Speaking the unspeakable
No matter how plain sailing a person’s life may appear, every one of us has experienced something that has worried us, upset us, hurt us or outright terrified us. Some of these experiences may seem irrelevant and some may be significant. It is the significant ones that can impact on who we are as a person and how we relate to others. This doesn’t necessarily mean these significant experiences will have a negative impact on our lives, but experiences that have been particularly distressing or traumatic are more likely to cause problems.
But what do we mean by traumatic experiences? Losing a loved one, surviving physical or sexual abuse, bullying, being in a severe accident, witnessing an atrocity, having a partner betray us, childhood neglect, poverty… there are numerous things that happen to people that are traumatic. Some of these experiences are so traumatic that it can leave a person unable to live a healthy, fulfilling life. This is particularly true if they can never speak about and come to terms with what has happened to them.
Traumatic or upsetting experiences can feel like ghosts – they haunt us until they can address unfinished business. Revealing what haunts us though really isn’t easy. It takes courage, bravery and a willingness to trust – the things that many people who have been through trauma have lost. For example, why would a person who faced neglect as a child trust in someone, when the person who was meant to look after them didn’t? Or why would a person who has been domestically abused have courage, when they have constantly lived in fear of violence?
When trauma from the past is causing serious issues in a person’s life, something needs to be done about it. For instance, a person who experienced abuse as a child may display a lot of anger as an adult. They may therefore struggle to relate to loved ones or colleagues because of angry outbursts, which are a result of the pain they hold inside them because of what happened to them as a young person. Family life may suffer, and complaints about their aggressiveness at work may be made as a result of this anger. The trauma of the past is causing issues in the present.
Something that always fascinates me as a counsellor is just how resilient people are. Even people who have had to withstand horrendous experiences time and time again are still able to find the strength to come to counselling to address their trauma and how it impacts on their life. Counselling allows them to tell their story and we all have a story to tell.
Traumatic experiences are often viewed as the unspeakable stories, but these stories can and should be told. People who have experienced trauma often feel they won’t be believed or are ashamed at what has happened to them. Building a relationship with a counsellor means you will, with time, be able to trust in them, which makes talking about what happened to you that bit easier. You will be believed, you will not be judged, and you will finally be able to speak to unspeakable.
It takes time to deal with traumatic experiences, but people can and do move on with their lives in a positive way. They can become free of the burden they have had to carry around with them for so long when they have had their voice heard.