How can you stand to listen to [traumatic] stories like these all day long?
This is a question I get from time to time, most frequently from someone who has just told me of the trauma in their life…and most frequently from someone who feels stuck in their responses to their abuse. They know I see multiple clients in one day and imagine that listening to pain, heartache, abuse, neglect, and the like must be overwhelmingly depressing.
My answer is a little complicated, but here it is
1. You get used to it. This could sound callous and by this answer I do not mean you get numb to trauma. If you get numb to trauma then it is time quit counseling. But, you do get a bit used to it. You are less surprised by evil after you hear about it in so many different forms.
2. It is hard. Hearing about brokenness is difficult. It is even more difficult when those who should be responsible for protecting or at least dealing with the sins of others well do not do their job. When systems conspire to harm the victim that is hard to hear over and over again.
3. There is more hope in these stories than you might imagine. Yes, hearing about brokenness can be difficult but we see far more hope than you might imagine. We see more life and more growth despite pain and hurt. When someone abuses a child, that someone destroys another for their own purposes. But, time and time again we see resiliency–even when that person may have significant damage in their life. Often the abused person only sees their brokenness but we see how they are surviving and thriving. It reminds me of how I have seen trees growing up in the middle of abandoned parking lots. What was left as useless is supporting life, even developing an entire ecosystem.
4. You can only do this work if you also spend time with good things. One must imbibe in healthy and living things if one wants to work with death. This means spending time with creative things, with beauty, with life, with art, with music and the like. If you don’t do this, you will die on the vine and you are in great danger of hurting others.