Some years ago, in my search for healing from the effects of childhood trauma, I began seeing a Christian counselor. At first, condemning thoughts confused me. As a child, I knew that talking about the violence in our home was forbidden. I wondered, was I dishonoring my parents by talking about it in the privacy of a counselor’s office?
Knowing people who’d grown up in similar situations and who seemed to be doing well increased my self-condemnation. I thought that my need to see a counselor meant I was weak or that there was something terribly wrong with me. What I didn’t know then was that I’d minimized the harm of childhood trauma, something many people do.
In spite of these condemning thoughts, I continued counseling. My life was so dysfunctional I felt I had no choice. Then one day, I had an epiphany that gave me the permission I needed to continue the work of healing. Though the epiphany was specific to my childhood growing up in the Christian church, it brings truth to all people who need to give themselves permission to seek healing from trauma.
This was my epiphany: In our church, if someone was hit by a train and recovering in the hospital, people would send flowers, come to visit, bring meals to the family, offer to babysit, help with shopping and cleaning, and pray for healing. If the accident victim needed ongoing physical therapy or more surgeries, people would not question the need for continued help. Because they understood that healing from physical trauma takes time, they would not think the person was being selfish or weak. Support would be generously given.
In contrast, if a person had been “hit by a train” emotionally (by some traumatic life event – domestic violence, being raped, being bullied, sexual abuse) the need for help was either ignored or viewed with suspicion. As the traumatized person stumbled toward healing, they experienced impatience from those who wondered what was wrong with their spiritual lives. There were no flowers, no meals, no offers of help, and few offers of prayer. Those who experienced an emotional train-wreck were told to focus on serving those less fortunate to help put their own suffering into perspective.
With this epiphany, I saw how easily people understand the need to heal from physical trauma, yet how the need to heal from emotional trauma is at best misunderstood, and at worst, judged as frivolous and selfish.
Putting this subject in the context of the Bible and Christianity, I see that just as God cares about the health of our bodies, He cares about the health of our hearts and emotions. When we hurt, He hurts. Like a good dad, He wants to help make things better.
We see one of Jesus’ purposes in coming stated in Isaiah 61:1a: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted.” (KJV)
Though I memorized this verse as a child, because I’d minimized the damage that had been done, I didn’t think it applied to me. When I realized my heart was broken, I invited Jesus to begin healing me. He has, and His care for my heart has changed my life. When the healing work is painful or takes longer than I would like, knowing I can trust Jesus’ care for my heart has given me courage to continue moving forward.
Seeking healing from the effects of childhood trauma has been one of the most important things I’ve ever done. It has made everything better.
In future blog posts, I will write about some specific areas in my life that have been healed.
If your life has been impacted by trauma, I encourage you to consider seeking healing. If you have minimized the effects of trauma and have believed that seeking healing means you are weak or that something is wrong with you, I encourage you to begin to acknowledge the damage that has been done, and to seek healing.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please let me know if you have questions, or if you have stories to share about the importance of healing in your life.
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