what you would like your new “emotional home” to be.
There is no right or wrong answer about your new emotional home.
Simply follow these guidelines and start designing!
- It must be something that’s empowering.
- It must be something that encourages you to be your very best.
- It must set the stage and the foundation for a meaningful, fulfilled life.
Years ago, I realized that my “emotional home” was fear, and I wanted to change it. But it took me a while to decide what I wanted my new “emotional home” to be.
It opens a world of possibility that we may not have even dared to consider!
Eventually, I selected “calm confidence” for my new “emotional home.” I knew it would serve me well, I knew it would serve my clients well, and I knew it was an environment in which I could encourage people to heal.
What new emotional home would serve you? You will no longer be compelled revert to the emotional home that came with the trauma.
Answer the questions above and set your new emotional home.
Write about it.
Select photos that portray it.
Find songs that invite it.
Then each morning, take 10 minutes to speak aloud about the emotional home you would like (you are reprogramming your brain).
Look at the photos that portray it (more reprogramming).
Then listen to the songs that invite it (the cherry on top of the whipping cream of the reprogramming!)
This take time, but it is so worth it!
You are so worth it!
You deserve to heal from all that you have been through. And remember, we are laying the foundation for healing in the relationship.
I know this is a lot.
I hope and pray you will not simply read this and move on. But that you will do each exercise. As many times as is needed. And feel new life rising up in you!
If you have been traumatized, I hope you embrace and follow the steps.
It’s OK if you need additional help. Just make sure that you search for a trauma informed coach or therapist. Sometimes the length of time or the intensity of the trauma requires a bit more work, even though it will be along the same lines.
Trauma is hard. Its impact is pervasive. But you CAN heal. You MUST realize it affects everything! But you heal … and you can still live your best life.
We all need healing to connect. And to connect is to broaden our horizons, open our hearts, and soar.
Soak in your healing and SOAR!
You will definitely be ready to move forward with me in looking at healing the relationship you are in with someone with swinging moods that have felt like a wrecking ball. But if you do this work, you will be empowered to catch the wrecking ball or step out of its way as you heal! I’m with you, my friend!
Jesus asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Where are you staying?” AKA…where/how do you live.
Jesus said, “Come follow and you’ll see how and where my heart lives.” AKA…come and know what you want…peace, joy, purpose, contentment, love, healing. So let’s follow where our heart is leading…
LET’S DO THIS!