At our practice, several of our counselors are certified to work with grief and trauma. Our days are spent being present in the therapy room with another human who has been deeply wounded and is working towards new awareness as well as mental and emotional health. As I have reflected on the conflict and tragedies in our country’s last few weeks, many of the tenets of the work we do daily continue to come to mind. Our first step is to simply acknowledge the wound, without judgment. We allow the wounded soul to speak from his/her perspective and share that experience. We simply sit and honor his/her story through listening….even if we don’t agree with it. As trauma-trained professionals, we know for certain that the sharing of one’s story begins to reintegrate the brain. Conflict, trauma, extreme emotion of any kind throws our brains askew and our limbic system takes over. This means that we are not able to make wise choices in those moments (imagine a toddler who is told “no” and throws a fit, a teen whose significant other has just broken up with him/her, a spouse who has just received a phone call that his/her partner in life has been fatally wounded, a person who has been stigmatized and labeled for simply loving another, or a person of faith who believes that faith is under attack). When a story is shared and truly heard, the limbic system of the traumatized, wounded, angry, terrified individual begins to be calmed and soothed. It’s amazing that we can do this simply by being present for one another in a non-judgmental manner. Soothing our limbic systems is a skill that can be taught to anyone who wants to learn and it leads to a remarkable awareness of self and others. Once we are capable of reintegrating the intricacies of our brain so that the parts and pieces are working harmoniously, we are then able to access our wise mind…that which can utilize the awareness of emotion in partnership with our logic and language. This is where change happens. Imagine the ability to recognize we are approaching the “danger” threshold and that we have the power to calm ourselves BEFORE we do or say something harmful to one of God’s children, our brothers and sisters. Science has it’s definition of the wise mind, as does scripture. In James we learn that there are two types of wisdom. One is earthly which often leads to envy, bitterness, selfish ambition and disorder…this sounds all too familiar to me today. The other type is wisdom that comes from heaven. It is “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) It is this type of wisdom, a transcendent wisdom, that leads our clients to the forgiveness of self and others, to a desire to reconnect with a broken yet beautiful world and to reconcile their wound and find healing. I believe it will take this kind of intentional learning and acceptance of the truth that we all have the power to both hurt and heal each other before our country can mend. Bessel Van Der Kolk states in one of his books, “Our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another.” God designed us to be in relationship, are we choosing to relate in a way that is healthy and harmonious or divisive and toxic? My exercise for checking myself in this area as well as one encouraged for our clients who are striving to live the life of a disciple of Christ is this; take I Corinthians 13:4-5 and put your name in place of “love”.
_____ is patient, ____is kind. ____does not envy, ____does not boast, _____is not proud.
_____ is not rude, ______is not self-seeking, ______ is not easily angered, _____ keeps no
record of wrongs.
This is the call of Christianity. Repeatedly we are reminded to love our neighbor…even those who are not just like us, even those who harm us. I dream of a world where we see first all that makes us similar as opposed to the few ways we are different. “Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42, then they won’t be able to tell us apart.”