At a recent intensive counseling retreat, I found myself involved in an exercise that provided a part of my healing process that eluded me for years.
I was in a small group that was being observed. We were talking about caretaker fatigue. Before I knew it, I said, “I feel,” and the facilitator asked, “would you please stay with how you feel?” I said sure, as I answered a few more questions. Before I realized it, I heard myself say these words, “Sure I’m attending this weekend to grow professionally, but deep down I’m really here for me.”
The facilitator encourage me to stay with what I was feeling deep down and try to verbalize why I was really here.
Then it happen. Everything slowed down and I suddenly was very aware of my body and exactly how I felt in the moment.
“I’m here because I want to be unconditionally loved and accepted.” Then I heard myself say, “I give myself permission to feel unconditionally loved and accepted for who I am.”
In that moment, a part of me that had been detached for years suddenly came back home and I was feeling everything around me I had been completely numbed to before.
After dealing with complex PTSD, there I sat for the first time in my adult life feeling safe, secure and a sense of complete self-control that was empowering me to be able to relate to a room full of strangers in a way that made me feel alive and well.
God used that weekend to answer my prayer. I wanted to be able to know what it’s like to feel and to be more in touch with the feelings of others. I desperately wanted to move past the somatic/body amnesia blocking me from being in touch with my feelings and from living in the present moment. And being able to meaningfully share those moments with others around me.
So when one of the facilitators said, “It’s OK to feel the way you do,” I felt touched and understood a dead part of me seemed to come back to life.
If you’re reading this and can’t relate, I’m so thankful for you. Complex-PTSD is real and all too often misdiagnosed and labeled with so many pop-diagnosis.
How does someone get to the place of not really being able to feel or relate to others feelings? I had a loaded gun pointed, slammed into my head and it discharged. I was the first responder when my stepdad accidentally shot himself in the knee. I’ve witnessed furniture go through windows, guns going off inside the house and abusive physical assaults such as having my head repeatedly slammed into a concrete pad and being choked until I passed out. These are just highlights of my abusive childhood experiences and are in no way a complete representation of the pure hell I experienced.
We would do well to be more diligent in understanding others’ trauma story before we hastily place pop labels that simply compound and victimize those who are experiencing PTSD from childhood abuse.
But there’s really no money to be made in actually using a more empathy-based trauma care model or approach that empowers people to feel human again and to become well.
It takes genuine empathy, compassion and the patients of job to do this kind of work. It’s not for the faint of heart nor for counselors or therapist whose primary concern is making sure their services are billable.
This idea of your soul coming home to a place where you can feel safe, secure and in control within your own body reminds me of Easter.
Christ is the ultimate example of support and permission to be in touch with our feelings. The Easter story teaches us Christ is touched by the feelings of our infirmities and not only empathizes with our bodily pains but gave himself completely to fully support us in being restored so we can live, move and have our being in such a way that allows us to be fully human and completely in touch with our own feelings.
Thus, empowering us to be more in touch with the feelings of others and providing the integral supports and soul care others require in their journey through the process of somatic resurrection. Home really is where the heart is befriended by the soul.
Welcome to your new life.
Dr. T.J. Kimble of Radcliff is a clinical pastoral counselor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.