Breaking silence is not easy. Understanding the barriers, which I mentioned in my last blog Suffering In Silence, is helpful. These barriers include shame and fear, and the cycle of keeping secrets being perpetuated in the survivor’s life. There often is empathy towards the abuser, or worry about the abuser’s well being.
I believe that the first step is having a moment of realization that leads to identifying the need or desire to speak up. This is a moment where denial does not exist! This moment can come unexpectedly and cause an immediate change in perspective. I have met with clients who identified the exact moment that they realized their marriage, living situation, family of origin, or relationships were abusive and/or dysfunctional. There is an element of surprise involved and clear insight. Everything seems to make sense, but yet is still confusing as the reality of the trauma and/or dysfunction is acknowledged. This may happen at work if you are a helping professional who has experienced trauma. Secondary trauma occurs to many helping professionals, and I have known professionals, like myself, who have realized the impact of trauma on their own lives while engaging with clients.
You may not be able to pinpoint one specific moment of realization. Maybe it is over a long period of time where you gradually come to understand the need to break free from fear, panic, shame, and/or denial. Regardless of how the increased awareness of the need for healing occurs, the next step is to process.
Processing Your Trauma
Processing experiences is not the same for everyone. It is defined by Meriam-Webster as “a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead towards a particular result (2022).” Processing can be over a short or long period of time, and can involve one person processing internally or processing out loud with others. Most people process internally first before speaking up, and some do not speak up at all.
Processing helps people to learn, grow, accept, and heal, but there can also be a downside. When I first experienced a moment of clarity, I ended up reliving traumatic experiences over and over and could not let go of my past. I eventually realized that I was holding on to my past because it was such a part of my identity that I did not know who I was without it.
Expressing Your Experiences
With processing comes expression. Healthy expression can be through art, writing, music, yelling, verbalizing, screaming, creating, or a physical release. Any outlet for communicating and releasing feelings in a healthy way is expressing. Using things like food, alcohol, drugs, shopping etc. to cope is not expression, it is called numbing, and will stop healing and can lead to more pain. Expression empowers, but addictive behaviors disempower. Expressing builds identity, while numbing suppresses who you are.
Empowerment Through Expression
When people feel ready to express it is empowering. Some people disclose to others immediately, and others may process and express on their own and then discuss with others. There are often layers of processing, expressing and healing. Trauma, emotions, and body responses are complex, and every individual is unique. I personally spent 2 years processing, expressing, and speaking to a therapist and others I learned to trust about various layers of trauma.
Breaking silence is not easy, but it is doable. Trust is valuable and necessary in this process. The people you are disclosing to should be supportive, empathetic, and help you to feel empowered and strengthened. It is normal to be nervous when discussing current or prior trauma with others, including with professionals. However, if disclosing your trauma causes dread, fear, repercussions, or emotional pain rather than emotional healing, this is a red flag that this person or people is/are not helpful in your healing process. This part of the process can be tricky, as it may be difficult to establish healthy boundaries initially. I prayed a lot before talking to anyone. If you are not someone who prays, I would say carefully ponder over your choice of who to disclose to and follow your natural instinct or gut feeling. Seek professional guidance and discuss your trauma with a therapist you feel totally comfortable with.
I would love to hear your story and your thoughts. Please contact me at email@example.com
#PTSD #trauma #secondarytrauma #panic #relivingmypast #letgoofmypast #emotionalhealing