Peter Pollard on how he sees resilience as the beautiful light that overcomes the darkness of trauma.
Sadly, as a system, we never seemed able to provide better trauma-informed healing resources to those in need, in a way that protected everyone involved.
My impulse to judge was always tempered by the knowledge that my own process of healing from childhood sexual abuse had included many behaviors and choices in my late teens and 20s that no doubt seemed self-destructive to my family and those who loved me. And, though I regret my mistakes and lost opportunities, I know now that I was biding my time until I reached a place in life where I could face that childhood trauma safely.
I was reminded of these lessons recently, while reading an interview in The New Yorker magazine with Elizabeth Smart. Smart, now 25, has published, My Story, her memoir (which I haven’t read) of healing from being kidnapped from her bedroom at 14, being held captive and repeatedly raped by her captor and of her eventual rescue and process of recovery from her ordeal. She is now a fulltime advocate, speaking to students, adults and policy-makers and has a foundation to promote prevention of child abuse.
Her path to healing—with the help of her family, her religious faith and community, and eventually her husband—was a bit different from mine. I was dismayed, (even initially, a little concerned) to learn that hers did not include clinical therapy, which I, myself, found to be crucial. Then I remembered that healing is a personal, life-long process and that we each use the tools that fit our lives.
I was chastened further by her answer to a question about common misunderstandings about why she and others in abusive situations don’t work harder to escape their circumstances.
“Nobody should ever question why you don’t do something. They have no idea what they would have done and they certainly have no right to judge you. Everything I did, I did to survive.
And I did (survive). Maybe there were times that, had I done more, I would have been rescued. But maybe I wouldn’t have. So do I regret anything I did? No.”
Smart’s words reminded me that, in a particular moment, each of us is often his or her own best expert about our well-being, given the risks and resources at hand.
It seems to me that our most critical task as supporters is to assure that adequate tools to enhance that decision-making process are available and easily accessible to all, without judgment; and to make it safe and acceptable for men and women, boys and girls to speak about their traumatic experiences without shame or embarrassment. (Of course, at the same time we must prioritize protecting and supporting anyone at risk of being hurt by the unresolved, destructive coping strategies of a parent or partner.)
Still, I recognize that one of the only meaningful differences between me and many of those clients from whom I expected immediate improvement, is that I ultimately had greater access to the tools to help me heal.
Resilience is about survival, in whatever form it takes.
The more safe survival options there are available, the richer all our lives can become.
–Posted by 1in6, Inc. More information available at www.1in6.org.
–The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives. 1in6′s mission also includes serving family members, friends and partners by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.