I went into my therapist’s office this morning with great fear. Not of him, but of life and so many things I cannot begin to explain. So much fear it has resulted in three panic attacks over the past three days. As I write this I still have a tight chest and a huge amount of fear. The reason why will be explained as you read, because though the root cause has been found it hasn’t been processed.
I can thank my therapist for providing me with great information and God for giving me the words to share it with you. I pray it helps you as it did me.
I struggle with the concepts of fear, trust, and love. The Bible tells me:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
I can read any of these three verses and feel ashamed I am not doing what I should to trust and believe God will take care of me. I could read that I should not fear because God is with me. That I am not as loving as God commanded because I do not understand love. But this is not true.
This is toxic shame. It is unfounded and untrue. Yet this is usually what we hear in church because the church does not understand trauma. Trauma affects the brain and the brain is the store house to which we process everything including our understanding of God.
So it’s only natural that if we’ve incurred trauma it’s going to affect how we perceive and relate to God until we process our trauma. It doesn’t mean we’re bad people or that we are sinning because we can’t stop worrying or stop being fearful or cannot understand love. It just means we need to process the trauma associated with these feelings.
For example, the amygdala is the smoke detector of the brain. It goes off when there is a sense of threat. So let’s say someone tells me to trust them while they abuse me. Trust is now linked negatively to that trauma and whenever I think about trust or how to trust my brain calls up the trauma and all the negative feelings associated with it. So, I do not want to trust because in my experience it is bad. (This does not take into account that yes, even the act of someone abusing us leads us not to trust.)
To be able to get to a point where I can begin to learn what trust really is and experience it in the true form, I must first process the trauma that occurred while trust was said to me. The abuse which happened. Until that is processed out of my system I will not be able to associate trust with anything good.
(You can replace the word I used with another word, action, sound, etc. And I am very aware that acquiring trust after abuse is more than just processing one trauma. This is just an example of how the brain takes in our trauma. )
It is not a spiritual problem. It is not even an intellectual problem. It is entirely trauma based. We had no control over what our brains stored during any sexual assaults that occurred. There is no shame is realizing our inability to believe God and His promises does not come from something we are intentionally doing. It rests in the time and recovery process.
Thankfully, God always understands and I’m really grateful that He knows where we are because most days He’s the only One around who does.
Thank you for showing me today that there is hope in recovery. That this is a process and I don’t need to feel shame. Please continue to be with me in recovery.
Watch this video to understand more about how our brains become filled with trauma.
Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or professional so this content should not be seen as professional advice. This blog is not a substitute for therapy and does not promise healing or restoration. If you have been a victim of sexual assault I encourage you to seek professional help.
© 2018 Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.