I recently shared an article that’s been making the rounds on social media called, “Trauma is not your fault, but healing is your responsibility.” I shared it because I understand the sentiment behind it. However, a friend pointed out that the title contains some problematic language. When you parse it out, it takes on a meaning that can complicate the healing process for those who are engaged in their own tugs-of-war with their pasts.
Problem #1: the word “but.” When we use this word, we — consciously or unconsciously — negate the phrase that comes before it. My friend’s takeaway was that, in a sense, trauma is also the responsibility of the person healing from it. That is a hard NO.
In my own healing, one of the most empowering (if uncomfortable) byproducts was being able to take accountability for my actions that kept me stuck in a cycle of trauma. When I could take a breath and learn to manage my own boundaries in order to protect myself, I was able to reclaim power over events that had haunted me and created a fear cycle. I was able to break out of patterns that might have doomed me to continue to suffer.
This is very different from saying that my trauma was my fault. I didn’t ask for it or invite it or wish for it. Nobody does. We are all responsible for our actions, which means that the people who inflict trauma have to take responsibility for their behavior as well. It’s not the problem of the person who’s experienced a trauma to help perpetrators of trauma break their own behavior cycles.
Problem #2: the word “responsibility.”
The tricky bit about trauma healing is that it happens when we’re ready for it to happen. As a person who’s experienced trauma, and as a Trauma Touch Therapist, I can tell you that when you are ready to let in that level of resolution, your life changes for the better. What I took from the article was that when you take control of your healing, you feel empowered and liberated, and only you can take control of it. This is all true.
However, the word “responsibility” can be a trigger. It creates pressure. It implies that we need to heal for something more than the good of ourselves — that we need to get cracking on it so we can make others happy. My friend also heard another message: that someone who’s experienced trauma needs to “get over it.”
You owe your healing to nobody but yourself. If we’re talking about personal accountability, then a person who’s inconvenienced by your experience needs to manage their own reactions.
I’ll say it again: You owe your healing to nobody but yourself.
Now, it is true that, although you didn’t ask for what happened to you, you’re the one who gets to heal from it. True healing comes when you’re ready for it, and when you feel safe enough to do so.
Think of your trauma responses as heavy suitcases. If you’re on a journey, you need those bags. You can put them down when you’ve reached the hotel and can sit down and relax. You can’t get rid of them while you’re in transit.
Your responses to trauma keep you safe during an unsafe time. They keep you alert and ready to react. The problem comes when you continue to have the trauma response during a safe and relaxed time. When you’re ready to reconnect with the side of yourself that doesn’t have to be on high alert, that’s when you seek Trauma Touch Therapy or other forms of healing. The timetable for your healing is one that only you can dictate. I hope that when you’re ready, you do it — with me or someone else. I just hope you do it. You’ll be glad you did.
So, I changed the popular phrase/meme/whatever you want to call it.
“Trauma is never your fault, and healing is your right.”
(If you want to talk more, find me at flowholisticwellness.com/contact.)