Many people assume a person overwhelmed by unresolved trauma would welcome opportunities to heal that trauma. Here’s some surprising news that can also explain why it can be challenging to deal with someone who is experiencing the many difficult symptoms of PTSD but is resistant to doing what is needed to help them heal and recover. Being in pain can serve some interesting purposes and give life a kind of meaning that can make healing almost scary for someone.
Recognizing and appreciating the potential for resistance to recovering from trauma is important for anyone trying to be helpful to someone who would benefit from working on healing from their pain.
Carolyn Myss, an American author of numerous books, including Anatomy of the Spirit, offers some interesting thoughts about healing in her YouTube presentation Why People Don’t Heal.
In it she shares that people can actually become addicted to their wounds. She describes this as “wound currency.”
She states that having wounds can provide social connections; it gives people subject matter when interacting with others and provides them with opportunities to experience compassionate, caring responses from others to their pain.
She says that some people use wounds to make excuses for not fully living and that some people are not necessarily looking to heal.
She invites us to notice that pain can give people a kind of power, noting that some may use their wound power to control other people. She adds that some people focus more on how they hurt rather than on their power to heal. She concludes that people hold onto a painful past so they do not have to move forward.
Here is some additional information from Resistance: Moving Beyond the Barriers to Change by Price Pritchett:
What sort of push-back is predictable when a major change program gets under way? How much resistance is “reasonable”?
If you have a reliable frame of reference, you can put things into perspective. Knowing what’s “normal,” you’ll have a better feel for how you should react to the particular situation facing you …
• Some 20 percent of the people are “change-friendly.” They are clear advocates who willingly embrace the change. You can depend on them to help drive the program.
• Another 50 percent of the folks sit on the fence. They assume a so-called neutral position, trying to figure out which way to lean. They are not necessarily hostile to change, but they are not helping like they should.
• The remaining 30 percent are the resisters. They are antagonistic toward change and often deliberately try to make it fail.
While this is a business model, I think we can apply some of it to people when considering how they might react to being encouraged to work on healing from their trauma. There are reasons someone resists engaging in the work needed to heal. And remember the old adage: “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.”
It is not your fault or responsibility to influence someone who is unwilling or not yet ready to focus on healing. Being compassionate towards them and appreciating that they may need more time and motivation to do the work of healing might be all you can do.
Invitation for Reflection
- Have you had family members, friends or colleagues who clearly are suffering emotional pain but seem unwilling to work on healing from that pain? How does that make you feel?
- Is it helpful to change your perspective to one of understanding, appreciation and compassion for the person and to give up putting pressure on them to do the work of healing?
- Are you aware of your own willingness or lack thereof, to focus on if and how you might need to heal from trauma or other forms of deep loss and pain? What might you need to help you engage in the work of healing?
Diane Wagenhals, Director, Lakeside Global Institute