It has been three years since Fleet, first set eyes on his guardian, Audrey. Fleet is a male Staffordshire Bull Terrier Cross and Audrey rescued him from a misguided young man who used to beat him and failed to provide adequate care. When she first took him home, he was a wreck. He would cower and urinated whenever she came near. His eyes were either manic wide, exposing more white of the eyes than normal, panicking or almost completely shut as his lids closed, as if saying, “Please no more, don’t do that to me!” His odour reeked of fear and uncertainty. He would whimper or bark for no reason. He was impossible to walk on a lead and would drag all the way instead of enjoying the walk. The only times he was free were when he slipped the lead or the lead was released in open ground where he would run away as fast as he can with Audrey patiently chasing him and getting him back to safety.
Over time, with resilience, long leads and love, a bond was fostered between dog and human. Fleet realised that Audrey was not going to hurt him and actually being in her company led to comfort and enjoyment. He enjoys seeing her and spending time with her. He now walks confidently beside her and when he is allowed to run free, recall is easy. He no longer smelt of fear and his composure asserts confidence. He even barks with purpose instead of imaginary fears. He is a different dog yet he remains the same. He has simply let go of his past to enjoy the present.
How do you deal with trauma? If it was physical, do you have scars that remind you of the past? Do the sites still ache or is the pain internal? If it was emotional, is your heart still broken? If it was mental, do you still have the ‘headache’ that never goes away? If it was spiritual, is your soul still fractured? Do you hold on to the pain so the memory remains to remind you of your past experience? Does that empower you or make you weaker? Does it create more opportunities or close more doors?
When we grow in life from a baby, we will invariably collect experiences from events that happen, with or without our consent. Some can be beautiful and others truly horrible. All events add something to your life, even the small ones, especially the small ones. Small events, if repeatedly encountered, will shape your paradigm, your ‘normal’ parameters of how you view your world. For example, if you lived in an area where everyone is trustworthy and friendly, you are likely to see the world as trustworthy and friendly and vice versa. A huge event like the loss of someone close to you, abuse, break of trust, or something that had a profound influence on you can produce devastating consequences that are not easily shrugged away.
When you hold on to the trauma, it is not easy to progress in life. When you give it attention, you give it energy. When you hold on to it, it remains in your life. When you have pain in your life, it diminishes your happiness. Sometimes, you even do worse by self-sabotaging any success that may fall in your way. For example, in relationships, if you have experienced a sense of loss, a break of trust either in your personal relationship or someone else’s close to you like your parents, if you feel that having a relationship will lead to heartbreak and pain, it will affect your emotional state such that even if all is well, you will find a way to ‘prove’ that you were right because of the unprocessed pain in you. You will be thinking of things like ‘The biggest reason for divorce is marriage’ and if you truly want to have a faithful relationship, get a dog instead (not a cat, they have no loyalty!). You are right in both instances but is that truly a way to live? Sometimes you have to break your heart multiple times until it opens.
When you persist in holding on to trauma and pain, you will fall even more. You must learn to let go before you fall. Understand that you control the meaning you give to any event that happened in your life. The events themselves, as horrible as they can be, are only events. They happened. Such is life. The meaning of them is determined by you. The trauma caused may empower you or diminish you. You may not have chosen the event but you can certainly choose its meaning. Regardless, remember to process each trauma. If need be, keep a journal, talk to a friend, or see a therapist. Either way, process it till the end. Unprocessed pain will eventually bite you in the ass when you least expect it. You will know you have processed your trauma to the end when you feel gratitude for the event.
When you are able to feel grateful for the event and for the pain and trauma it brought you, you have truly understood the meaning and the beauty of it. It has resulted in the present you, the undeniable you, full of flaws, pristine perfection, and deliberate intent. It has made you even more unique with your specific past and experience. Once you have let go of your trauma, you have made space and are ready to accept life for what it truly is, the good, the bad, and the ugly. When you are able to dissociate yourself from the feelings that came with the event and realise that those feelings do not make nor define you, you can start your process. Furthermore, when you see that you do not have to carry those feelings throughout your life, you can be set free. Only you can give yourself permission to let go and choose to set yourself free. No one else has this power. This may be the best gift you can give yourself so you can be a bigger gift to others around you.
Yes, trauma can be contagious. Have you been in a group of people where they just compare how tragic their lives are? It can be so soul-crushing. You walk away feeling drained. Do not spread it. (Be mindful that processing your trauma by talking about it is not the same as moaning about it and allowing it to define your life.) If you want to spread something, spread the inherent beauty in you instead. Show others how trauma can empower you, not diminish you. This will empower them too. If it makes you feel better, do it for them, not just for you. In doing so, you may find that giving to others is a gift you give to yourself too. Remember to let go before you fall.
‘There are two types of pain in this world:
pain that hurts you and pain that changes you.’