Are Trauma Survivors Destined for Victimhood?
It’s not uncommon in my office to hear a client say, “I want to get to a place where I can share my story. I know I’m not ready yet, but that’s one of my goals.” That statement both makes total sense to me and makes me curious about what that means.
Today as I was chewing on that idea I had a thought. Perhaps when one talks about sharing their story, what they really mean is they want the story behind their trauma to be so integrated into the wholeness of their identity that it can’t help but come out for others to experience, and, more importantly, the one who experienced the trauma has the tolerance share it and be “OK”.
Everyone’s life is an anthology of stories. I have a lot of victories and a lot of failures. I have a lot of pains and I have a lot of pleasures. When I think of the way I offer the micro stories of my life to others, I always think in terms of what the listeners take away about my identity and also what I gave that they might be able to contribute to theirs. Stories are the crux of what each of us have to offer this world – even when we don’t realize it. Let me begin by saying that every single one of us actually is “sharing our story”. We share our story in how we trust, how we love, and how we interact with the world we are part of. The choice not to go on that date is a reflection of your story; The way you yelled at your children and later felt ashamed is sharing your story. The need to give all of yourself or none of yourself to your partner is sharing your story. We cannot help but develop our unique “voice” for sharing our stories.
Perhaps a key to “penning” our stories, is to learn the art of reading the drafts we encounter on a daily basis. As individuals interact with the events of their personal narratives that is when the story truly becomes a deep connecting point that allows one to process the depth and meaning of the message and what that message communicates about the individual as well as the world the individual can’t help but be intertwined.
As individuals begin to consciously share their stories, I would like to believe it is because they got to a place where their trauma was actually integrated as a story and not as an identity or at minimum a protective response. The traumas that happen in this world are not the new definitions of the survivors, but they are experiences that guided a response for subsequent interactions. The goal then is not the story of the trauma itself, but how the trauma learned to exist as a part of the story.