Coming to grips with the facts of a situation that may be different from what we’ve told ourselves in order to cope with trauma can leave one feeling disillusioned and out of control. However, it is only after we take accountability for ourselves that we can truly regain any control in our lives.
Those who’ve had hurtful, traumatic, and oppressive experiences that are buried under years of pain, shame, and anxiety who have not sought treatment run a high risk of replicating the behaviors of the people who hurt them.
Speaking in microaggressions (subtle discrimination) and perpetuating lateral violence (displaced violence directed towards our community members rather than who has actually hurt us) are signs that you may have some trauma to unpack.
The historical and intergenerational trauma of the boarding schools set a vicious cycle in motion that was designed to keep us isolated from each other and tearing one another down, rather than unifying and lifting each other up. If you catch yourself in a cycle of unhealthy behaviors that are pushing others away including being envious, victimizing yourself, and quick judgements of others due to your own prejudice or bias, it could be time to face the toxic experiences of your past.
Here are 4 tools to help you show up for life and claim your healing.
You Can Only Control Yourself
We can not control everything that happens in the world. We can only control how we respond to situations like trauma. There is a process of natural human emotions such as denial, anger, and depression after someone has hurt us. However, you will eventually come to a crossroad where you must chose to begin healing, or do further damage to your mind, body, and spirit. Healing will not choose you, you must choose it.
Art therapy is used in both children and adults who've experienced trauma. It is extremely effective at helping individuals express their feelings while purging negative emotions. Whether you sculpt a five-foot clay model of your feelings, or buy an adult coloring book and some crayons, start expressing your pain and sorrow. Find an artistic medium that speaks to you and get it out.
Sit With Your Emotions
It’s natural try to disconnect from unpleasant emotions. We can disassociate and self-medicate with drugs, alcohol or even sex. However, we can't move forward from a challenge until we acknowledge that there is a challenge. Doing it in a way that’s healthy is key.
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) are derived from acupuncture. This practice of releasing negative feelings and emotions is a good place to start unpacking past trauma. Try the below 7-minute EFT video once a day.
Embrace Your Anger
Not all anger is bad. Indeed, there is such a thing as healthy anger, and being able to name an emotional feeling and identify that what you're feeling is actually anger can be a turning point. The goal is finding ways to express your anger in a productive way instead of suppressing it and letting resentment fester, which breeds more anger.
We must be accountable to ourselves; take the time to understand our anger. It requires us to engage problem solving skills rather than acting out in ways that may not serve us or our healing. A good technique is to write a letter to the person who has hurt you. This gives you the chance to have your feelings reflected back to you and you can revise the letter as needed. Maybe even read it out loud to a supportive friend, family member, or counselor. After you’ve gotten it all out, you can burn the letter. The objective is to purge the anger and hurt, rather than hold onto it.
Only You Can Heal Trauma
Your knight in shining armor is right there in the mirror. Take stock of the options you have available to begin healing and then make an actual choice as to how you’d like to go about your healing. That's right, you have choices, even when anger, pain, and anxiety would have you feel otherwise. Life is a series of adjustments. If you feel you’ve made a wrong choice, you can always readjust and choose differently. What matters is that we take the reigns and decide to begin our journey of healing from trauma.
Understand that healing doesn't happen overnight, nor is it finite. Healing is a lifetime commitment to yourself. We are complex and the layers are many. Don't get discouraged. As Native people we believe in balance. When we empower ourselves to take steps toward healing, we restore the balance to our lives.