When you’ve experienced trauma, especially as a child, it
can cast a shadow on the rest of your life. And the strategies you developed
when you were a kid to deal with the chaos may have worked then, but they don’t
necessarily serve you as an adult. In fact, they can keep you stuck in the
painful past. It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s one strategy that’s often
used in therapy that can be very helpful in overcoming trauma.
Putting the story of your life down on paper is so powerful it can literally change your life. It has been for me. I’m currently in the process of editing my new book, a memoir called The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child that comes out in January 2021. It’s the first book I’ve written that isn’t a cookbook. And let me tell you, it’s raw, gritty, and real. I didn’t grow up in a Leave It to Beaver kind of family. My childhood was filled with utter chaos—an uncle who was a heroin addict, a stepfather who tried to molest me, a relative who was murdered. I’ve learned so much from the process of writing my story. Here’s what you may get out of the process too.
1. Get it out of your head.
Rather than letting thoughts about past trauma continue to fester
inside your head and hijack your happiness, writing your story helps get it out
of your mind.
2. Gain perspective.
When things remain in the jungles of your mind, they can be
hard to process. Seeing your story on paper gives you a new perspective. It’s
almost like stepping back and watching a movie rather than being in the movie.
This allows you to view circumstances more rationally.
3. Ask for clarification.
The way you remember traumatic events may be true, but it
may not be the whole story. Talking to others in your family about the trauma
can help complete the picture and can be very eye-opening. In my case, the way I remembered things wasn’t
wrong, but it wasn’t the full picture. I was only 4 years old when I lived
through my first trauma, so I only saw it through the eyes of a toddler. By clarifying
details and asking my family members for other perspectives about the trauma,
it helped me understand things more fully. In writing your story, think of
yourself as a journalist and try to get all sides of the story. You may be very
surprised by what you learn.
4. Readjust your strategies.
The strategies we develop as kids to deal with trauma may not be the most effective as an adult. When I was 4 years old, I learned that being invisible was the safest thing for me. But in adulthood, that strategy isn’t helpful. It can make you conflict avoidant where you tend to run away from problems and people rather than dealing with them head-on. In relationships, this can lead to an incongruency between what you say and what you feel. And that’s not a healthy approach. To learn new strategies, I went through therapy and took courses and seminars from some of the nation’s best thinkers and emotional healers. It took a lot of work, but it’s paid off and has allowed me to have healthy relationships with my husband, daughter, and other family members.
5. Choose how your story ends.
When you write your story, you realize that you get to
decide how you want it to end. In writing my book, I realized I didn’t want to
stay on that early path of my life—a scared child and a victim. No way! I want
the rest of my life to be lived with purpose and passion. And when it’s time
for my funeral, I don’t want people feeling sorry for that sad little girl. I
want them to be celebrating the purposeful life I chose to live. How do you
want your story to end? Writing a new ending will help you live with greater
intention in the present.
I’m challenging you to write your story and talk to people
from your past to better understand your life history. Feel free to share what
you learn along the way with me on social media. I’d love to hear from you.
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