Recovered. Healed. Better. Restored. Resolved. Whole. What words do you use when describing positive change regarding traumatic events like abuse, the pain of adultery, or other like experiences? And more importantly, what do those words convey to yourself and others?
Why am I thinking about this? Soon, I will begin teaching an on-line summer class called “Healing Trauma in International Settings.” To be honest, I’m a little uncomfortable with the title I chose. Words matter and “Healing” conveys a message. Imagine replacing “healing trauma” with
Now, maybe I’m being overly sensitive but consider some of these other kinds of problems we face
- You break your tibia during an aggressive move on the basketball court. Your leg heals and you go back to your basketball playing. Here we use healing to denote that you regained your former capacity to play sports. You are back to normal or near normal.
- You cut your finger while slicing vegetables. You go to the hospital to get stitches. While you have a scar, your finger heals and you use it again. In time you have only a slight scar to remind you of that day.
- Your house sustains a fire. You lose belongings. Your insurance company restores your house and replaces your possessions.
- Your car is stolen. The police recover it and return it to you (with fuzzy dice attached)
- You have a protracted conflict with a family member. At some point, you have a heart to heart and resolve your differences.
My examples all convey a resolution of a problem where the problem recedes, maybe even disappears. But what about trauma? Is there a form of resolution and healing of rape or sexual abuse or domestic violence where the memories disappear? Should there be? Wouldn’t forgetting these experiences place the person in danger of living in unreality and, in some cases, at risk of re-injury? Here are some important questions:
- What does healing from an affair look like? How do you know you have “recovered”? What symptoms or experiences would remain?
- What does healing from a rape look like? What would be expected if you “pretty well recovered”? What is to be expected to not change?
As a counselor I do not want to under or over-sell the recovery process. Victims do find tremendous healing but to assume all vestiges of a traumatic experience go away would be false. Unfortunately, we who have not been traumatized sometimes expect the kind of recovery where victims go back to a way of life and thinking as if the trauma never happened.
If we are honest, we wish to live in a world without lasting consequences from sin and suffering.
We want people to “get over” their pain and go back to a way of life as if it never happened. It would be like asking a person who lost a leg to hope they will run exactly like they did before losing the leg. Indeed, they may run again. But never as fast and never as easy. There will be a stump to care for, a hip to learn new motion, phantom pains to re-interpret, and limits to accept.
This world of limits is one God wants us to live in and one we detest. Our first parents saw the limits of their wisdom and desired to get wisdom on their own. We too love the happily ever after story where humans obtain health and healing apart from limitations. We tell the stories of miraculous healing as if we no longer live in a broken world.
Let us endeavor to tell true stories of healing that glorify God and remind us that we depend upon him for every breath.