By Kate Fish, LMFT
When I recall the most transformational therapy sessions that I’ve experienced, there is a common theme across them all: Grace. In each of these sessions, I have witnessed a client re-narrate their story from a place of pain and shame into a story that gives them purpose and meaning. As popular speaker, author and Doctor of social work Brené Brown says, “Grace means that your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.” When clients enter therapy as many do, having experienced heartbreak and trauma, they are often looking for a way to blot out their history and simply forget about what has happened. Society has told them to stop looking back, or to forgive and forget. People in their lives want them to move on and get over the trauma. While these people are often good intentioned, this “leave the past behind you” mentality is simply not realistic.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
When Kara (not her real name) started therapy with me, she was tired of feeling anxious all the time and exhausted from re-living her painful past. She often worried excessively about the safety of her son and feared that he, too, could be a victim of abuse if she didn’t take every effort to protect him. But living in this wound-up, teed up state of mind left her irritable and made it hard for her to connect to others and enjoy her marriage. She entered therapy with a goal of “getting over” her trauma. When I asked her how she would feel after she “got over it,” she imagined being able to take her son to the park to play without her heart racing and maybe even play alongside him. She imagined sitting down at the end of the day and being able to enjoy a glass of wine with her husband while they discussed the bills without it turning into a fighting match.
Moving from Shame to Purpose
Throughout our sessions, Kara processed through her trauma, considering different facets of the narrative she recalled and identifying places when she inaccurately blamed herself for being a victim. She recognized the ways that her traumatic abuse, whether she intended to or not, forged a path for her to become an advocate for her patients in her job as a nurse. Because of her history, she developed an ability to see where others might be vulnerable and help them find safety. Kara also recognized that even if she wanted to, she could never forget about what happened to her, but she could accept that part of her story and allow it to motivate her and give her purpose. Although she had once felt ashamed and victimized by her trauma, she learned to make meaning out of her story. In this way, she was able to lessen the affect the trauma had on her in a negative way and instead choose to incorporate it in a more positive way. She chose grace. Grace for herself. Grace for her story.
Kara felt the weight of her trauma slip away as she continued to practice mindfulness and offer grace to herself. Her Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms of hypervigilance, irritability, and uncontrollable fear reduced. She is a testament to the work that can be done through therapy.
If you or a loved one would benefit from our grace-filled therapy services, contact us today!