We live in a world where we don’t always get what we deserve; both people and situations tend to let us down in the form of emotionally compressed experiences that have both short and long term negative impacts on our ability to feel, love and at times, even live. We always tend to hear phrases like ‘Let these experiences make you stronger’ and ‘Learn to navigate your feelings’ from core people in your healing circle. Now these core people could be your parents, close friends, significant others or even your therapist, but the idea remains the same. The problem is that traumatic experiences are, in almost all cases, followed by episodes of emotional suppression and distraction based coping mechanisms, which make it difficult for us to confront the truth. Though it is a completely healthy process, one which all humans go through, it does tend to fog the line between when we should stop being affected by an incident and when we should start learning from it.
So how do we identify that line? Is it universal and unilateral for everyone? Since we live in a highly stimulated world, it is important for us for unlearn almost everything about our previous experiences. I’m not saying that you forget all of life’s harsh learnings, for I know that it’s near impossible for our insecurities to let go of things, especially when we are so close to the fire. What I want you to do is to not let your previous experience sour the happiness that you’re yet to experience. Letting a person/ incident, that has already hurt you in the past, command your present and future, sadly doesn’t bear any fruits. It is a futile exercise of self degradation, which makes for a great poetic theme but sadly, has very little real life application in emotional recovery. You also need to broaden your horizons. Pick a new hobby, or rekindle an old one. Hit up a few friends that you haven’t hung out with in a long time. Join that book club you always wanted! As you might have already understood, the idea here is simple: You need to open a few extra doors to close an old one! It might seem like a lot of work in the beginning, you might not always have the energy, but eventually you will start to see incremental upliftments in your mood and your general acceptance of the universe. That, my friend, is always a good thing. The universe always has something planned for us. It might not always be what we want, how we want it and when we want it but that’s the beauty of life. It doesn’t fail to surprise us.
Say you got the ‘experience’ part of things covered. What next? What if you’re experiencing new things but somewhere somehow you’re missing your main character energy ? I mean, at this point, you have only let others in, that too not completely. You are yet to let your vulnerable self out. The world hasn’t seen that part of you for a very long time. Heck, you haven’t seen that part of yourself for a very very long time. The risks clearly outweigh the rewards. Panic starts to kick in. Why go to all this trouble to shake yourself out of a perfectly stable atmosphere? Let me answer that question with another question. Are you comfortable again with your inner self and are you ready to give yourself benefit of doubt? If the answer is no, it’s completely fine and you just need a little more time. If the answer is yes, then you have got to begin expressing your self. In measured quantities, taking one step at a time. Have the courage to give your two cents, be bold with your compliments, don’t be afraid to criticise or to ask for feedback. These are all forms of human validation, and whether we like it or not, our confidence feeds off them. Do the dance, pay the piper, scream at the top of your lungs! The more you do this, the more your inhibitions start taking the back seat and the more you start loving the idea of your identity. There are only brighter days ahead.
While the first two steps might seem like a jolly ride to even the most pessimistic of minds, there are unlearning curves that can be hard pills to swallow. For they not only require us to confront our experiences, but to also learn from them in a manner that we are better equipped to deal with them in our future. Tolerance is one of them. I am not asking you to be more patient towards the world, quite the contrary, I’m asking you to better define your emotional, mental and physical boundaries. You have a whole bunch of magical phrases at your disposal – ‘No’, ‘Enough’, ‘I’m not comfortable’, ‘I need more time’ and a ton of others. Do not hesitate to use them. Trauma leads to wounds and wounds are meant to be protected. You won’t be doing any favour to yourself or the people around you by poking around the same. While it may seem ironic, we are sometimes defined more by the choices that we are not willing to make than the choices we actually do end up making. Once you start thinking of it that way, it becomes easier to digest.
We have looked at the practicality of the situation, now let us focus on the wilfulness of the same. Soldiers can have all the equipments, weapons, ammunition and training for war but they still need to go out and face the enemy. What if the soldier has already seen war? What if they have lost people to it? Would they be able to fight the same way like they did before? In the context of war, this can be a question of life and death. In the context of life, this can be the difference between a life well lived and a life of regret. Luckily for us civilians, all it takes sometimes is a little bit of courage and trust to tilt the scales in our favour. Trust, even though of paramount importance, is a fragile concept. It takes years to gain trust and a single incident to shatter it. Worst of all, we tend to project this lack of trust from one of our relationships, to almost all others. How do we build from ground zero again? The answer is simple. We need to be in relationships where the scales are even. We have to prohibit ourselves from contributing anything but 50% in a relationship. How do we do that? Simple, we find people and places that are willing to acknowledge our contributions, strong enough to accept and apologise for their mistakes, patient enough to clear out misunderstandings and honest enough to not hide the truth. With time and tolerance, we will find these people, irrespective of how McDreamy they might seem right now. Remember, they too would have gone through their own experiences and would have been willing enough to learn from them.
Trauma tends to leave behind a habit of measuring our progress and longs for the thought of ‘being over it’. Hence it is very important to not take any advice by heart and to not associate with the success stories of other survivors. The best justice you can do to yourself is by moving at your own pace. Kindness doesn’t go unnoticed; what put you down in the dirt will one day be the reason you’re on top. Remember that!
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