All of us potentially have trauma! Religious people are not exempt. In addition, religion often creates even more chances to experience trauma and carry those scars into our experience. Religious traditions can promote spiritual bypassing that avoids facing the trauma while seeking miraculous cures.
Eugene Gendlin, the founder of focusing, said something that I think is significant and I would like to dissect his quote throughout this post to help us analyze how we might better handle trauma.
“What is split off, not felt, remains the same. When it is felt, it changes.”
When we avoid feeling things, they get rooted down inside us and never get better. Sometimes, we call this shadow. When we forget about it or try to suppress it, it often comes out sideways. If those things are from trauma, we may react with coping strategies that didn’t work at the time when we were injured. It doesn’t dissipate, it only gets stronger.
“Most people don’t know this! They think that by not permitting the feeling of their negative ways they make themselves good.”
Sometimes, we think that we are being noble or successful by avoiding what we feel. When triggered, we use strategies or religious modalities to avoid the part of us that is traumatized. We think we are succeeding because we can get on with our lives. But, that it only a temporary win, and it will make things worse in the future. Gendlin goes on to describe this:
“On the contrary, that keeps these negatives static, the same from year to year.”
Even though we may temporarily feel like we are winning when we are bypassing, ultimately the problems remain stuck inside us. We call them stuck places. Parts of us are just waiting to be triggered so they can come out sideways or cause us new problems. Everyone has been there—we say, “Where did that come from?” It comes from out unaddressed trauma.
Let me just pause and say that there are different kinds of trauma. Some are very severe and may have only happened once. Others may have happened more often but are not as severe. And then, there are probably all kinds of variations in between. But all trauma can have negative impact.
So what’s the solution? Eugene Gendlin tells us in his quote:
“A few moments of feeling it in your body allows it to change. If there is in you something bad or sick or unsound, let it inwardly be and breathe. That’s the only way it can evolve and change into the form it needs.”
A process called focusing can help us feel what is stuck inside us and help it to shift. When allowed to breathe and be recognized, it evolves into the form it needs. Our bodies are trying to help us know what needs are attention, and if we pay attention, the stuck places will shift as they need to.
Let us stop ignoring the things that are painful or dark and bring them into the light!
Be where you are, be who you are, be at peace,