Author: kristenkrueger@invisiblewoundsllc.org (Page 1 of 5)

Sex Trafficking and Child Exploitation

The Normalization of Child Abuse

As a “civilized” society, the idea that the brutality of sex trafficking and child sexual abuse becoming normalized, is abhorrent. Yet this is where we are as a country and throughout the world today. The movement to normalize deviant sexual behavior and to in fact, celebrate such as “freedom,” has created the environment where the most effective predators no longer have to hide but are free to perpetrate these atrocities in plain sight.

The trauma and pain suffered by these innocent victims is so destructive that many are unable to fully recover if they are ever rescued. These children, whom we as adults are ordered to protect, have been intentionally handed over to people whose only purpose is to use them for their own evil desires.

The Consequences of a Pandemic

The consequences of this year and the overly restrictive “lock down” and isolation procedures enacted by governments has created a vacuum for predation. The closure of schools, increases in online schooling and education forums, and an increase in unrestricted access to the internet, has forced victims or potential victims into close contact with predators. This, as well as the shelter in place orders, have forced victims into the constant presence of their perpetrators. This has drastically increased the number of victims, as well as the anonymity of their predators.

children lying on sofa and using gadgets
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Perpetrators have also had an extraordinary amount of free time to increase their grooming tactics to lure victims online or to force compliance with their deviance. Technologically savvy predators have been able to spend an inexorable amount of time creating and consuming images and videos of child sexual abuse on the dark net. The recent arrest of hundreds of perpetrators and the rescue of hundreds of child victims, reinforces this truth.

Netflix and What?

Last month, Netflix released a movie poster for their new movie, Cuties. The backlash to this poster was immediate and brutal. Why? Because the poster showed young girls dancing in sexually suggestive poses. But this did not stop the streaming giant from releasing this movie. Instead, they apologized for the “grossly inappropriate” poster for the upcoming movie and replaced it, and the description of the show (Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family‚Äôs traditions), with something mild and seemingly innocent.

siblings sitting on a couch and looking at a laptop
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

When in fact the movie was release, it became immediately apparent that the original poster and movie description was accurate. They even go so far as to claim pedophilia is religion and therefore they are supportive of “creative freedom.” This movie is about a group of young girls who join a sexually suggestive dance troupe and learn to twerk, show their breasts, and grind. The movie is nothing short of soft-core pornography for pedophiles. And Netflix is proud of that. In fact the movie’s producer, outraged at the “accusations” of exploitation defends this disgusting main stream movie as a “feminist voice” that illuminates child exploitation. Crying that she just wanted to show people what girls go through and especially, what minority girls go through (her words, not mine).

Netflix has often been the go to for families to have a library of movies and shows that are appropriate for their children to watch alone. Turn on Netflix and just keep it on, not really monitoring the ads or what shows follow the initial selection. Because “Cuties” is marketed as a show meant to decry sexual exploitation, but in fact is the exact thing they claim to be railing against. This platform has become a haven for pornographic and sexually gratuitous shows marketed to a young audience and interspersed within seemingly kid friendly shows. This serves to groom kids into normalizing adult/child sexual behavior. It’s what predators do.

2020. The Year of Predation and Exploitation

While child exploitation and abuse has been a constant in the underbelly culture of this world, 2020 has seen it normalized and defended by the media and high ranking politicians. The rest of us who are guided by God, morals, and common human decency, are being shown, many for the first time, what the real consequences are when society excuses and ignores deviant sexual behavior. What happens when the same, protect and defend the perpetrators of such heinous behavior.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has seen a 106% increase for global reports of online exploitation. In India, for example, there has been a 95% increase in online searches for child sexual abuse content. Other countries have also seen this increase in predatory behavior. This real pandemic has been receiving more attention over the last few years as a result of the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein, a prominent and well-connected pedophile who regularly flew high ranking entertainers and government officials, to a private island where hundreds of innocent children were brutalized by these men and women.

woman dark eye spooky
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

While Epstein died awaiting his trial, his former partner was arrested and hundreds of documents listing other perpetrators has been released. The torrent of identified perpetrators and what they had been doing began the end of July, when numerous government officials had explained to us would be the end of the constant lock-downs and restrictions from COVID. Yet he we are, 2 months after that, with never-ending extensions in Democratic run states, and what seems to be an enormous effort to ignore this damning evidence.

This is what these innocent victims are facing. Not just the devastating consequences to themselves and their lives from this trauma, but the reality that the people who are supposed to protect them, are in fact, protecting their perpetrators.

The COVID-19 restrictions have reduced the workforce available to identify and rescue these victims as well. The number of children identified and freed, has consistently been lower, with the exceptions of the large raids that have taken place, than in previous years. This means more victims are being brutalized and are unable to escape, than in the past.

Our Response

As adults, it is our duty to protect children. This does not matter if they are your children or not. We are ordered to protect children and scripture paints the picture of what happens to those who hurt children. Many, if not most, adults, are more than willing to protect children but are unsure how to do so. I would like to lay out some steps that we as parents, teachers, coaches, and family members, should be doing to ensure our children are safe.

family of four walking at the street
Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

1. We should all be paying attention and be present. When something feels or seems off, it probably is. We need to stop rationalizing away those checks in our soul, our instincts, and start listening to what we are sensing.

2. Children do not need us to be their best friend, they need us to be the adults. Children have do not need unsupervised online time, nor do they need privacy in their social media. Children are not fully capable of understanding the consequences of what they are doing. This is why they need us. This goes beyond keeping electronics in common areas and refusing to allow unchecked phones and computers. It requires us to have the hard conversations much earlier than we think we should. By age 8, almost all children have been exposed to pornography. Waiting for the school to talk about sex, etc. isn’t going to protect them, and will not communicate your love and values to them. Talk to you kids about sex.

3. Children do not need to be treated like little adults. They do not need to be able to watch whatever they want, play whichever games they want, spend the night at whomever’s house they want, etc. Children need to be loved, respected, and guided. Take the time to know your child’s friends, and their families. Know your neighbors. Be engaged in their schools, with their teachers, and the after school activities. Lead their troops. Coach their teams. Go to parent-teacher conferences and ask questions. Our children need us to help them learn how to protect themselves, but they also need to know we will protect them from themselves as well.

4. Be present in every aspect of your child’s life. Listen to their stories, play with them, put your damn phone down and do life with them. If you are not in their life, they become easy targets and someone else WILL fill that void.

5. Stop forcing your children to hug/kiss/spend time with people they do not want to. A child should ALWAYS be able to say no. Even to family members. No child (or adult for that matter) should be forced to sit on someone’s lap, give someone a hug or kiss, when they don’t want to. This teaches them that they do not matter and that they have to do what they’re told, even when they are uncomfortable. This is how children learn to be compliant victims. They learn that what they feel and think doesn’t get to protect them. That they cannot set boundaries and say no to adults.

5. Finally, stop going with the flow. Stop complying with everything your told. Teach your children that just because an adult or someone in authority tells you to do something, doesn’t mean they have to do it. Children are not often victimized by strangers. Most often it’s the adults in their lives, older children in their lives, who are abusing them. Teach them that it is acceptable to disagree with an adult. That it is ok to tell an adult ‘no’ if that adult is demanding they do something that goes against their beliefs, what you have told them, or that causes them to be unsafe.

Children do not need to shut up and do what they are told. They need to understand that their body is theirs, and that no one gets to decide what they have to do. Adults are often wrong. Predatory adults and older children will ALWAYS make their targeted victims feel uncomfortable. ALWAYS. Children haven’t learned to ignore their instincts. They will tell you something is wrong if you take the time to listen to what they are saying.

Protecting children is not a suggestion. It’s compulsory. If you are not willing to change some parts of your life so that you can raise healthy and safe children, then don’t have children. Selfishness and parenting do not work together. It’s up to us to stop this downward spiral into normalizing and decriminalizing child exploitation and abuse. Take a stand for those who cannot speak for themselves. Fight for those who are still prisoners to their perpetrators. In doing so, you may save your own children as well. Show up, be present, and do life with your children. You will never regret that time. But you will live your life regretting what could happen if you don’t.

Resources

The Dirty Dozen 2020-List produced annually by NCMEC for companies that facilitate the exploitation of children

https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/keep-your-child-safe-online-at-home-covid-19

NCMEC: https://www.missingkids.org/home

Protecting Kids: https://brightside.me/inspiration-family-and-kids/10-essential-pieces-of-advice-for-how-to-protect-your-child-331810/

Protecting Kids Online: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/protecting-kids-online

The Pain that Lasts

Living with Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

One trauma should be enough. In anyone’s lifetime, if all was as it should be, no one would experience the pain of trauma. But in this fallen and broken world, many people experience continuous or multiple traumas beginning in childhood. This world of surviving multiple traumas, of always having to adapt and change in order to continue on, creates a world of chaos and pain that never seems to end.

Often what happens when you have gone through multiple traumatic events, is that you begin to feel a constant weight of “the next shoe dropping.” You wonder when you will have to dive back into survival mode again. Expecting that trauma is a part of your life and there will always be another trauma coming at you. Viewing the world through this lens of when, not if, is something not everyone will be able to understand. It’s a consequence of what happened to us, not a deficit we can readily just choose to overcome.

Complex PTSD

PTSD can develop when a person does not have access to adequate resources to heal from their trauma. They are unable to move through the grief and healing process in order to reclaim their life. The journey to heal from one trauma is complicated, inexpressibly hard at times, and exhausting. Living with C-PTSD is a completely different beast. Every step towards healing brings with it wounds from the past that you may not even know are there. It is always at the ready to react when those deep and hidden wounds are poked. C-PTSD begs for constant attention to healing and continuing on your journey.

Regardless of where you are in your healing journey, C-PTSD will bring challenges to your everyday life. The invisible wounds of trauma, even when walking in your healing, are never fully healed. Depending on the depth, complexity, and pain intertwined in your earlier traumas, you can and will be caught off guard. You will be shaken again when you are faced with another traumatic experience. Traveling the path of C-PTSD means that you will be good some days, then suddenly struggle. This journey is full of deep holes and booby traps you didn’t set and struggle to see until you are in them.

You can be at your absolute healthiest, living your best life, and you can be taken down to the point you begin to question if you ever really healed at all.

Navigating Trauma after Healing

To be real for a minute, this is where I find myself now. I poured myself into healing from the Columbine shootings and earlier childhood traumas. Knowing I was at a point in my life where my healing journey wasn’t complete, I navigated life in health. I loved the life I was living, who I was, and I was pursuing a life I wanted. I thought I was aware, of my triggers and how they impacted me. I thought I knew my limitations and how far I could push myself before I overstepped my own boundaries. Though I had gained an enormous number of tools and techniques to manage and heal those residual parts of my past, I didn’t understand how I’d use them now.

What I didn’t know was how my deepest wounds had not yet been touched by healing. I did not know how painfully those wounds would react when they were attacked instead of protected. I am able to handle a lot of traumas, mine and others. I am resilient and strong. But I am also human. I have areas of my soul that are wounded so deeply they stayed more or less hidden. Until they could no longer remain hidden.

The last few years I have been walking a new path. A path I never knew or imagined I’d have to walk. I had no idea what I was going to have to do. The trauma from the last few years was progressive, subtle at first. The trauma of suffering with severe Peripartum Onset depression, anxiety, OCD, and rage. Losing our home in a fire at 3 months postpartum. Multiple additional challenges and pain beyond what I thought I’d ever have to deal with in this phase of my life. But it all snuck up on me. I didn’t realize I was not OK anymore until I was REALLY not OK. It wasn’t until I realized that the things I was feeling and thinking were similar to right after the Columbine shootings, that I figured out I was suffering through another battle with active PTSD.

Having C-PTSD has complicated this new healing journey in profound ways. I am able to see the healing that I achieved before, but I also struggle in ways I thought I’d dealt with already. A resurgence of an addiction, desperately trying to stay present and not continue to dissociate and check out, and an internal struggle so fierce, you’d think I was battling for my very life. Which, of course, I am.

The New Battle Ground

This is how I am beginning to understand the profoundly devastating consequences of surviving multiple traumas. Because I am not only fighting for myself now, but I am fighting for my son. I am fighting to protect him from the worst days. To show him how to be resilient and healthy. Fighting to teach him that no matter what, you still have to get up and move forward. Teaching him to honor himself, his emotions, and wherever he is at that moment without shame. Knowing when to fight and when to rest and take care of yourself.

The healing journey that I am on now, is harder than anything I’ve ever done before. There are so many times that I want to give up. To just stop fighting and let the pain overtake me. But that is not who God created me to be. I did not fight like hell to claw my way out of the grave I was in after Columbine, just to go back to that same grave (metaphorically). C-PTSD complicates everything. The things I’ve learned so far in my healing journey seem hard to utilize in this journey. I am having to relearn so much, and to be intentional about self-care in a way I never had to before.

In the hardest moments, when the light seems impossible to see, it is almost impossible to think of who I will be after I am through this leg of my life journey. Truthfully, I don’t want this leg, I don’t want this journey. I want to be on a path where I can have a reprieve from trauma for a while. I can’t change where I’m at or what I am going through. No matter how much I want to.

But I can do the hard work. I know that I can get through this, because I’ve done this before. And so can you. The strength and resilience that compels you to keep going is what will keep you hanging on wherever you find yourself. You’ve done this before. You’ve survived the worst, often more times than you can remember. You are not only a survivor, you are a warrior. The battle scars we carry weigh us down, but we can continue to fight.

Living with C-PTSD, even if you never have to survive another trauma, brings challenges that others can’t even conceive. Choosing to not let the past dictate how you live your life, changes how we step into the fight. Yes, things may be harder than they should be. Life may feel like it’s a never ending war and that you are drowning in defeat. But you have already survived some of the worst in this life.

Whatever life has for you next, you can and will overcome it. If you choose to. We can get bitter and live in anger at the injustices we’ve had to deal with, or we can focus on getting healthy (again). Struggling to handle new traumas when you’ve healed so many earlier traumas, does not mean the healing isn’t real. It can move you to greater levels of healing and freedom if you can embrace a new journey to healing.

Hopelessness and Death

September is National Suicide Awareness month. This year, I am even more aware of the pain of suicide as I lost a friend this year to this evil. In addition, this year has seen a sharp increase in the number of completed suicides as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on people. With the reality that there has been an increase in suicide deaths since 1999, it begs the question, what is driving the extreme hopelessness that results in the thousands of lives lost every year? There are many contributing factors such as mental health history, trauma, lack of support, resources and isolation. But what moves an individual past the point of no return to where this is the only option they can consider?

Those of us who have gone through the loss of someone due to suicide know first hand the pain the loss causes. We have guilt, shame, and forever unanswered questions. As part of the guilt process, we will find every single moment when we “should have” done something. Those who have survived being suicidal knows the damage and pain that struggle causes in your own life. But the truth is that you can do everything possible and use every resource available, but if someone is committed to dying, they will find a way. Since this month is dedicated to awareness and response to the epidemic of suicide, I would like to address this from a spiritual and mental health perspective.

Deadly hopelessness

We are not just our minds, bodies, or souls. We are all three, all the time. Each component of who we are is intimately connected to the other. There is never a time when one part of us is injured where the other parts don’t also suffer. Suicide is much more than just unresolved mental health issues. That is a part of it, yes, but not the whole story. Being suicidal is a symptom of extreme dysregulation and suffering. This kind of hopelessness only occurs with deep wounds to all three parts of who we are. We must look at all of these together in order to defeat this powerful enemy.

Hopelessness comes when everything we’ve done seems to go wrong, or we feel unable to escape a situation we are in. When we feel as if our voice has been taken from us, when we are devalued, hated, dismissed, and treated as less than, we begin to feel as if we will always be stuck in the pain of those rejections. These thoughts are false, we are never stuck. There is always a way out, but often that way requires work and effort beyond what we feel we can handle. And this is usually the truth. On our own, we absolutely cannot dig ourselves out of the grave of hopelessness without God and consistent professional help. Because if we could do it on our own, we would. Our will is not strong enough on its own, to overcome this deception of the enemy.

Surrender

Hopelessness requires our surrender. Our conscious decision to surrender to God and to whatever our current situation is. Outside of abuse and where you are in immediate danger, often it’s our perception of where we are and what we can do that keeps us trying to control rather than surrender. This is a hard place to get to.

It’s saying, I will be ok even if…. Even if I never heal. Even if I never feel better. Even if I am alone. Even if I am lonely. Even if I am rejected by those who are supposed to accept and love me. Even if this is all there is.

This idea of OK even if creates such a conflict within me that I find myself pushing back hard against it. Because it’s where we are that is causing the pain and suffering. It seems counterintuitive to surrender and accept where you are, no matter if you ever get out of it. What this is not saying is that you are going to ignore opportunities to change your circumstances, to heal, and to break free from your past. It is not saying that you are going to accept abuse and being at risk because you have to “just be content” with it. What this kind of surrender means is that you are letting go of trying to fix everything yourself and letting God take over. It’s an extreme trust that you will eventually get out of where you’re at, but you will no longer let that place destroy who you are. You will no longer allow your pain to control your thoughts and leave you hopeless, broken, and longing for death.

Our thoughts have life or death

You see, the hopelessness that leads to death, to suicide, begins long before you ever begin to think about death as the only option to relieve your suffering. It begins with the seemingly innocent thoughts of “this is never going to end,” “I will never or always…” and similar intrusive destructive thoughts. The thoughts that we allow to take root in our minds are the ones that eventually lead us to life or death. There is a reason we are told in scripture to take all thoughts captive and bring them into submission to Christ. This is what allows us to defeat everything that tries to draw us away from who God has created us to be.

This is where we begin to win the war against suicide. Instead of only trying desperately to medicate away the intrusive symptoms and talk about it, we need to begin in the mind and the body and the soul. These thoughts, the way our bodies react to these destructive thoughts, and the damage in our souls as a result of accepting these lies as truth, create more pain than what we are already struggling with because of our past.

Fractured God

Medications and bringing others into your struggle can be important components of getting your life back. But they are not the only thing needed, yet often where most treatment stops. We have to look at how the pain and trauma from our past has fragmented or destroyed our identity in Christ and our relationship with God. When life is incredibly hard, when the trauma never stops, and the suffering seems to come in inescapable waves, you can keep your head above water and survive if you hold onto your identity and relationship with God. When you accept separation and fractures in how you see God and how you see yourself in relation to Him, that’s when the deadly hopelessness becomes inescapable. If you have hope in something beyond this life, you can face anything. But when you lose that or choose to hold onto your anger with God over what you’re struggling with, you can begin to truly believe you will never be free again.

Trauma not only destroys our minds and bodies. It also fragments our souls and our connection to God. Acknowledging the spiritual pain and working through that as well as the physical and mental consequences of trauma, will give you the hope you need to make it through the healing journey you’re on.

Suicide is never the solution to the pain. Suffering always has an end in this life. Even if it’s not what we want or how we want it to end, it does. Whether that’s because we remove ourselves from the circumstances, or we are able to change our perspectives and address our trauma, the pain will end in this life. Suicide does nothing more than remove your ability to experience healing and leave behind your pain for others to deal with. Those who have survived a suicide attempt almost always say the same thing: that as soon as they pulled the trigger, jumped, whatever, they regretted their decision. They all had a moment of clarity after they acted on their suicidal thoughts. This means that those who do not survive have the same moment of clarity and regret, but were not able to change their minds anymore.

Having suicidal thoughts is NOT part of normal every day life. It is a huge red flag that something is really wrong and you need to get help immediately. It’s not something that you need to be ashamed of, it’s a consequence of surviving hell and not having a safe place to heal. But it’s up to you, and only you, to decide that you want to live no matter what. No one will be able to rescue you from this hopelessness but God and you. Choose life, even when life is hard. You will always come out the other side free and grateful that you chose life. Our thoughts and feelings are not facts. They are illusions, usually unhealthy reactions to our pain that brings us more suffering not freedom.

The beauty is that we are more than capable of stopping our hopeless thoughts from taking hold and destroying our lives. But it requires a choice to fight and stay alive, to not entertain any thoughts of death, and to surrender to where you are so that you can get to where you’re meant to be.

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS REACH OUT HERE or call 911 and get help. Don’t choose a permanent solution to a temporary pain. Choose to live no matter what and you will find hope again.

The Poison that Destroys

Harboring the chains of our hurt

When we have been wronged we rightly feel pain. The damage inflicted on us by the evil and selfish behaviors of others is real. It’s palpable and raw. Confusing and disorienting. This is how we are supposed to respond instinctively when we have been threatened and hurt. Our minds, bodies, and souls were created with the ability to respond to pain, emotional or physical, in a way that allows us to process and heal as quickly as possible. This system is often hijacked by a lack of support, validation, and numerous other external and internal factors. But the fact remains, that we are still programmed to respond and move on, not get stuck. But so often, we come out of trauma stuck as a victim and not living as a conqueror.

Stuck

One of the things that keeps us from being able to move forward in our lives, is how we tend to hold on to the hurt. I’m not talking about the expected scars and other damage that comes from surviving trauma, but of the way our minds adapt in an effort to “protect” us. When we have been hurt in such a way that the damage goes deeper than we can imagine, our minds want to do whatever it can to keep us alert so that we don’t ever experience that pain again. Unimaginable and gut-wrenching pain is not so easily processed and healed. But we can add layers to that already difficult process by choosing to identify with or replay the trauma, and holding on to the past.

I think that in part, we do this because we want justice. We want to see that the person that has hurt us will eventually feel the same pain that they have caused. In short, we want revenge on those who have destroyed our lives as we knew them. In the same way that we have been forced to reconcile who we were before to who we are now, we want them to suffer so it’s not just us. It is incredibly unfair that the people that cause us the most pain, often never experience the reality of that pain themselves. That we are the ones left picking up the pieces of our lives trying to heal, while they move on, in most cases, completely unaffected by their sin. In that accurate sense of it being unfair, we naturally want to right that wrong done to us. The problem is we go about doing that in a way that causes no damage to the perpetrators but immense damage to ourselves.

The Poison of Holding On

Romans 14:12 tells us, on the day of judgement, we will ALL have to give an account of ourselves to God. What does this mean for survivors of trauma? It means that we are responsible for our own actions, not those of others. We will never be held accountable before God because of what others did to us. That those who have hurt us will ALL have to come before God and try and explain the pain they’ve caused to us. But further, they will also be judged and punished for the evil that was done. I don’t know about you, but the idea of standing before the God of the universe, the sovereign over all, and trying to rationalize why they hurt us, kind of makes me feel better. However, in the same way, so will we have to explain our choices and responses to the evils we experience.

When we have been wronged, no matter how horrific the trauma and pain is, we all have to choose what to do with that pain. We have basically two choices in this. We can choose to forgive and let them go, or we can choose to obsess over them and the damage they’ve done. Let me explain.

One of the most deadly chains that keep us bound, is the powerful chain that weaves unforgiveness, hatred, bitterness, and resentment together. While we are absolutely justified in feeling anger, betrayal, and hurt when we are traumatized, we don’t need to stay there. The reason anger is part of grief, is because it’s a step, not an encampment. When we choose to harbor and cling to our “right” to feel that way, we are doing nothing to the person who caused the harm. They don’t care, usually. While we can be angry and hurt by what happened, we shouldn’t stay that way. The poison of harboring these destructive emotions causes immense damage to our own mind, body, and soul. In addition to what was done to us.

Alternately, we can choose to be free. Choosing forgiveness, allowing ourselves to let go of the anger and pain we rightly feel in response, cleanses us from that poison. Here is where most people get stuck. In the misguided belief that to forgive those who have hurt us means that they “got away” with whatever they did. We can convince ourselves that if we aren’t angry or hurt all the time, then we and everyone else will forget the harm that was done to us. That if we just hold onto the anger, hatred, bitterness, and resentment, then we are somehow holding them accountable for their sin.

But this isn’t what forgiveness is. At all. Forgiveness is letting yourself let them go. Meaning that, when you choose to forgive, you are no longer letting them control you today. You are not allowing your past hurts to dictate how you live in the present. You are taking away the valuable space in your mind, body, and soul, from the evil that shattered you, and giving it back to yourself to fill up with life again. When we hold on and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us to the depths of our souls, we are giving them permission to stay in our lives. Forgiveness kicks them out of our lives, and allows us to be free from their strangle hold.

Freedom or Control

Ultimately, we have to decide how we want to live our lives. Do we want to be chained to the people and events that traumatized us, or do we want to be free from them? Do we allow these people, their evil choices, and the destruction they caused to take up residence in our lives, or do we evict them permanently? We aren’t always meant to completely remove from our lives those who have hurt us (family, friends, relationships, etc.). But sometimes we are. The only way we can get to the place where we are making choices that will lead us to freedom and the life we are supposed to live, is to forgive those who have hurt us and let God deal with them. This frees our minds to move us to where we need to be, instead of keeping us tethered to a past we were never meant to live.

Will you choose the courage to forgive those who have hurt you and break free from their control over you? Or will you choose to harbor the “right” to feel angry, bitter, hate, and resentment because of what they’ve done to you? The choice is yours, but personally, I prefer life to death. I choose to remove their control over my life today so that I can be who I want and who I am meant to be. This is a daily, sometimes hourly if I’m honest, decision to consciously forgive. It doesn’t mean that what happened isn’t important and that you are not still struggling to heal from the wounds they’ve inflicted. But it does mean that when you pursue true healing, you will find yourself able to live without them being in your mind turning you back to the darkness.

Flee the Darkness

Trauma creates darkness. We step into our lives full of light. The lifeblood of hope and God flowing through our being. Looking into the future with eyes full of wonder and excitement, we begin to tentatively explore our world. Our senses come alive with the experience of newness, of discovery. Instinctively, we know that life is meant to be beautiful. That it’s meant to be full of light.

However, for many of us, this light and hopeful expectation of life, is quickly snuffed out. When we enter the world, and until we can reasonably take care of ourselves, we are wholly dependent on another human being to sustain our life. We trust that our needs will be met, that we will be safe. Until we’re not. The darkness slowly creeps into our lives or is ushered into it suddenly and with force.

Trauma. Pain. Hurt.

The Darkness Happens to Us, It Is Not Us

Depending on when we first experience the dark evil of this world, we can begin to believe the lie that we are the cause of our suffering. Children, until around age 8, believe that everything that happens to them or their loved ones, is because of them. That they are the cause of theirs and others suffering. What a horrible lie to internalize as a child! Slowly that light and hope begins to fade and the poison of the darkness seeps into our very beings. If we are not given adequate help in overcoming this darkness, we are left in the pain of what happened to us.

It takes many years and intentional healing for most people to overcome this basic, yet profound lie of the enemy. If the initial trauma we survived is compounded by further traumas, the darkness and the lie become ingrained in our cells, down to the DNA. Many times, people choose to decide that they ARE the darkness. They ARE the problem. That it’s easier and safer to embrace this lie then to fight it. We can grow up believing that we are worthless, broken, and that we deserve the bad that happens to us. Making the evil of another person replace our God given identities. Giving up on the life we were created to live.

Expose the Darkness, Don’t Embrace it

Ephesians 5:8-21, states, in paraphrase, that we used to belong to darkness, but now, as believers in Christ, we belong to the light. We are to have nothing to do with the deeds produced by darkness. That everything done in secret, will be exposed by the light. We are called to pay careful attention to how we choose to live our lives. Despite what we have suffered at the hands of others. If we are called to expose the darkness instead of becoming the darkness, then it must be possible to do it!

Many times, when we have embraced the trauma that was done to us, when it becomes our identity, we do anything we can to make that pain go away. Our intuition screams at us that we are not the thing we think we are, but we are beloved children of God. The fight between the identity of a victim or of what was done to you, and who you truly are, causes many to seek out ways to escape the conflict. Trauma survivors choose many ways to escape including addictions and becoming like the person who hurt them.

Life Come With the Light

Friends, this is NOT who we are supposed to be! It’s not how we are supposed to respond to the evil that is done to us! No! We are called and equipped to overcome the darkness and step into the light. Just because you have lived in darkness, either by your own choice to embrace it or due to other’s actions, doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Jesus did not die for us and rise from the grave so that we could stay in the tombs created for us by trauma!

He has called us out of the darkness, out of the trauma, out of the false identity placed on us by trauma! We are meant to expose those evil men/women and behaviors that continue to perpetrate the darkness against the innocent!

This is part of the reason the enemy wants us to stay locked in the darkness he created in our lives. If we do not step out of the trauma and into the light of Christ, we won’t speak against the evil happening in our world. When we are so stuck in the hurt caused by what we never asked for nor deserve, we can’t speak the truth. Step out of your darkness today. What happened to you, is not your fault. However, choosing to embrace the darkness and live in that darkness rather than a life that is full and whole, is your fault. The battle to fight back the darkness is hard. But it’s a battle that we’ve already won in Jesus.

Be the one that speaks light into the dark. Expose the deeds and persons who are intentionally hurting innocents. Do not let anyone force your silence when you shine that spotlight. Make it harder for the dark to hide. Save your own and someone else’s life! Be the voice for those who don’t have one yet. Speak up. Speak out.

The Heart’s Cry

Releasing Yourself From the Burden of Silence

We Have Permission to Lose Control

Lamentations 2:19 tells us to “Arise, cry out in the night…pour out our hearts like water before the presence of the Lord.”

We are literally told to cry out in anguish, to scream and shout as if an intruder is invading our camp in the night. There is such power and truth in those moments of raw pain and anger. Releasing all the barriers we’ve put up to keep those emotions hidden, releases us. Yet we resist. We allow society, religion, and others around us, to tell us how to handle our grief and suffering, instead of seeking God’s truth.

How many of us have been told that we can’t be angry with God? That we can’t scream and question and yell at the one who created us? That we should be content and have joy in our suffering, every time? Often the scripture that talks about the clay challenging the potter is a favorite quote. I’ve repeatedly been told, or it’s been insinuated, that my anger, my grief, my pain, is wrong. That expressing grief and hurt like I do is too much. That if I just “gain perspective” about my suffering I will be able to just move on. In reality, the deepest pain that we can endure, the brokenness that shatters our soul, can’t be kept silent without causing us harm.

The people who say these things, often, do not mean to hurt us. People who are regurgitating what they’ve been told or are genuinely afraid of their own extreme emotions, are rarely trying to hurt us. When someone is afraid of dealing with their own pain, they tend to shame those who aren’t and attempt to shut down others’ expressions of pain as well. These are people we love, or that we look to for guidance and help. Reaching out for help and being are shut down and shamed for our pain stops the grieving process that sets us free!

No, we are not meant to hold in and silence our pain. The Bible literally gives us permission to come before God in anguish. With screams and hurt that can only be verbalized in groans. We have God’s permission to come before Him no matter where we are in our mind, body, soul, and spirit. So why would anyone else’s opinions on this matter? If God says come, shouldn’t we come? Ask yourself if you are free to cry out to God. If not, ask yourself why.

Why Should I Stay Silent When All I Want Is to Scream?

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been hurt beyond my ability to “handle it,” it’s almost as if the pain takes on a life of its own. Being still and quiet is not the way my mind, body, and soul express pain. I was created to be animated, passionate, and unwavering in how I pursue my life. In my pain and suffering, that doesn’t change. The idea that I am required to go against my nature, to violate the way God created me to express myself, is actually an invitation into sin. When we go against who we are meant to be, we are saying God made a mistake, and we “shouldn’t” be this way. And usually, if I’ve gone silent, it’s not a good thing for anyone, especially if you’re the one who has caused the pain…

Why, if we are supposed to be silent in our pain, does God tell us that “when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit cries out in groans that we cannot understand?” If the Holy Spirit cries out in groans, I’m pretty sure that we should be able to do the same thing. We are, after all, made in the image of the Triune God. The Bible is full of examples of individuals (Jeremiah the weeping prophet and King David anyone?), including Christ Himself, pouring out their tears before the altar of God’s throne.

Beyond that, why would anyone demand that we not express our pain and hurt before God? We are supposed to bring our anxieties, cares, and hurts before the loving God who is the only One who will ever truly know us. Relationships require us to interact with God, it’s one of the reasons we exist in the first place. How will we ever allow God to meet our needs and bring us comfort and peace beyond our ability, if we never release all the hurt and pain that is creating the walls around our heart? As believers, we have to begin questioning the intention and scriptural validity of what we are being told to do. We have the Holy Spirit for a reason. Part of the reason is so that we can hear that “still small voice” telling us something isn’t in line with God.

What is Really Happening When Silence is Demanded

Forcing someone to stay silent when their physical body cannot hold in the sounds of pain, is a form of torture and control. It’s what predators do to their victims…force them to stay silent. If we look at the way pain and suffering is handled within this society and within the churches, we see this same systematic silencing of victims, especially women and children. Women and children who take a chance to go to church leadership, law enforcement, or anyone who is in a position to help them, are often left shamed and re-victimized. And men are rarely allowed to experience suffering beyond expressions of anger. No wonder our society is full of suffering and pain! Imagine what would happen if everyone was able to feel what they need to feel without shame?

When you are not allowed to speak about and confess your pain and hurt, when you are forced to stay silent, the pain of that makes whatever you are going through exponentially worse. While not everyone tries to silence you out of a desire to hurt you, the end purpose is always to control you. To change what you need, to match what they want or believe. All the more why we should allow ourselves permission to come before the throne of God and be as loud as needed to release the pain inside us.

God did not create us to remain silent in our pain. There are numerous examples in scripture where Holy men and women, the disciples, and Jesus Himself, cry out in anguish over what is happening. When we learn that Jesus is in such anguish over what He has to do that He is literally sweating blood, how can anyone tell us that we can’t feel the same intense pain? Christ was called a “man of sorrows” for a reason. While He did not STAY crying out in pain and suffering, He absolutely grieved when it was needed to cleanse and refocus. He regularly withdrew to pray and commune with God. It is ridiculous to believe that Jesus did not include cries of His heart in his communion with His Father.

Freedom Comes When We Honor That Part of Us Hurting and Needing Release

Often times we get stuck in a cycle of grieving because we don’t allow ourselves to grieve as we need to. We look to the advice of others because we do not believe what we know we need to do. Many times, we are so afraid that if we open the door to truly pour out every ounce of anguish and bitterness in our soul, we will stay there. When in truth, refusing to release the pain you are feeling, internalizing it and silencing your heart’s cry, is the thing that keeps you where you don’t want to be. Repeating lessons and pain in different areas of your life, is God’s call to you to fully open yourself up to Him. God is calling to you from the depths of your pain and hurt, waiting for you to turn to Him and let Him comfort and redeem your pain.

Jesus is the Great Comforter and our Healer. He redeems what has been taken from our lives in ways we can’t possibly imagine. But we have to let Him in so that He can move in our lives. Trying to control your pain, to “stay strong” or comparing your suffering to others, prevents God from being able to move. God will never force Himself or His will upon us. He offers what He has promised, and we get to choose to let Him in.

If you are in physical, emotional, and spiritual pain as a result of trauma and the things of this broken world, why are you holding on to it? Instead of begging God to change whatever it is or getting angry when He doesn’t do want you want Him to, why not try a true heart cry? Give yourself permission to say whatever you need to, in whatever way you want, to the God who sees you. Give God everything that hurts then be still and let Him fill you and comfort you!

Some of the biggest turning points in my own healing have come from these gut-wrenching, guttural cries from the depths of my wounded heart. God is waiting for you to let Him in. Cry out to Him today, and release the “control” you have created to not feel the pain. When you pour yourself out before God, I promise you He won’t let you stay there, and He will fill you up in ways you never knew you needed.

Invisible Wounds Still Bleed

The Pain is Real

Surviving trauma causes real and significant changes to your mind, body, and soul. If you were physically injured during your trauma(s), then you are fully aware of how the pain you experience is very real. When you have these injuries, the expectation that you will feel pain is accepted by everyone. But what happens when you escape your trauma without physically visible injuries? The same thing that happens when you have physical injuries. Adult trauma, chronic stress and childhood trauma, causes systemic changes within the body. The resulting cortisol and hormonal imbalances and systemic inflammation (which can penetrate the barrier between the brain and the rest of the bodies blood), when left untreated, will cause physical symptoms and damage to your body. This can lead to cardiovascular problems, autoimmune disorders, cancer, and obesity, for example.

Survivors of trauma with invisible wounds, already know that their pain is not just emotional. Ask anyone who has survived, what happened in their bodies after the event, and almost every one of us will tell you that it caused physical pain. Have you ever had that feeling where you were grieving something so deeply that it physically hurt to breathe? Where you could feel the pain of the grief as you were bent over sobbing? Then you have experienced this reality. But ask almost any medical or health professional what happens to “uninjured” survivors, and they will give a very different answer. Research has now begun to show, however, that toxic and chronic stress, childhood and adult trauma, increase the chances of developing an autoimmune disorder and other physical disorders. Research has yet to find a causal relationship between trauma, PTSD, etc. and autoimmune disorders, but I believe that its only just a matter of time.

Soon after surviving the Columbine Massacre, I noticed the widespread pain, fatigue, confusion, dizziness, and many other physical symptoms. For years, I tried to find answers and help from medical and mental health professionals. They told me repeatedly that it’s “all in my head,” and I realized that I was going to have to figure out what was wrong on my own. That began my quest for answers and healing that led me to the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, sleep, cognitive, and mood dysregulation. I finally had a name, but not many people 20 years ago accepted fibromyalgia as a legitimate disorder. Even fewer had any idea, beyond narcotics and antidepressants, on how to treat it. Fibromyalgia, like other autoimmune disorders, have no cure. The only option for relief, is effective and life-long treatment.

Why Does it Hurt?

You will feel physical pain and emotional pain in similar ways within the body. This is because the same region and pathways in the brain that respond to physical pain, also respond to emotional pain (trauma). Interestingly, this same study showed a lessening of emotional pain when using Tylenol in response to the physical pain. This is just one of the current ways of understanding the way trauma causes physical pain. When the fight or flight system activates, a flood of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline courses through your body. The rush of chemicals propels your body to respond to the threat in whatever way is needed. Normally, these hormones return to the levels they were before the event. In those who develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and those in chronic trauma and toxic stress situations, this doesn’t happen. Instead, your body is continually flooded with these hormones, causing a toxic internal environment as well. This chronic overexposure leads to physiological changes (such as structural and functional changes in your brain) and systemic inflammation.

Our minds, bodies, and souls are intimately connected. They are inseparable. When trauma and injury occurs in one, all are affected. Because every single cell in our bodies is connected to each other and the nervous system, we can and will physically feel psychological pain, eventually. When you break a bone, you know where it is and the pain is immediately recognized as coming from that body part. With emotional pain, many times the physical pain is in the same area where your body was unable to discharge the trauma energy. For example, if you wanted to fight back but your body made you freeze or comply instead, you may experience physical pain in your muscles from not being able to fight. If you wanted to scream but were unable to, you may experience issues with your throat, vocal cords, and lungs.

If we are willing to accept that everything is connected to each other, maybe we can begin to better understand the pain we have that seems unexplainable. In fact, this is a critical component to healing from trauma. Experiencing the event in your body, emotions, and soul, lets you get rid of the toxic energy, hormones, etc. that are being stored in your body. In essence, you have to feel it to heal it.

Why “Normal” Doesn’t Always Work

When we experience physical pain or physical symptoms, often the first thing we do is go to a medical doctor for help. Many times this is beneficial to rule out any serious concerns and, if possible, to get a diagnosis and make the unknown, known. Things become frustrating when you begin to treat the physical issue and you find that what is prescribed doesn’t really work. Medical doctors typically give medications to treat an ailment. While medications can be extremely beneficial in beginning the healing process, they do not address the underlying reason for the pain. Most western medical professionals do not acknowledge the interconnectedness of our mind, body, and souls, and therefore fail to see a reason to look beyond treating the symptoms.

If you want true and complete healing, you have to look beyond the symptoms and attack the root. When we focus on “getting rid” of a symptom that is disrupting our lives and causing pain, we miss the opportunity to heal the reason for them and to achieve freedom from the symptoms. I have found that rarely do medications work to fully treat the symptoms of stuck trauma being expressed in your body. Often the medications work to numb you out rather than stop the symptoms. If you are told there’s “no medical reason” for your symptoms, if you are “treatment resistant” to traditional methods of healing, you are likely fighting against unhealed trauma. Unhealed trauma does not go away on its own. You will continue to suffer until you heal that root of trauma in your life.

While you are on your journey to heal and repair the damage done by the trauma you survived, there are many things you can do to address your physical pain as well. I have found that a combination of “traditional” and alternative medicine works the best. There are times when the pain is so bad, or the symptoms so dangerous, that medicine is necessary. But I also know that treatments such as massage therapy, acupuncture, biofeedback, brainspotting, prayer, and Godly energy work (such as Splankna), are powerful in helping your mind, body, and soul heal. In fact, these are the treatments that have provided the most relief from pain in my life.

Regardless of where in your body your unhealed trauma is manifesting, it’s important to realize that its unhealed trauma, not necessarily a purely physical problem. By all means, seek relief from the physical pain and other physical dysfunctions. That is an incredibly healthy decision to begin your healing journey. But don’t stop there. Many people are content with some relief from the physical symptoms and never give themselves the chance to fully heal. Choose true freedom over temporary relief. The process of true freedom is harder than temporary relief, but it is permanent freedom. True freedom is better than simply medicating away the problem. Choose a life healed and whole and step into who you can be, instead of who your trauma wants you to be.

Take A Stand

Defiantly facing the threats in your life

Threats seem to be a constant presence in our everyday lives. Everything from the threat of failing to achieve your goals to the threat of violence and loss of freedom. The onslaught of these daily threats can overwhelm our internal system, and we no longer know how to face them. When we are afraid and overwhelmed, the survival brain overtakes our ability to think, rationalize, and make the right decisions beyond what we need to do for survival. This can keep us from moving. From standing against the things that threaten us. It can stop us from living our lives. But we can change that. We can choose to acknowledge the fear and the threats and learn how to stand.

Preparing for Battle

In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 4 the Israelites were facing similar threats and opposition to what we see today. Those in charge in neighboring towns were jealous and afraid of them rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They wanted to control this group of autonomous people who submitted to God’s authority and not theirs. They conspired together to intimidate, threaten, and plan violence and destruction against them. Solely because of their selfishness and pride. The response of the Israelites is what inspired me to write about the idea of defiantly facing down the threats in our lives.

The Israelites had a leader, Nehemiah, who encouraged them to not be afraid and continue to do as God commanded them. Despite the opposition and threats. But he did not stop there. He acknowledged the threats, he accepted the truth that the individuals threatening them were not just “talking” but would carry them out given the chance. In light of the veracity of these threats, Nehemiah took half his men, stationed them around the city, armed them, and charged them with protecting the workers and the women and children living there. Additionally, he armed every male in the town, and they “worked with one hand, while carry their sword in the other.”

Instead of stopping in fear or for the sake of “compliance with authority,” they continued to do what God told them to do. They did so while being armed and ready for battle, should it come. They took a stand against these domestic enemies, readied themselves for battle, and continued to live their life as they were meant to.

Acknowledge and Identify the Enemies

When I see everything that is happening in our country and in the world right now, I see so many people kneeling in fear. People are willingly giving in to tyranny and evil. They are choosing to try and “comply” with unreasonable and dangerous demands from unstable and immoral people, instead of standing in our authority in Christ. Even believers, the elect and chosen, are falling into this trap and choosing to believe Satan’s lies and manipulation instead of believing in God’s word.

How can we stand, if we don’t acknowledge who the enemy is? How can we defend our families, our freedoms, and our authority in Christ, if we refuse to believe that we need to do that? Society screams “tolerance,” “for the greater good,” and calls evil by many names. The enemy has convinced so many people that to disagree, to present unbiased facts and evidence, and to not join in the panic, fear, and “righteous anger” is selfish, racists, dangerous, and must be stopped. Nothing in scripture agrees with this. There is no scriptural basis for tolerance, ignoring God’s commands for the “greater good” and evil is identified only as evil. There are direct contradictions to living this way throughout scripture, yet people are unwilling to stand out.

The enemy that threatens us are these lies that manipulate and create fear and those who act on them. Horrible things happen in this fallen and broken world. Selfishness, genuine entitlement, and pride, cause evil to reign in men’s hearts. However, we don’t have to be afraid of these threats. God commands us repeatedly in scripture to “fear not, be courageous, stand against the enemy, stand tall.” We are not meant to stop living our lives, to blindly comply with tyranny and immorality, or to “take a knee and bow” before ANYONE but God.

The threats and opposition against people who choose to go against society are real, and they can be intimidating. That does not mean we have to stop living our lives, pursuing our callings, or following God’s commands (to gather in worship, to stand against the enemy, for example). In fact, God tells us to take up arms and fight. We are commanded to stand and face these enemies. We are told directly and through illustration, to arm ourselves, physically and spiritually.

We are not told to blindly submit to authority. Submission to authority in scripture is consistent, as long as it does not violate God’s word. We are given numerous examples in scripture of the Israelites and Jesus defying the “authorities” in order to do what is right and honoring to God, however.

Stand Up and Stand Out

The modern church is so focused on not standing out. Leadership speaks about submission, compassion, and love (all of which are good), but fails to speak about God’s wrath, the need to and how to prepare for and wage battle, and how to stand against those people and things that dishonor God. We are a weak church, and the events of this year have illuminated that lukewarm faith and fear that has spread like yeast in God’s people. The churches in China, Iran, North Korea, and other communist countries, would never do what the American church has. Their people know oppression. They know violence. They believe in the threats leveled against them. But they believe in their God more. They know that they must defiantly stand against the immoral and tyrannical mandates to follow God, or they won’t stand at all.

It is time for us, as believers, and as Americans, to stop taking a knee, bowing, and blindly complying with what is happening in our culture. We must take a stand against ALL enemies and threats while living our lives and following God’s purpose for us. We cannot let evil of any kind, be it racism, violence, abortion, sexual immorality, abuse, or pride, continue unopposed. We have to choose to acknowledge the reality of these threats and stand to face them. We rely on God to fight our battles, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and just wait for him to work.

The Israelites knew this. They armed themselves, prepared for the battle, and trusted God to avenge them. They didn’t stop their work. They didn’t stop doing what they were meant to do. They didn’t stop living because of fear.

It’s time for us to do the same. Arm yourself, physically and spiritually, prepare to enter the battle that is already coming against us, and trust God to go ahead of you. Stop living in fear. Stop blindly complying and apologizing for things you’re not responsible for. Stand in our identity and authority in Christ and live your life as you were meant to.

Safety, Hope, and the Onsite Foundation

What does hope look like? What does it mean to feel safe for the first time in your life? How can these things create an environment where you can truly begin to heal from the traumas that have shaped the landscape of your life?

An Unforseen Opportunity

At the beginning of March, I had a unique and unparalleled opportunity to attend a workshop addressing the trauma of being a mass shooting survivor. This was an opportunity I never had after surviving the Columbine Massacre in 1999. Another survivor spoke to me about the program, and I will admit, my first instinct was to see how I could help. I am a trauma specialist after all, it made sense for me to want to come alongside a program specifically aimed at mass shooting survivors. I inquired into coming on board with the program and then thought nothing more about it.

Funny how the things we avoid tend to assert themselves even stronger. The phrase “what we resist, persists” is very fitting. Being someone who has consistently avoided many things surrounding the Columbine Massacre even to this day, the idea of opening up that wound again was not appealing. I’ve always done the work, but also held a lot at arms length. I did not “want to go there” so many times that I convinced myself that I didn’t need to.

When my friend got back to me about joining the foundation, they were excited about the opportunity I presented, but everyone they work with has to go through the program first. If I wanted to help, I needed to travel this healing path myself.

What I Didn’t Know

Into the Unknown

When I said yes to the process of attending the program, I had no idea what I was really saying yes to. I did all the research I could on the Onsite Foundation and the Triumph over Tragedy Program (TOT) offered. The part of the program that appealed to me the most was the idea of having 7 glorious days of uninterrupted me time. Healing from whatever God brought me to. The fact that the setting for the program in Cumberland Furnace, TN, a 250 acre property that is beyond idyllic and serene, didn’t hurt either.

It was the second day of the program that I begin to feel the strong, visceral resistance to the work. I did not want to experience the pain. The crux of the program is somatic experiencing. Your body knows how to heal itself, but we get in the way. In order to heal from the pain, you have to grieve what happened. It’s not possible to break free from the past if you are unwilling to experience the strong emotions and responses associated with your traumas.

Apparently, I also developed a strong inclination and ability to not really feel what trauma had done in my mind and body. This was the cause of my strong resistance to the work. But I had chosen to embrace this opportunity no matter what God asked me to do.

Taking a deep breath and choosing to dive into the unknown, I experienced something I’ve never experienced before. Safety, a sense of truly being safe in a place and with the people in my group. We became a family. Bonded by tragedy, strengthened by the process of being known and seen, and not judged or devalued.

A sense of safety, being fully known and seen, created the exact environment needed for healing. Experiencing that I can feel the emotions and not die or get stuck in them, opened up the door to healing I didn’t know I had shut.

Reconnecting Me To Me

Our minds and bodies are intricately intertwined. Trauma breaks that connection between our mind and body. Our mind or our body is loudly screaming at us that something is not right, but we don’t always get that message the right way. The tendency to seek out medical help for physiological symptoms such as digestive issues, chronic pain, autoimmune, and other physiological concerns, is a consequence of this disconnection.

Your body will always remember what your mind forgets.

Our signals get crossed, and we don’t relate the onset of these physiological symptoms with a traumatic event. The rational mind can’t make sense of what the body is feeling because it is stuck in a memory loop of our trauma. A loop driven by the primal, unthinking, part of the brain.

Your mind will always be working to try to resolve your stuck trauma. It will cause you to remember in whatever way it can so that you can heal. Many times this is what triggers panic, anxiety, irrational fear, paranoia, and vivid nightmares. A key indicator of unhealed trauma is whether you still respond strongly to the events or memories of them.

This disconnect between mind and body is the focus of somatic experiencing. The goal being to reconnect us to ourselves. When we are connected, we can heal. If we are dissociated from ourselves, we stay stuck in trauma. We live in the past, in the present.

Goals

Onsite is the first program of its kind and it is incredibly unique and effective. Through the somatic experiencing process, the incredible knowledge of the group leaders and educators, I left with a new perspective on my trauma.

The goal at Onsite is NOT complete and total healing. The expectation of complete healing in a week would cause immense shame and further trauma because no one would get there. The goal is a 1-2 degree change. The illustration of a pilot is helpful. If a pilot shifted his course by 1-2 degrees he’d end up in a completely different and unexpected place.

So it is with us. 1-2 degrees of change will alter the trajectory of our lives.

Changing course

Being able to embrace the knowledge I already had as the truth for myself as well as everyone else, set me free to experience change. Realizing that the parts of me that I was so determined to eradicate are not my enemy and meant to protect me, let me see my pain for what it is.

Moving Forward

After this week, I came home to shut-down and shelter in place orders. I was thrust from a safe, healing environment, into toxic chaos and lack of control. The transition was extremely hard, and I am still learning and recovering from the abrupt change. Because of the work I did at Onsite, I am able to navigate this chaos in a very different way.

I am stronger. I am healthier. I am still on that healing journey.

The process began that week, and I am continuing it now. Healing from trauma is complicated, messy, hard, painful, and takes time. Instant, magic pills, do not exist. Trauma does not simply go away. Your body and mind will always try to force you to stop ignoring the trauma and heal.

Embrace the bad with the good. Realize that you are interacting with the world through the lens of your trauma response. Believe that you can heal. Then take the next step forward on your journey to freedom.

More

This morning as I was doing my quiet time and reflecting on this week’s sermon, I realized that I want more. I want more than the daily cycle of fear, disappointment, confusion, praying for change and healing. The never ending battle between my heart and my reality. I need more. God tells us that Jesus came to this world so we can live an abundant life. That is not only when we reach glory! God wants us to be free and have abundant life NOW!

The quest for abundant life is one that we all travel for most of our lives. That desire for things to just be ok. Wanting the downpour of life to stop or to at least be able to grab an umbrella and not get drenched. Reflecting on why life seems so hard all the time, I am beginning to understand that it’s not life, but how I respond to life that creates the perception of how hard it is. God tells us that in this world, this fallen and broken world, we WILL have trouble. God never tells us that once we place our faith in Him that life will be easy. The exact opposite, actually. The more we pursue God, the more the enemy will try and destroy us.

We should not be surprised when hard things in life, trouble, pain, heartbreak, illness, etc. come into our lives. But what does that mean for us? I’m in a season in life where everything is hard. It seems that I can never catch a break with the hard, the painful, the scary, the disappointing parts of this life. I was reflecting on the passage in 1 Kings 3:5-15, the passage where Solomon, as King, is visited by the Lord. In this passage, God asks Solomon what he wants more than anything. Solomon could have asked God for anything his fleshly heart desired, but instead, he asks God for wisdom.

Wisdom. I’ve read this passage numerous times, and this is the first time it really struck me that Solomon, who was the wisest, richest, and most highly regarded King, asked for wisdom. Most of us know that wisdom is the ability to make correct, sound decisions and judgments, but what if the wisdom from God is more than that? What really struck me is that with wisdom, life doesn’t change, but our ability to make sound, righteous, and Godly decisions about how we respond to the things in our lives, does.

We will never be able to change the way our lives come at us. We pray and invite God into our lives, we pray for protection, and God always shows up in that. However, because we live in a sinful, fallen world, we will never escape the consequences of others or our own destructive choices, completely. With that knowledge and my own life experiences of trauma and pain, I decided to start asking God for wisdom.

As much as I would like God to keep me from any more pain and hardship in my life, I know that’s not realistic. So I would like the wisdom and discernment to make the right decisions within the storms of life. When the tsunami waves of pain and fear come crashing into my world, I want the wisdom to know what to do in those moments. When I pursue wisdom, when I invite the Holy Spirit into every moment of my life, I will be able to protect myself and my family from many of the traumas we aren’t meant to go through. More than that though, I will be able to navigate the aftermath of whatever we do experience and begin responding differently.

When I respond to what this life brings with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t make the pain go away, but it lets me see things from an eternal perspective instead of a temporary, human perspective. More than anything else, I want the wisdom to know how to navigate life, and how to lead others the same way.

I wrote this in response to my reflections this week:

More than riches
More than fame
More than success

I want wisdom
A discerning heart
To make the right choice
Between right and wrong

More than love
More than restoration
More than healing

I want wisdom
A discerning heart
To choose correctly
Between right and wrong

I want a discerning mind
A heart that can know
Which way to move

A heart of wisdom
Free from fear and doubt

Give me the heart and mind of
Solomon, who served You
Who led your people home

More than anything I want wisdom
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