March 26, 2020

Imagination challenges Trauma

I often find that people, especially those that have experienced trauma have an internal battle.  There is a fight between what they know and how they feel.  And often how we feel overrides what we know.  The trouble is that this often happens so quickly we don’t realize that we are acting on information that is not fact but feeling.  We do this because our brains and bodies are built to keep us safe.  The trouble is, they don’t always do a good job of slowing down and evaluating information as it comes in and hell breaks loose in our nervous systems. 

The longer we push on and refuse to evaluate what we believe we know, the harder it becomes to challenge those feelings masquerading as facts. 

“Imagination is central to recovery; without an inner imagination of an alternative future there is no place to go.” 

Bessel Van der Kolk

Van Der Kolk isn’t suggesting that buying a coloring book or starting a craft project will undo or erase your trauma.  What he is suggesting is the act of bravery required to see yourself in a new way.  

The interesting thing about these beliefs that we have been carrying around not bothering to challenge or confront is what when asked, we can provide “proof” that these are true.  

The way this works, is if you decide something is true (and this could be about yourself or the world around you)- you will find evidence to support this belief.  So, if I think/feel/believe I’m dumb, I will have plenty of examples of times I made mistakes.  Alternatively, if I believe I’m smart, I’ll have totally different data points to support that.  

For many survivors of trauma, it is almost impossible to imagine that you are not what you have come to believe.  So it is an act of bravery to even question the painful things you say to yourself:

  • “I am weak”
  • “I am an angry person”
  • “I can’t have relationships”

I won’t even challenge you to believe the opposite about yourself but it will not feel true at all.  I would challenge you to pick some that feels half way.  If you believe you are weak, could you instead believe that you are human and it is ok to have needs?  You could work your way up to “I’m not weak” later if you can dare to imagine that there is alternative future for yourself.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to work on having the life you want, call me and let’s get started!

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