Post Traumatic WisdomMay 19, 2022
Today is the 26th Yartzheit of Yechiel Meir Ben Yaakov Moshe. When I think about childhood traumas, my brain goes to May 5th, 1996, when one of my closest friends - and soon to be first cousin - lost her father suddenly and shockingly, an hour or so before a family BBQ. He was a personality which was larger than life, a person who was constantly working on himself. It’s still hard to comprehend what happened that day. The shock of his passing was traumatic to all who knew him. He would have been so proud of his children and grandchildren today. We are still grieving. May his neshama should have an Aliya.
My experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist is that many people are dealing with (at least) some trauma from their upbringing. Sometimes it’s hard carrying that stuff around - even if it wasn’t a violent or horrific trauma and even if there was no intention to harm. Often mild negligence, emotional neglect )and of course much worse, all sorts of abuse), follow people for a long time, and especially into their next relationships.
A book by Oprah and psychiatrist Bruce Perry titled “What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing” delves into childhood trauma. They look to help people move from Post Traumatic Stress into “Post Traumatic Wisdom” - where - from a better place and the other side of a tough situation - we can look back to reflect, and gain wisdom from our experiences.
I appreciate the way this idea is presented in the book: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could’ve been any different. But we cannot move forward if we’re still holding onto the pain of that past.”
The idea of ‘giving up hope,’ usually carries negative connotations. But not here. In this context, it is an opportunity.
“I made peace with my mother when I stopped comparing her to
the mother I wished I had.
When I stopped clinging to what should or
could have been and turned to what was and what could be.”
Oprah learned that everything that happened “to her” was also happening “for her”. And all that time, in all of those moments, she was building strength.
“What happened to you can be your super power,” Oprah says. We should become wiser and more compassionate people from the little - and the big- things that happened to us.
Of course, Trauma can be a difficult thing to move past. And Trauma is not something we can just “happiness” our way out of. This takes time, and work, in a safe space, and often with the help of a trusted professional (particularly when dealing with a more serious trauma). Learning to build resilience and learning to forgive others and have compassion for our past self - our inner child, are all ways to develop Post Traumatic Wisdom.
There is relief in forgiveness.
When we are able to move towards this - then we can slowly recover and move past an emotionally challenging situation. We refer to this recovery as Post Traumatic Wisdom.
Reflecting on our pasts, and determined to create a better future is a result of Post Traumatic Wisdom. It hurt when as a child you came home to an empty house after school? Try to be home more for your kids. It was painful to hear your parents fighting? Create a better reality for your children.
Fill in your own blank here: I didn’t like it when ________________?
I will commit to __________________.
I love the concept of Post Traumatic Wisdom, because often we speak about Post Traumatic Stress - which can drag you down further. Post Traumatic Wisdom is uplifting and positive. And we like uplifting and positive here!
Let’s look back at our Past, and create better Futures—
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