All images by Cindy Kunsman and Under Much Grace and used with permission.
I’d hoped to follow the previous post about how we make decisions and the risks we take with something more positive. As I’m walking through my own personal labyrinth of recovery from new challenges, I couldn’t connect with the material very well.
In a way, it demonstrates the difficulties that we face when we do build Safety and work at Stabilization for ourselves as we recover from trauma. Life also gets in the way of that, as we have to go on living our lives as we heal. We still have our daily work, routines, and our ongoing care of self and others. My life has had the added elements of a couple of recent deaths including the suicide of a friend, the loss of my 16 year old cat last month, a flaring up of more than a few chronic illnesses, and a serious injury in my immediate family. These make the daily grind of all of the other pressures of life that we all share in common (like the rising cost of everything and enduring pre-election politics) that much more of a struggle.
A Personal Challenge
I view the privilege of writing and blogging in much the same way as my approach to music when I did a great deal of performing. I never liked to perform anything, particularly in song, that I didn’t connect with on a deep level. I have been given a moment of opportunity to communicate something real, true, valuable, and hopefully helpful to those who happen to end up reading what I’ve written. But like musical performance, the material that I put here on this blog holds me accountable, as I don’t like to write about anything that has not come to mean something to me personally.
Not only is the process of decision-making a huge topic, in revisiting and in studying new information about the process, that material becomes a mirror where I see my own shortcomings. I’m learning and remembering and revisiting right along with everyone else. Aspiring to let this process change me as I do takes time and energy and honesty.
The Challenge of my Own Ignorance
Along with other pressures in life, I have two emotional responses as I prepare to write more about the many things that contribute to safey and stabilization in Stage One of trauma recovery. The first seems to be a mixture of hope, awe, and humility as I read many things that I wish someone had taught me at a much earlier phase in my life. The second emotional response I find myself manifesting involves a regret over the things that I have understood in my head, but my heart could not take them in as my own. That includes the things that I’ve nearly forgotten – and all of them would have added more self-care ability and would have made me more stable if I had remembered them.
Some of the material I have not honestly thought about in thirty years, drawing upon some training that I had about decision making. As I look back at that materia, I see it through thirty years of personal experiences, my view of the world which has grown so much bigger, and I do it from a place of more personal wholeness. In a way, the old stuff strikes me as if it is new, and there are new works and research to consider as well. I’m now more able to comprehend more of it on a deeper level.
I find myself grieving my young self’s lack of insight, just because I hadn’t lived on the planet quite long enough to put that information into a better perspective. Most of the grief stems from what I might have done or understood if I had not been so fractured by emotional hardship and all of the energy that it took for me to juggle so much trauma. Part of that also has to do with my age and transition into a new phase of life which trauma healing backtracking has also delayed a bit.
I did not expect for the preparation for the discussion which involves pulling out old notes and some books that I remember as good but didn’t remember why. I’m struggling with facing up to my own shortcomings in a new way. I’m not consumed with toxic shame, so I can see more clearly what I suspect was too painful for me to see on a first reading. I also see my weaknesses and my own mistakes. Though knowledge and understanding give me more stability and contribute to how I can live more safely, I am also now aware and accountable of the changes I must make and then stick with to improve and grow.
Robert Cialdini talks about that human tendency to have others think about us in the way that we like to think of ourselves – the weapon of influence that he calls Commitment and Consistency. I mention that often in my writing, but in my reading of material that has to do with the deeper reasons why we fall into such patterns has me thinking of that tendency from a different perspective.
Much like the flip side of Cialdini, while it is comfortable for us to pay attention to those things that make us feel better, the reverse is true. We don’t find it terribly comfortable when someone brings credible information to us that we don’t want to deny, but we find ourselves wanting. We see our mistakes. We recognize where we went wrong many times, doing the same ineffective things over again.
As I prepare to write much more, I also find it necessary to sit with this discomfort of realizing that I can be a much better and more responsible person. Some of the changes that I need to make personally will not be easy for me and will force me to grow up in areas where I’d rather remain rosy faced and ignorant.
Bright Light of Hope
The good benefit of braving some of these things that my ego and my hobgoblin of foolish consistency finds uncomfortable involves the promise of healthier life on the other side. That is why Stage One of this process is so important. I wish that I’d gleaned these things the first time through my journey when I thought about this process as a map and a maze so that my choices since then might have been better. But that is the past, and I can look forward to another trip through a place that is familiar.
I think of the first few times that I drove alone to see my grandfather on the other side of the state where I would see Pennsylvania Mountain Laurel. When someone else drove the car, I had time to look through the side windows to see the shrubs along the highway. When I drove myself, I had to become personally familiar with the trip, and I learned to anticipate where I might see the shrubs because I didn’t have so many things to juggle while a passenger. But this time through, I know where the best places to pull over to stop and see the sights pop up along the way. I’m also not so frenzied and in such a hurry this time through and can take a detour and ponder these things at my leisure. I’m also not as burdened and wounded, so there are more things that I can drink in this time.
So until my next mile marker and sign post blog entry, I’ll give you a hint about more material to come as I marinate and ruminate on so many things which I am soaking up along with everyone else.
Cynthia Mullen Kunsman is a nurse (BSN), naturopath (ND) and seminary graduate (MMin) with a wide variety of training and over 20 years of clinical experience. She has used her training in Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a lecturer and liaison to professional scientific and medical groups, in both academic and traditional clinical healthcare settings. She also completed additional studies in the field of thought reform, hypnotherapy for pain management, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is often associated with cultic group involvement. Her nursing experience ranges from intensive care, the training of critical care nurses, hospice care, case management and quality management, though she currently limits her practice to forensic medical record review and evaluation. Most of her current professional efforts concern the study of manipulative and coercive evangelical Christian groups and the recovery process from both thought reform and PTSD.
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