No matter how hard we try to create a world for ourselves that is rational, predictable, and under our control, things still go wrong. Reality is unpredictable and lacks regard for our feelings. Traumas, big and small, repeatedly interfere with our lives.
Life has played dirty tricks on most of us. We’ve felt inextinguishable and unbearable pain; tragedies have caught us by surprise. Such moments of suffering have shaken and disturbed us in ways we don’t fully grasp.
Wired for Survival—the Unconscious on the Defense
When something is unbearable, the mind has a survival mechanism that momentarily alleviates the suffering. When tragedy strikes, we repress and dissociate. And yet we’re able to survive by making tough situations bearable—at least momentarily.
Instinctively activated by our unconscious mind, we lose conscious awareness and control during such moments. In disconnecting, the emotional impact becomes inaccessible; the unbearable is closed off and left unexplored.
The more unresolved trauma we accumulate and the more intense it is, the more our unconscious mind dominates. We come to see ourselves and the world less clearly.
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Making Peace with Ourselves (and the World)
For whatever reason we were unable to take on the suffering back then; it’s not too late. For our trauma to be healed, we have to do that which we couldn’t do before—actively investigate the source of our pain. Now—later in life—we may feel more willing, and perhaps stronger, to take a hard look at it. Reliving our times of suffering in an exploratory, curious, and compassionate way can enable us to become whole and make peace with our reality.
This is what psychotherapy is all about. A therapeutic relationship in which we can place our complete trust provides a safe environment where we’re free to confront and dispel our demons.
The process admittedly takes a lot of courage. But what it takes most of all is a willingness to finally acknowledge and process that which we’ve most wanted to avoid. In regaining conscious awareness over the previously unexplored parts of our selves, we learn to relate to our pain in a far healthier way and obtain the freedom we’ve long been after.