BY SAMANTHA STRADER @ The Cypress Counseling Group
“Trauma” was a word that was hard for me to use for a long time. It seemed very big and very heavy, something reserved for WWII vets and refugees of war torn countries. While those things definitely count as trauma, I’ve also come to understand the word in a much more intimate and nuanced way. I define “trauma” as anything that rips the carpet out from under our feet, anything that shatters our hope and belief that the world is a good and safe place. These experiences inherently make us feel isolated, ashamed, and unsafe in a dangerous world. So it makes sense that people respond with things like being hyper-vigilant and untrusting of others. These are ways that our minds and bodies try to protect us from such a wound ever happening again. But the trade-off is that a lot of time is spent being exhausted, lonely, angry, or afraid. All of these feelings and responses are normal, and valid; they are part of our authentic truth.
And they are not our whole truth! There is also radical hope. Radical hope is not an eyes-closed denial of the truth, or even an assertion that “everything will work out for the best”. Instead, it is accepting that change is inevitable, and the way things are today is not the way they will be forever. Rebecca Solnit says in her book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, “I believe in hope as an act of defiance, or rather as the foundation for a series of ongoing acts of defiance…There is no alternative, except surrender.”
Radical hope is made of resilience in the face of loss, not innocence and naivety, or even faith. It is a deliberate choice, an act of courage.
The truth is, there is no “going back” to before a traumatic experience. We are changed by our experiences. But, we have a way forward, and a big say in how we decide to be changed. There’s a reason there are so many metaphors and myths of heroes striding through fire, and what makes them heroes is not that they come out unscathed, but that they are transformed, stronger than before. We can be the hero, or heroine, of our own story. When we know that the future is ours to create, we shoulder the burden and the freedom of radical hope.
A life worth living is possible, one with joy and celebration, open and safe relationships with others, and peace.
That future requires us to show up, to do the work, and to choose the defiance of radical hope.