In episode 3 of the Pint-Sized Healing Podcast , I spoke of the Personal Growth Paradox; the idea that we struggle to simultaneously feel the drive to improve ourselves while also loving ourselves with all our imperfections. In the podcast I say the following:
“I just want to learn better skills. I want to learn to be better at emotion regulation, at boundaries, at healthy self-expression, at trusting, at self care. These are all skills that you can learn. And I think that if you view healing more in terms of learning better skills–rather than trying to change who you are, or who you’ve become as a result of the traumatic events that happened in your life–then I think you can approach yourself with a lot more compassion.”
I often talk about healing from trauma in terms of learning because I think that is really what it boils down to. We learn to better understand our own story, and how it influenced (and still influences us). We learn to recognize our triggers, and we learn to respond to those triggers in better ways. We learn how to have a healthier relationship with the people we love, and most of all we learn how to have a better relationship with ourselves. We learn self-care, boundaries, and the list goes on. Yeah, basically you are enrolled in ‘Me 101’.
Personalize Your Healing
I—like many survivors—spend a fair bit of time considering what I had done to deserve the abuse that was dished out. What was so horrible about me that made me the scapegoat of the family? It took me a while to realize, but I learned that while abuse may be highly personalized, it is not personal. What do I mean by this? Well, it’s summed up in what I said in 5 Beliefs That Stalled My Healing:
“Nothing about the abuse was about me, absolutely nothing. Sure, if I had less objectionable toe nails (true story) she would have criticized… oh I don’t know, my earlobes. She would have found something to focus her toxicity on, as long as it meant not having to deal with her own demons.”
Just like your abuser tailored the abuse to fit your personality, your insecurities, and your circumstances, you can—and should— customize your healing to cater to your preferred learning styles and life circumstances.
How You Learn Best
We all learn in different ways and have our own preferences as to how information is presented to us. Some people take things in best when they read about it, some need to hear about it, and others have to learn in a hands-on way in order to take on the new skills and ideas they are a trying to absorb. In fact, we often want a combination of these input methods. Our learning styles are more complex than simply visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.
“The theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. It suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, is far too limited. Instead, Dr. Gardner proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These intelligences are:
- Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
- Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
- Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
- Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
- Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
- Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
- Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
- Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)”
(From Multiple Intelligences by The American Institute for Learning and Human Development)
Finding out where your preferences and talents lie, will help you find the type of healing activities and learning styles that suit you best.
The outcome of your multiple intelligences test may give you some ideas on how to get the most out of your healing. You don’t always have to stick to one method of learning, but looking at different ways of doing it will allow you to personalize your healing in the unique way that works for you. It does not even always have to be the way you take in information about healing, it can also be about the activities we do before, during and after learning about that information. If you score high on musical intelligence, you may want to try having some music on. If you score high on naturalist intelligence, you may find that going for a walk in nature just after reading an article will help you gain new insights.
Try Different People And Methods
Try getting input from various people, and try different healing techniques. The only way to find out what works for you, and what doesn’t, is by putting various methods to the test.
I often say: one size doesn’t fit everyone. The same is true for healing. There is not one path or strategy that will work for everybody (no matter what the sales pitches say). Read books and articles from various authors who specialize in different fields. Try meditation, EFT, or counseling. Do whatever you feel may help you.
There are two things I do recommend
- Connect with fellow survivors. They get it and can also suggest resources and techniques that you haven’t thought of.
- Write about it. Journaling about your healing will allow you to document your story and your journey. The latter will help you gain insight in the methods that have worked for you, and track how your insights have developed over time. This will not only make you a better student, but a better teacher to yourself, too.
Find Learning Ease
Remember the subjects in school that came most easily to you? Were those perhaps also the subjects that you looked forward to most? The ones where you did the homework gladly and looked forward to the lessons? When you are relaxed and eager to learn, you are going to pick up the skills and information far more easily and effectively. So lean into the feeling of ease. That does not mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself, but you can look into those aspects of healing that you feel naturally drawn to.
Aspects that fill us with fear and discouragement are likely to cause us distress. We may not yet be ready to face those particular facets of our trauma. So pushing ourselves through those feelings may cause us to create further damage; leaving us more traumatized, more frustrated, and less confident.