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Healing the Trauma of Life’s Journey

There aren’t many of us who can say they have made it through life without some kind of traumatic experience. In certain cases, the past trauma has had a lasting impact on how the individual experiences life in the present moment. There are dozens of techniques and methods that have been developed to assist with healing the trauma of one’s past. Several of these are in the field of psychotherapy. Several are in the field of somatic therapy and bodywork practice. Others are in the field of mindfulness and other meditation practices. These are just some of the examples of avenues to finding healing for past trauma.

I would like to share an approach that I have found useful in my own experience. I have referred to this in past posts, and I think it is a useful method that can be done independently of professional support, though in the cases of severe trauma, it would be helpful to have some kind of added support when working through certain intense past experience.

In a way this is a meditative practice, though it could also fall under the areas of psychotherapeutic techniques. The main thing to remember is that this is a consciousness exercise and takes a certain comfort with exploring your inner world. I would not suggest this as an approach for the early initiate into self discovery. For those who are still learning to engage the inner world, I would suggest approaching a more experienced traveler who will provide some support and guidance.

  1. Acceptance

The first step in the process is to develop an awareness of the “in the moment” presence that is our inner self. This is the basis of mindfulness meditation. It sounds more complicated than it really is. I work with the realization that we are always in the present moment, no matter what we “think”. It is thought that takes us away from this experience. Since it is not easy to just stop thinking, as a matter of fact it takes hours of practice; I like to give myself a break and just hold onto the understanding that no matter what I am thinking, and no matter how distracted I may be, I am still existing in the present moment. What I do with this reality is up to my perception. I have a choice to perceive the truth of existing in the present moment, or I can avoid or deny that truth. Either way, it does not change the truth.

When I reach the point where I am aware that my existence can only be in the present moment I am ready for the actualization of the first step in this process. I am ready to realize “ACCEPTANCE” of the present moment. Here I am. I am who I am. This step is a form of unconditional love and by taking a non-judgmental stance toward my inner self; I am setting the stage for healing any past trauma that may be producing consequences in my present experience. This can be considered as a “letting go” process. We all carry around many judgmental voices with us and it will take an effort to become aware of them and to realize that they are not who we are. I want to point out that this step will take some practice and should not be taken lightly. It is a powerful exercise and very transformative.

  1. Forgiveness

Once we have achieved the acceptance step in this process, we are ready of the next powerful step. The foundation of this step is to start with the non-judgmental stance and to realize that our life’s journey has been what it is and it has brought us to this present moment. If we are in the place of acceptance of this present moment, we are ready for the realization that we are “okay” just the way we are. This does not mean we do not have room to learn and grow as a person. Until we have all reached some “sainted” state of being, we all have room to grow. Everyone is on a different journey, and everyone has his or her own unique experiences that have made up the path that brings us to the present moment. With the acceptance that we have developed, we can look at the path that has brought us here, and see the events on that path as valuable. Many of those events can be “judged” as either good or bad. In this state of acceptance, we can stop judging the events and simply accept them as part of the journey.

As we start to view these events as neither good nor bad, we can realize that all the past experience of judgment has weighed heavily upon our experience of the present moment, especially in situations that remind us of any of the past events that we considered to be “bad”. The next step is to actualize “FORGIVENESS”. This forgiveness is toward anyone who we may consider has caused us harm in the events that have led up to the present moment. And most importantly, we need to forgive ourselves as well. I have seen this concept presented in the form of “radical forgiveness” in a variety of venues. Please note this is another step that requires effort and will not be achieved in a short practice. It is also important to keep in mind that we cannot perform this step for every past event in one session. This is one of those practices that require baby steps and small bites.

  1. Gratitude

Here we are with an understanding of our life’s journey and we have actualized an acceptance of the experiences, and have actualized the forgiveness that is necessary for letting go of long held anger, resentment, and fear. The two steps in this process have brought us to a point where we can realize that this journey has had some rough patches, and we have been formed by these experiences. We have also been formed by all of the kinder and gentler patches in the road. It is the entire journey that brings us to the present moment. As we accept the entire road, we stop expending all the energy that we use to judge, blame, shame, or deny these events. As we increase the ways that we forgive the past, we let go of the baggage that we have been carrying in our minds and hearts. We create space for new experience that will help us grow into who we would like to be.

At this point, we can come to the realization that all of these past events were necessary to bring us to where we are. In the acceptance of these events, and through the forgiveness of any sense of harm in these experiences, we are ready to step into the final actualization of this process- “GRATITUDE”! This is the most radical step so far. How can we ever be thankful for all the pain and trauma that we have experienced in our lives? Well, why not? Is there a rule somewhere that says you should not? The truth here is that when we realize that all of the experiences that have led to this present moment are all part of the path, we can start to see that every experience played its part. We can be grateful that the journey we have experienced has given us a rich and diverse life experience that has built the complex and wondrous person that each of us has become. Once we have acceptance and forgiveness established in the present moment, we can see that we are not only “okay”, we are actually all very exceptional beings. Think about it. We have survived several tragedies and traumas and are here in the present moment with the intention for healing. As we continue to heal, we become more grounded in the reality that life’s journey has always been a healing adventure. When we are in the experience of any tragedy or trauma it can be hard to see it as a healing experience. If we carry the practice of acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude into our daily living, we will have a tool kit to experience any of the tragedy and trauma that may be in the path ahead of us as learning and healing processes.

I have found that this practice has created an abundance of peace in my daily journey. It is not a simple process. It is not something that is achieved overnight. It is not for the meek. There is pain in the steps that are necessary to letting go of the past in this way. The benefit is profound, and the pain is so worth the outcome. There are certain basic skills that are required for this process. Having an understanding of meditation or stress management skills is fundamental. Deep breathing and other biofeedback techniques help with managing the emotions and thoughts that will come with this practice. There can also be physical manifestations in this process, so some basic bodywork practices like yoga will serve well. All in all, this process has delivered me from many of my demons, and I continue to apply this through my journey as there are always additional past events that I find I have not fully resolved.

I hope that you will find something in this process that will inspire you to develop your own practice for self healing. If you have any questions or other feedback that you would like to share, please comment on my website in response to this post. You can also make contact privately though the comments page.

Wishing you all peace and blessings.

About Dr. Marco Zolow (13 Articles)
Dr. Zolow has been a holistic practitioner since completing a minor in holistic health at San Francisco State University in 1986. He focused on two main areas of holistic health during this program; Chinese Medical Theory and Biofeedback Training. He was certified by the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America from 1986 through 1991. He completed a M.S. degree in Clinical Counseling at California State University, Hayward in 1991. Dr. Zolow held a Professional Counselor License in the State of Michigan from 1994 through 1997. With the completion of a Ph.D. in Health Psychology, Dr. Zolow has attained the academic credential that supports a mission of promoting wellness in a wide range of programs and services. The holistic worldview has been Dr. Zolow’s foundation for all personal and professional practice. His career has spanned multiple arenas. He has worked as a social worker, counselor, therapist, supervisor, manager, and program director. He has brought the holistic perspective to each of these roles and shared this view with clients, customers, and co-workers in every way possible. “Over the past 35 years, I have explored the world philosophical and religious traditions of Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Kabbalism, Paganism, and the mystic traditions of Christianity. This exploration has had the effect of expanding my perspective on the commonalities that are interwoven across all world cultures. The result of this perspective is to realize that it is very human to seek a personal experience of spirituality that is grounded in the familiar.”
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