WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER
The magnified and unified horror of what we experienced a few short years ago on 9/11 is beyond what most of us Americans have seen in our lifetime. We still can’t help but feel helpless, angry, sad, grief, numb, scared, as well as many other hard-to-define feelings.
IT EFFECTED ALL OF US
Even though years have gone by, living part-time in New York City gave me some sense of the feelings of the eyewitnesses, bereaved families and everyday residents of the city. I know it’s just a small inkling of what these people actually experienced, but I had a palpable sense of the grief in the city and of all those who died. All the people I see in my practice as a psychotherapist and healer have experienced shattering on many levels. I see the effect it has had on us mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE HUMAN
Our personal work, for all of us and not only for New Yorkers, is to experience the layers of our feelings as they arise. We need to allow for all the possible responses that occur during experiences of extreme trauma, instead of dismissing them.
WHY AREN'T YOU EFFECTED?
For those of you who don’t feel very effected by this or any other traumatic event, it might be helpful to wonder why. It is true that there is always suffering all over the world and whenever we choose, we can tune in and feel this kind of trauma in many other places rather than just on our own soil. It is important to us that we feel kinship not only with our entire country, but also with the whole of humankind. This is a natural part of being human.
HOW CAN WE BEGIN TO HEAL?
Sometimes our personal wounding can cause us to feel overwhelmed and sometimes we choose to cut ourselves off from our feelings and from our connection to others. Feeling our own suffering and being able to empathize with the suffering of other people is an important way to heal our planet and ourselves.
So how can we heal these effects of trauma in our body-mind-spirit? One of the first ways is to understand how people react in a time of crisis. By realizing how we as people respond, we are able to feel more connected to others and ourselves and thereby not so alone in the world. Something to consider is that people who have survived a difficult childhood are prone to have a more challenging time with recovery from a traumatic event. Allowing ourselves to learn how to use life’s tragedies to teach us will deepen our awareness and help us have resiliency. This will bring us to a place in which we can learn and grow -- not just a place to feel hurt and victimized. Some lessons are unusually hard to understand and we sometimes feel lost trying to find meaning. Sometimes we find ourselves blaming the victim; this can re-victimize the person. It also prevents us from seeking a larger context to the event in which there can be meaning.
THE BLAME GAME
Let’s look at our need to blame at all: Certain people could be responsible and our ability to see this larger perspective can help us with the healing. However, there is always the possibility that we may not be able to see and know the big picture at the time, if ever.
I would like to describe some common and normal responses people often experience following traumatic events. (You might see yourself in some of them.) Some of the physiological responses are chest pains, elevated blood pressure, muscle pain and tension, increased sweating, fatigue, flushed or pale skin, headaches, fainting, thirst, teeth grinding, twitches, and stomach upset. Some of the common emotional responses can be powerlessness, shock, numbness, fogginess, dissociation (including being in a daze, apathy, feeling unreal), panic, nightmares, insomnia, aloneness, helplessness, emptiness, uncertainty, depression, guilt, hostility and anger. Some of the mental responses can be short attention span, confusion, blaming others, repeated thoughts of the events and hyper vigilance. Some behavioral responses could include withdrawal, regressive actions, pacing, walking aimlessly, impulsiveness, poor communication, different speech patterns, or antisocial behaviors. These are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress and if they persist, it would be wise to seek out one-on-one professional help.
YOU ARE NOT POWERLESS
After experiencing tragedy, many people undergo a sense of powerlessness, rather than look for ways to cope with all of their feelings, make a difference in the world and therefore make the world a better and safer place for everyone. It is important for people to be able to have an impact inside their psyche and outside in their communities. Ask yourself, how you have found a way to feel that you can make a difference in your world or community. How have you worked with your feelings around this event or other traumas inside of yourself and in your life? Have these ways been satisfying or helpful to you?
When you commit to working on all the inner levels of your being, you reconnect with all of you. This then allows you to be able to connect with the outside world in an incredibly fulfilling way.
What are the ways that you can feel your personal connection and power in the world?
Let’s take a moment to find out. Allow yourself to sit and think about the question now.
Read the following to yourself in a slow meditative manner, and take your time.
Allow your breath to come into your focus for a moment … just follow the in and out motion … in and out … the rising and falling of your breath…
Imagine yourself on a path … see yourself walking down this path … notice the path … what kind of surface it has … notice what’s to your right … notice what’s to your left ... Ahead of you, you see a holy building … take in this building … notice what you see, sense, feel, smell … just notice … You see a door ahead of you … let yourself walk in … notice what you see … Allow your self to see a Wise Being ahead … notice what it looks like … notice how you feel seeing it ... how do you feel being seen … feel what it is like to be in its presence…
Ask the Wise Being what you need to do to feel connected to the outside world … what task, prayer, meditation, volunteer work, community support … what comes up for you … can you allow for other possibilities … let your creative self go wild … what feels right … take in the information … try to be open to all ideas…
Get ready to ask your second question … What is it that would be the most productive, self-soothing way to nurture the inside of you during this time? ... Let the Wise Being speak … just breathe, be open and listen … notice any judgments that arise … just see them and let them go … What way is best for you to nurture yourself? … listen … notice what you feel, see … notice if you are being harsh to yourself … allow your breath to open your body…
Let yourself ask any third question that comes to mind … wait … listen … breathe … What is it that is being said? … notice your reactions …. Breathe …. be kind to yourself…
When you feel you have gotten the answers that are available at this time, say thank you to your Wise Being ... Take whatever information you need with you .... Allow yourself to leave the holy place …. Look around one last time …. Know that you can return at any time …. Let yourself return back down the path .... Notice if anything has changed on the way out …. Return to the place where you began the journey ... Take several deep breaths …
Give yourself a few moments of quiet and reflect on what you have learned. Write your answers down if you want. You can act on these answers or choose to sit with them for a while. Thank you for being willing to do this work.
I hope this will be somewhat comforting to you. I will keep my prayers going and my personal work. Until the next time, warm wishes to all.
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