Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Stumbling onto the Profound: Life is a Gift

I dedicate this blog to my birth daughter. I wish for her the awareness of her own amazing inner strength on her journey of healing from the past, as I reach the end of my own healing journey.

I picked up a book from my late Mother-in-law's collection entitled, "Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood" by Wayne Muller. The last page that she bookmarked was about "Fear and Faith." I wonder if she stopped reading the book because of what was on that page. Did the fear and pain from her childhood make her put the book down, never to finish it?

For me, the most profound statement, read thus far, is:

The prelude of Mr. Muller's book had such a profound impact on me that I wept. The first few paragraphs spoke to my soul as a survivor of a traumatic childhood. I've never felt such a strong desire to meet an author (or write him a letter) as I do after reading one section of this book. Mr. Muller's words truly touched my soul and the impact of his book's preface makes me wonder if THIS is a book that will change my life forever.

As an adult survivor of child abuse, I secretly wondered all my life if I was somehow broken, damaged, unworthy of love.

My abuser would have led me to believe that (as a way to control and keep me in his power). I agree with Mr. Muller, that pain from a traumatic childhood often has devastating impact on a child's life.

Adult survivors of childhood trauma often struggle to be free of the pain and feelings of unworthiness which are a residue from those experiences. We do often strive to heal from the pain of our broken childhoods, and the memories can haunt us in our daily adult lives.

I've noted that many adult survivors of traumatic childhoods often demonstrate a quiet inner strength and a wisdom beyond their years. For me, I survived in spite of the attempt to have my spirit and child-like wonder crushed. I had an inner strength, a quiet certainty that life was not dark and evil and that there was goodness in the world. I don't know where that strength came from, but it never left me and is as strong in me today as always.

Adults who suffered traumatic childhoods sometimes find themselves on a life-long search for the beautiful things of life, like love, peace and kindness. . .almost as a counter balance to the dark experiences of their formative years. Do we focus our attention on the inner life as a form of self preservation? Perhaps trying to make sense of it all?

We develop an awareness of our surroundings, taking a more in depth look at life's subtle imbalances; quick to detect the slightest conflict, flicker of hope or despair.

As adults we search for those things missing from our childhood (i.e. love, belonging, safety, joy, and peace).

The first step on our journey to heal, is to realize that family sorrow can be a seed that gives birth to the healing and awakening of our spirit.

I paraphrase Mr. Muller:

A Fresh Start
Childhood pain may not be a gift, but a response to that pain may have caused a powerful intuition, a passionate devotion to healing, and a love that burns deep within oneself. Those skills honed so acutely ARE gifts to be recognized, honored, and nurtured.

BOTTOM LINE: You are NOT broken! You ARE worthy of love!

It is important to recognize that in order to heal from your childhood trauma, you do NOT need to remove or destroy anything out of yourself to start anew.

The challenge is NOT to repair what was damaged in your past.
Instead, focus on reawakening the wise, strong, and wholeness inside of yourself; cultivating the qualities of the heart and spirit that are available to you within yourself.

An excerpt from the last page that my beloved mother-in-law read before she died reads:
"...most fears are generated by the mind (no real danger is present or eminent).
-Why do so many of us go about our lives fearing the future?
-We handle what is given to us at the moment, but fear a task may surface that we cannot bear.
-Grief arises in response to pain from our past (fear is our response to the pain we feel about the future).

Getting Beyond the Fear
-We need to explore the reason for our 'anticipation of pain' about the future.
-Learn to understand our fears and learn how to heal what frightens us.
-Fear arises when we believe we won't be strong enough to handle the pain we may be given.
-A child from a troubled family was given too much hurt in their youth, left feeling small and fragile.
-It is a powerful lesson for a young one to learn how deep pain can tear at ones heart and body.
-Ever wonder as a child, "I don't know if I can take anymore pain?" That questions stays into adulthood.

-Trauma of childhood was real, BUT remember resilience of your spirit is very strong.

Ultimately, Mr. Muller believes that his book will help reawaken inner strength by discovering a reliable sense of safety, belonging, and peace. The book contains 12 distinct manifestations of childhood pain which are lingering wounds expressing themselves as tension between our emotional history and our spiritual unfolding. You'll examine the shape of that particular childhood wound (remember he discusses 12 of them) and reveals how the scar from that wound affects our emotional and spiritual life.

We can then learn to gentle observe, explore, and massage those places where we are mentally 'caught,' where we are ready to grow, and where we ache to be free.

My journey has begun, may these words inspire you to start your journey as well.

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