Some traumas break us. Some traumas break us open.
When struggling to accept some of the things that happened in my past, I watched myself like a train-wreck in slow motion project this unresolved grief onto my present. It was around this time that my therapist said something that always stuck with me:
“There isn’t just the ‘trauma’ that hurts us. There’s also a kind I call ‘beautiful trauma’.”
The trauma we often talk about is the kind that breaks us, and from those ashes we must rebuild ourselves. When we’re triggered from the space of this trauma, we become over-reactive. We function from spite, fight for our limitations and hurt others. When we’re triggered by beautiful traumas we connect with our vulnerability. We function from love and empathy, especially empathy for ourselves.
‘Beautiful trauma’ breaks us open
My therapist described beautiful trauma as the little tugs and tears that are made over time to the walls we’ve built up as self-protection. We’ve built those walls so high, we’re unable to let love in — or at least not with the openness, warmth and pace paralleled to that of the person offering the love. Yet, that person continues to offer it with patience and loyalty, with firm boundaries and strong self-worth. That is true love.
From our traumas, we struggle to gracefully accept love — we might be rejecting, suspicious of it, unappreciative of it, greedy for a certain kind and unable to see what’s right before us.
What feels good and what’s good for us are different
Coming from a background of unhealthy relationships (including the one to ourselves), we will likely misalign what feels good with what’s good for us. Letting our inner child call the shots in our life will feel good (when we’re not doing ‘the inner work’). Being an adult won’t — it will feel boring or unreachable. So, we continue to follow the patterns of our inner child, pushing away what’s good for us.
Both the relationships we’ve had and the relationships we’ve been role modelled have the capacity to teach us things about relationships that become ‘false truths’. We may be led to believe that supposedly good relationships must involve fiery exciting drama, consistently passionate sex, clear cut gender roles, shared views on everything, 24/7 fun and optimism. They may teach us that our partner must be drop-dead gorgeous and attractive to us all the time, that it’s dire and shameful to be single, or that time is running out and we have expiration dates.
The work becomes guiding ourselves to see that what’s good for us actually feels good
Our inner child mistakenly believes that what’s familiar feels good. They attach to certain fairytale/false hopes and get stuck in power-trip loops.
Our inner child believes that they can:
Control people and life;
Predict life based on simple equations (“work hard, become a millionaire”);
Always label right vs wrong, victim vs villain;
Get what they want, simply because they want it; and
Come up with logical answers to impossible questions (like, why they deserved something so bad to happen to them, when often in life there are no answers).
Our adult self accepts that life is uncertain and ambiguous, that we must surrender to this fact, rather than push against its tide. Our adult finds beauty in this, seeing this organic, unfolding nature as a dance to take delight in.
Our adult self accepts that:
Adaptability is the true path to take, not control;
Every person we cross paths with is a spiritual teacher, especially those that challenge us (this is a Buddhist belief);
In order for us to birth a new chapter in life, something old must die — there is a birth, life, death cycle in everything; and
How our relationships ‘look’ change over time, and that it’s not how our relationships look to others that counts, but how we truly feel.
When beautiful traumas are in the process of breaking us open, our inner child will refuse to see what the experience is teaching us, or where it’s leading us to.
This may manifest as an anxiety for the future or debilitating self-doubt. Our inner child will cling onto the old for dear life, preventing the next stage in our life and evolution from being birthed. Our inner child hates change. It will replay the same story (either in its internal dialogue or when broadcasting to other people) over and over.
Beautiful trauma is beautiful because it is built on love.
Its intention is to chip away at the old narratives and self-protective mechanisms that hold us back — it sees that we can be more than this, and that we deserve love. It brings us closer and closer to living a richer life filled with connection, freedom and love, not pessimism, judgement and hate.
Letting beautiful trauma do the work involves gracefully accepting acts of generosity from others, starting to believe that you deserve the kindness that you’re given and surrendering in the moments where you seek to control, instead trusting in yourself. These are only a couple of examples. I invite you to consider what other beautiful traumas may be at play in your life.