Telling Your Story

We all have colorful histories full of life experiences that made us who we are. They include times we treasure as well as difficult, traumatic events; before and after moments – one minute life is one way and the next it will not be the same again. Even change for the better can be difficult. And there are physical, mental and emotional abuses that have shaped who’ve we become and how we view and receive the world.

Recently, while relaying pieces of my history to a new friend, I became aware of something in the way I was telling it. It was as if I was sharing an interesting story, not events that shaped my life. I was speaking somewhat matter-of-factly, devoid of any feeling, the only revealing factor of the impact on my life being the obviousness of withstanding something like that.

I realized that when I talk about my life, sometimes I tell it like a story that I’m not involved in. I recognized that when I tell those stories, I often minimize the influence the circumstances had on me. It dawned on me the parts that get dismissed and glossed over can remain unprocessed and unacknowledged in their importance.

I’m not suggesting that every story we tell about our lives, no matter how difficult, needs to be served with a heaping helping of tears or that we should hold people hostage to our emotions. It’s not about making sure they are impacted as much as we were by these life-altering experiences.

I am saying that I think it’s important to recognize the impact of these life-shaping events within ourselves. That we allow ourselves to feel the feelings that come up within us instead of reeling off the facts of our lives as if they didn’t affect us.

Being raised in an environment influenced by alcohol, going through a divorce, losing a parent at an early age, not feeling safe in your home, all of these things are traumatic for children. Trauma can be installed by what you got as well as by what you didn’t get.

When telling your story to others, pay attention to parts you want to gloss over or move through quickly. The feelings you don’t allow yourself to feel. The pieces of yourself you dismiss.

Later, when you’re somewhere you feel safe, perhaps alone, with a close friend or partner, a somatic practitioner, with your therapist or trauma-informed coach/mentor, unpack those feelings. Explore the parts of yourself that have been silenced for so long. Give them a voice and some space to unwind. You may be surprised at what they have to say and how allowing them to say it gives you more freedom than you ever thought possible.

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