BITTERNESS – THE HURT

Bitterness comes from pain, agony, hurt, sorrow, shame, etc. that we turn it into anger that comes from being traumatized. I am going to share my journey of dealing with bitterness from my journals during a very traumatic time my life when people I trusted betrayed, persecuted and mentally/emotionally attacked me over a long period of time. Maybe some of you can relate. I would value any thoughts and feelings you have about what it has been like for you.

The Hurt of Bitterness:

“I have and am struggling with bitterness…I didn’t recognize it as bitterness but saw it as anger, hurt, depression and criticalness. I feel they (those people out there) deserved my bitterness, yet they don’t.”

“I have been hurt by so many people in my life so many times, not just now ….. so many that it has created deep wounds in me. Deep, deep wounds. They are like the fjords of Norway in my soul (Norwegian ‘grand canyons’) and are still ripping into me deeper and deeper.

“The hurt with all its agony and anguish is almost not describable. The book called ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’ are the only words that come close. I am dripping in blood – black, deep red blood. I’m dripping in it, standing in it and it doesn’t stop. It keeps bleeding and bleeding and bleeding. The pain never stops. It has shredded my soul and only God can knit me back together.”

“I keep trying to stand up, but I bleed more and hurt beyond what words can express. My enemies hit hard then harder. I reel. I stand again and their tail hits hard and I am down again.  I want so much to stand and to keep going, keep working. I do, but limitedly. Sometimes it allows me to stand and take a few steps, but only for a short time. Because the tail hits again and again and I go down again.

“I finally get so I can stand, but there is no energy and little hope. How do I keep going? How? I have little hope and nothing left. They took everything, everything – my home, animals, work, and safety. I am in touch with my anger and the deep grief that has built up over and from decades of being hurt other times, but nothing like this. When I sleep there are nightmares. I watch endless TV trying to get tired enough and zoned out enough to just pass out on my bed and maybe not have nightmares. Better yet, to pass out on my couch downstairs, I don’t have nightmares there.

“I am so tired, a shower is exhausting, and putting a spoonful of food to my mouth is more that I can do, I have no energy. When I do eat, it is something I just grab that takes no effort. Soup is too much work.

“I don’t want to feel this vile stuff. I want it gone, but it doesn’t leave. It is my constant companion. I use the techniques I know – cognitive, behavioral, prayer and it helps for a while. I have to keep at it or it builds and builds and wants to become anger which wants to obliterate everything like a burst dam. My confidence is zero, but I can’t let people know. I have to pretend. Gratefully, my work with my clients stays free of the pain and I can still make a difference in their lives. This is God’s gift through all this.

“I watch for good things, loving things and caring friends. As a friend said to me, ‘We are loving you through this.’ I try to keep focused on them, but the hatred and anger that keeps coming at me from them overwhelms me and I have to find a way to keep going, have to. My trust with people is so low, so I struggle even with friends. I have to find a way to cope with all the pain and take the next step and keep going somehow….so I am turning bitter because I have no other way to deal with all the pain and, anger. It seems to have won for right now. I don’t know how else to deal with all this black, vile grief.

 

FORGIVENESS OR BITTERNESS?

 When I or others are struggling with forgiving others who have hurt us, there is a process we go through which leads us to a important choice. Are we going to forgive and get better? Better, that is, to choose to become kinder, nicer, wiser, more understanding person with others as well as with ourselves. OR we will choose not to forgive because “I want them to suffer and feel my anger at them until they die!” Sadly, what unforgiveness does is hurt us – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We usually stop growing and end up angry, hurt and our bodies feel pain and we can develop different diseases including the possibility of diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Diabetes has a direct line from trauma to our bodies. Deep grief also attacks the immune system.

Without choosing to forgive and heal, we often become bitter. So our choice is bitter or better. It is a choice and only we can make it. I was talking to a person who had been sexual, mentally and emotional abused. She was deeply struggling to recover and heal from trauma. The pain in her eyes was over flowing with tears. The hurt seemed unbearable. I felt it with her. It is overwhelming her and seemed like it would never end.

She said, “I can’t forgive that thing. He did horrible things to me, horrible. I haven’t told you about some of the worst. I can’t speak the words yet. My doctor is worried about me having diabetes. I can’t keep going like this but I can’t forgive. If I forgive, he wins! He can’t win I have worked too hard to win and stay angry so he never gets control again, never. But I can’t keep staying in this pain, it is torture.”

Becoming bitterness is the process that takes our hurt, anger, despair and fear and changing our Internal Frame of Reference. The internal frame of reference is a philosophical concept. It is the view we have of ourselves and the world that was developed and came from our many experiences in life from people, situations, experiences, traumas, etc. It is how I decide to feel and think about it about me and the world I live in. Often victims start as happy, loving children who after being traumatized change to depressed, fearful and angry children/adults. This is a shift in their internal frame of reference.

If I have been hurt and angry and see no way of getting out of it, or bent on vengeance, my internal frame of reference will see the world as out to hurt me or get me. I then may choice to avoid the pain by becoming aggressive, shy, class clown, bully, negative, bitter, etc. This behavior is how I have chosen to be in my world, often because I had to protect me. This is my Being in the World. How I behave is based on how I view the world, my internal frame of reference which influences my feelings, thought and behaviors, or Being in the World. Now you are philosophers!

John came into my office, upset, panicked and very angry. “I’ll never forgive him. He hurt me, he destroyed my life.” We had been working on forgiving his father for molesting him, father was now deceased. He understood intellectually that forgiveness was something he had to do for him. The hard part was he needed to feel the feelings of the betrayal to heal and forgive. He said “I understand it is for me! I get that! I hate it! Hate it! I won’t ever forgive him, may he rot in hell for what he did to me. I hate him.” He then began to cry with deep, painful sobs. He cried and cried. He yelled at him, cried some more…then when the deep anguishing tears were done, he became quiet. “I do forgive him, I loved him in spite of what he did to me. All I wanted was love from him. He called it “love” that it wasn’t for sure. I will never understand why he could do such a horrible thing to me, never. I don’t think he intended to ruin my life.”

John chose to forgive, so he could heal and let the deep anguishing pain go. “I had such a hard time letting go of the pain. I had tucked it away deep inside of me in a coffin-like box where it would stay forever. But it didn’t stay there. It keep changing my how I acted and I end up hurting others and myself. I coped the best I could but it always got out somehow.”

“I thought if I could stay angry and not forgive him then I could keep going. I kept going but I became angry, bitter and started hating my life and people around me. I tried and tried to change, but I had to let the deep pain go. I had to forgive. That made the difference.”

 

Next time more about forgiveness and bitterness and its process.

FORGIVENESS – SO IMPORTANT

Forgiveness, we have to do it, no getting around it if we want to heal. Just what is forgiveness? There is a lot of misinformation about it so here is what I have learned from my many years working with people and helping them heal and grow.

Lately, I have had a traumatic situation come up that keeps coming up and coming up. I have been struggling to feel it and forgive it. I know it is the only way to get through this without turning bitter. It is my decision to not be bitter, they, with all their acting out towards me, can’t make me bitter. They don’t have that power.

The forgiveness I am talking about today is for forgiving trauma, when we have been abused, neglected or traumatized in some way. i am not talkign about our special relationships when something happens, we forgive and the relationship grows and keeps developing. What I am talking about is forgiveness for trauma.

In trauma, it is very important that we forgive them and ourselves or we can’t heal and grow. We will remain stuck and will stay in pain.

FORGIVENES IS A DEEP SPIRITUAL LETTING GO OF THE PAIN AND HURT THAT WAS CAUSED BY SOMEONE ELSE OR OURSELVES. Yes, we have to forgive ourselves too, sometime that is the hardest things to do.

So here is what forgiveness is:

  1. Forgiveness is NOT saying what they did was okay; it will always be wrong and hurtful.
  2. It is not saying I no longer hurt and it does not still cause me pain.
  3. Forgiveness is not saying “I forgive you and now everything is okay between us. Let’s stay together and be friends.”
  4. When there is trauma and the other person has not changed, we have to take care of ourselves and protect ourselves. This may mean separating ourselves from them.
  5. Forgiveness is not revenge. Vengeance is God’s to do, not ours. Vengeance is triggered from the anger we feel about what happened to us. The feeling under the anger is hurt, pain and sorrow. The anger helps us cope with the hurt so we don’t have to feel it. Sometimes we have the belief that getting vengeance will take away our pain and we will feel better, it doesn’t happen that way.
  6. Going after vengeance will keep us from healing
  7. To forgive, we have to feel our feeling fully. There is no other way, unless God does a miracle healing, I don’t usually see that in my business. When it does happen, I celebrate. Usually we have things to learn and wisdom to earn and that takes time.
  8. Forgiveness takes time. As we are on our healing journey, we forgive some in the beginning then as we continue, we forgive more. As we heal in a deeper way, forgiveness happens in a deeper way.
  9. Forgiveness is for US! It is wonderful when it can happen with the other person, but I find that is not as often as I’d like to see. That is sad. Forgiveness is for us to help heal the pain the trauma has caused. It is also to teach us how to bring peace in our world.
  10. Please remember, when we don’t heal and forgive, the pain from trauma we feel is stored in our bodies physically and it stays there hurting us emotionally and physically until we feel it, deal with it and forgive the other person. If it stays inside, it will hurt our bodies.
  11. Forgiveness says, “I forgive you for what you did, and forgive me for how I have hurt other people from my pain. I release you into God’s hands to have the consequences of your actions.” As long as I am not forgiving I am stopping me from healing and keeping the other person from getting their consequences to what they did.
  12. Sometimes the hurt is so great, I struggle to forgive. I want to heal and know to heal I have to forgive. When I can’t forgive, I ask God to please forgive them and/or me, through me because it am so wanting the freedom and healing that comes from it. Sometimes I am so locked in the pain I can’t release or can’t even say the words, “I forgive you.”

One last note for today. I believe in God and His amazing love. He forgives all of us from everything when we ask. When I have struggled to forgive me for what I may have said or done or not said or done, I remember that He the creator has forgiven me, who am I not to forgive me?

Blessings to each one of you who is on the journey of healing.

 

Trauma isn’t something that happens and is over. It stays in our bodies until we deal with its pain and consequences. First lets look at trauma. So what is trauma? Here is some information we now know about trauma and its effects on our entire body – mind, body, spirit, emotions, etc.

TRAUMA {APA}  IS “…THE EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO AN EXTREMELY NEGATIVE EVENT WHICH INTERFERES WITH THE ABILITY TO LIVE A NORMAL LIFE+ AND MAY CAUSE PHYSICAL CHANGES WHICH EFFECTS OUR ENTIRE FUNCTIONING.

Here are some of the causes of trauma:

ABUSE/NEGLECT                         SURGERY                            JAIL or PRISON

WAR                                                   DEATHS

HUMAN TRAFFICKING                SEVERE ILLNESS/INJURIES

ACCIDENTS                                    NATURAL DISASTERS

VIOLENCE                                        BULLYING

RAPE                                                  WITNESS ACT OF VIOLENCE

POWERLESS                                   HOPELESS

DIVORCE                                          ADOPTION 

 Trauma may be a one time, multiple, or long-lasting repetitive event(s). These events affect everyone differently. Some people may appear to be more resilient than others and not seem to be affected, however trauma always affects us always. “Impact can be subtle, insidious, or outright destructive…factors that affect it are the person, the event, developmental process, resources of the person, family, ability to cope, community at large, meaning of trauma and sociocultural factors. How we cope may not be psychopathological (emotional problems/behaviors) but look like it. It is  just coping. {Trauma informed care (TIC)}

Initial reactions can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, anger, withdrawal, dissociation, physical arousal, self-limited, eating and sleeping problems, etc. We then have to keep adapting and other coping behaviors will be created. Trauma affects all parts of us. Example, childhood trauma is biggest predictor of heart problems.

Our brain works hard to help us cope and keep going. “The human brain is continually sensing, processing, storing, perceiving and acting in response to information from the external and internal environments….especially sensitive to input that may indicate threat.” (Bruce Perry) Our entire being is always working to get to homeostasis/equilibrium or resting calmer place inside of us. Often we will use anything to get there including relationships, eating, substance abuse, and the list goes on.

Physiological Responses of the Brain

When there is trauma, brain is stressed and works to adapt – in anyway it can – functional and dysfunctional. The brain’s job is to sense, process, store, perceive and act on information from external and internal world to keep us alive.” It must work to regulated everything and bring it back to normal or homeostasis. Stress disrupts it.  “Stress is any challenge or condition which forces our regulating physiological and neurophysiologic systems to move outside of their normal dynamic activity. Traumatic events are extreme forms of stress.” B. Perry.

Stress/Trauma can vary on a continuum line from:

UNPREDICTABILITY    TO   PREDICTABILITY

MODERATE/SERVE     TO   MILD/MODERATE

VULNERABILITY          TO   RESILIENT

Homework:

Please, if you or someone you know have experienced trauma look at yourself and your behaviors, what helps you cope? Keep going? Sometimes asking a asking a friend (you trust) for their input helps us understand us better. Make a list and talk about with someone you trust if you can.

TRAUMA HEALING PROCESS

The healing from trauma process is intense and takes time. It takes a determined, strong commitment to ourselves that says we will get whatever help we need and do whatever it takes to heal. Usually we make that decision when we cannot and do not want to live with the pain and the way we are living any more. The pain includes intense emotions such as anger, fear/anxiety, sadness, etc. which cause anxiety/panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, and the list of feelings goes on.

Because of all these feelings that are inside of us, we create coping defenses or behaviors that help us cope with and help keep these feelings under control. Some of these behavior include using alcohol and other drugs, anger at everyone, becoming bitter, over eating, under eating, depression and anxiety (as our primary feelings), poor relationships, isolation, harming oneself, withdrawal, confusion, problems concentrating (may look like ADD/ADHD), mood swings (may look bipolar), guilt, shame, hopelessness, helplessness, not living up to our potential and the list goes on.

We may be seen as the “black sheep” or “scapegoat” in the family and so family members avoids us, won’t talk to us and blame us for everything. This usually includes what is wrong in their lives, even if we don’t’ even see them. Sometimes, gratefully, family and friends surround the victim of trauma and help them heal. Sadly, I don’t often see this in my office, I wish I did.

Here is a description from a trauma survivor working through some of the healing the process he was experiencing:
“I am desperately working to hang on to me, to God and to friends. It is harder and harder now as I deal with more of the painful feelings. I sometimes don’t know what day it is and what I am supposed to do. Thank goodness I have my schedule. I do what it says to do. I keep going because I am sick and tired of hurting myself and being in so much pain. Sometimes I just want to give up. But I am determined to find me…me whoever that is. I know there is a real me, a good me, a me not in pain all the time.”

Trauma: Journey to Wholeness

Welcome! In this first of many blogs that talks about the difficult yet amazing journey to wholeness after being torn apart by trauma. I care about each one of you and am sorry for what you have gone through. I have gone through trauma too. It is lousy, awful and full of pain. We need to help each other on the journey to wholeness.

I am a Dr. of psychology and have been in this business for over thirty years. I have researched and learned a lot about surviving, overcoming and healing from trauma. I have learned a lot from my experiences, recently from a devastating trauma caused by the people of a nonprofit I helped create. I have also been blessed to learn about trauma from people who have allowed me to come alongside them in their healing journey.

Everyone can heal, it is a choice! We all have the ability to heal! The healing process brings a journey of pain and revisiting the past in a way that brings healing, freedom, joy and life back to us or maybe for the first time. The healing journey is also full of relief, hope, understanding and WISDOM! The only way we get wisdom is through painful journeys.

The journey to wholeness may not be what we want, but it is so what we need. There is life beyond trauma. There is hope and love. So glad you are part of this journey with me as we explore how trauma effects our lives and how we heal from it.

Break Free from Trauma! Be free of its damaging effects! Don't just Survive, Overcome and Thrive! DONNA LAMAR, PhD Trauma Expert SPEAKER, AUTHOR AND PSYCHOLOGIST

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