Saturday, April 19, 2008

Here We Go Again

Yesterday I had a reminder that healing does not occur in a straight line. I spent time processing a 25 year old memory. My heart sped up as I remembered an incident of abuse. I wondered how much longer such memories would hook my emotions. I wanted to say that after twenty-five years it shouldn't hurt any more. Have you ever felt that way?

In reality, however, I know that we can't look at a traumatic memory once, face it, file it away and never look at it again. When we expect emotional healing to happen in a linear way, we will be frustrated. It just doesn't work that way. It helps me to think of emotional healing as overlapping circles. Each time you revisit a specific memory of abuse you will be healing a different layer in your soul. One time you might experience the fear you felt, the next time you might deal with examining the beliefs you absorbed at the time of the abuse, another time you could vent the anger that the memory stirs, and another time around the circle you might work on being kind to yourself about how you responded at the time of the abuse.

I used to get frustrated, thinking that I wasn't making any progress. I felt the temptation yesterday to judge myself for reacting to my memory. Then I remembered how much healing comes each time around the circle, and I focused in on identifying what I needed to learn this time. It turned out, I hadn't allowed myself to admit previously my anger over being treated so disrespectfully. Once I acknowledged the anger, I felt peace again.

If you feel frustration with your own recovery from abuse, I have now been at this enough years that I can assure you that you are making progress. Each "backward" loop is adding a deeper layer of healing. It can be helpful to occasionally review what you have written in your journals and see how far you have come. Or if you don't use journaling much then you can talk to someone who has known you a long time and ask them if you have changed. Or you can, ask yourself what you were like before you embarked on emotional healing. How did you formerly deal with stress, how did you interact with people, and how did you talk to yourself?

Progress doesn't happen in a smooth, straight line--but healing happens, especially when we invite God to lead the process. Next time I feel like I am moving backwards, I am going to celebrate that I am ready to deal with another layer of healing. I am going to thank God for bringing me back around a loop to go a little deeper, because when you look at the big picture it is good news. I'll take every ounce of healing I can get. How about you?

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