You Are Responsible for Your Healing
Imagine you’re cooking dinner and realize you are missing an important ingredient. You jump in the car to run to the grocery store. On the way, another driver hits your car and you brake your arm. The other drive is completely “at fault,” and therefore responsible for paying for damages to your car, and for the hospital visit cost. But who is responsible for healing your arm?
The other driver can’t physically heal your arm. In fact, not even you can heal your arm. You can simply give your arm the support and resources it needs to heal. And your body is an amazing work of engineering that naturally knows how to heal itself.
When we talk about trauma, it’s easy to want to point a finger of blame. But fault or blame is different than taking responsibility. When it comes to what happened, the perpetrator of the trauma can be responsible. But healing from that trauma can only be your responsibility.
I often see a lack of taking ownership for healing. When you don’t take responsibility for your own healing, you will never heal. In fact, thinking that someone else has to make you feel better is just a remnant of the trauma itself. Until you realize YOU have to be the one to make changes and heal, you will never get better.
This can be hard to hear. It can feel like a burden if you believe you can’t or won’t heal. But it can also feel empowering if you choose to see it that way. Because if you are the only one that can do the work to heal, then nobody can get in your way. (Except for yourself, of course.)
Social Anxiety Come From Not Taking Responsibility
I had a client recently who received some difficult coaching about taking responsibility for changing her experience. The truth is, if you want something to change, you have to change something. It seems so simple, but we often ignore this truth. When I was finished encouraging her to take responsibility, she asked about what she thought was a separate issue: her social anxiety.
If you experience social anxiety, it is not a separate problem. When you boil it down, social anxiety is a fear others will reject you. If you are wanting other people to take care of your emotional needs, then the thought of them rejecting you is going to be extremely painful. When you can take responsibility for your own emotional needs and stop expecting others to do that for you, it’s likely the social anxiety will decrease. It won’t matter (as much) if other people reject you, if you are loving yourself. In fact, we saw with this client that even when other people encouraged and loved her, it “didn’t count” because she wasn’t offering herself kindness and compassion.
Responsibility versus Capacity
There’s also a distinction between responsibility and capacity. Much of our trauma starts with attachment wounds. By attachment, I mean the connection we create with our original caregivers. We might want to point the finger of blame or responsibility to our original caregivers, but they might not have actually had the capacity to take on true child-rearing responsibility.
For me, this creates relief. I didn’t want to blame my parents for the trauma I endured. Sure, the played a part, but I also believe they absolutely did the best they could with the resources they had. And most of the time, children are wired to love their parents, so it feels bad to blame them. When I realized there was difference between “it’s their fault I have a trauma” and “they didn’t have the capacity to fulfill my needs,” I no longer had to reconcile two difficult truths in my mind and I experienced more peace.
The Drama Triangle
In order to stop thinking of yourself as a victim to your trauma, understanding the “Drama Triangle” may be helpful. When you are in relationship with someone who makes you feel like a victim, you naturally think of them as a villain. In this back-and-forth dynamic, it is easy for the relationship to feel unstable. When a third, outside person, is brought in stability can be introduced into the system.
Those who identify as victims are encouraged to think of themselves as creators instead. Creators are encouraged to think of villains as challengers instead. A challenger can be a person or simply a situation. When you think of it as a challenge, you can see yourself as being creative with thinking of solutions instead of focusing on problems or being a helpless victim. And the third, outside person is the mentor or teacher or coach.
We see this shift from victim-villain to creator-challenger in many classic stories. Sometimes this is called the hero’s journey. For example, in the popular story of Harry Potter, the young Harry is a “victim” of his circumstances. He is often powerless to make change. Once he understands his agency, he starts to develop into the creator (or hero) he becomes at the end of the story. At first, his family is his challenger, then a bully at school, then the antagonist Voldemort becomes the ultimate challenger. His challengers grew as Harry’s abilities and belief in himself grew, growing his capacity. When Harry realizes his destiny, he can stop being a victim and instead create solutions to his problems. His two best friends and his school headmaster are his teacher-mentor-coaches through his trials. We see similar elements in the Star Wars stories also.
The Role of the Coach
The coach-mentor-teacher should be someone who believes in the creator and can see their potential. This more neutral third-party brings stability and perspective to the challenges the creator goes through.
You can think of yourself as a creator. It is possible that you can see your own agency and start to see creative solutions instead of focusing only on problems. You can start to see your “villain” instead as a challenger that will make you stronger and help you develop into the hero of your own life. I invite you to consider me as your coach-mentor, but it doesn’t have to be me. Choose anyone in your life that feels like a safe supporter to guide you and believe in you and help you see options for your creative solutions.
But whatever you do, start to take responsibility for your own healing. If you want something to change, YOU have to change something. Change what you know. Change how you think and how you see yourself. I believe there is ALWAYS hope. Nobody is beyond healing, not even you.
Journaling questions: (download link)
- In what areas of your life are you not taking responsibility for your own healing?
- How can you start to see yourself as a creator? What resources do you already have? What evidence do you have that you are already a creator?
If you would like the help of an outside coach, I would love to invite you to schedule a free session to see if working with me feels right to you.