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What I Do When Bad Things Happen

September 28, 2018

 

Often, we're faced with some hard truths. We frequently don't want to admit that we find something displeasing or uncomfortable.  And many days, we try to forget how unpleasant it make us feel.

 

When I learned about some of the abuse allegations presented in recent media stories, I told myself, "We need more information.  More facts." And then I thought about my own abuse, and how I heard those same words repeated to me.  I wanted to be believed, but wasn't because of the same utterances I was saying.

 

I have been a victim of assault.  Some I've reported. Some I haven't.  I always feel guilty about doing either.  And I remember that society has trained me and everyone I know to feel bad because "we could have prevented it" through some sort of heroic thinking.

 

We're hardwired to believe the good in people.  We're taught that most people are altruistic and don't mean to do actions that are considered negative.  We think of excuses.  We say that the person might have been black-out drunk, not fully understanding what was being done, or even unaware that the event happened.

 

Short of ending someone's life, a lapse in good judgment is often looked at as some sort of hysterical series of events.  We aren't taught about the trauma that follows or the fear that keeps those individuals from healing.  Even as the memory of the incident fades, the hippocampus may remember the indelible marks of the lessons learned.

 

So where do we proceed after something bad happens?  Here are some realizations that helped me move forward:

 

People Often Forget Details, But Remember Feelings

I stopped trying to forgive and forget.  I may understand the reasons and motives behind an act, but I realize that the feelings are like physical scars: they'll serve as a reminder to help keep myself safe from future trauma.  Although counseling has helped start the healing process, I know that the techniques I learn will need to be done daily.

 

Find Someone to Be Vulnerable Around 

If you're like me, you are used to holding up a mask in front of your feelings and emotions just to get through the day.  It's important to have a confidant that will allow you to be your emotional self to help get you through the rough times and nuances of the day.  Making the first step to identifying someone can be hard.  It requires putting down a lot of protective barriers that may have been built up for years.  But know that this is a 50/50 approach or it won't work.  Your confidant may be just as vulnerable as you are.  Try to take this leap in baby steps.

 

Do Something You Enjoy

Although a hobby or extracurricular activity is often a great distraction, it doesn't completely resolve the emotional source of the trauma.  Sometimes, it takes a while for your mind to wrap around it.  A steady stream of favorite activities in small doses over a long period of time can have a greater effect than one-offs.  

 

There are a variety of other methods, but remember that healing from a bad incident is a marathon and not a sprint.  Good days and moments might be eclipsed by horrible feelings and shame.  Outside help in the form of therapy and ongoing treatment can help you manage emotions. 

 

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