For many with trauma-related issues and needs, Happy New Year is a kind of an oxymoron – there isn’t much that feels happy when facing a New Year that includes continuing to deal with the impact of unresolved trauma.
The New Year sometimes acts as a trigger for anxiety and depression. There are often expectations by others that the trauma-impacted person can somehow magically bring themselves out of their negative feelings. Or that somehow with just a little effort to improve one’s attitude they can become inspired to face the New Year with positive anticipation and hope. That’s great if it can happen but when trauma is deep, complex and overwhelming, it simply isn’t that easy.
Often for the trauma-impacted person, the advent of a New Year means some kind of reflecting on the previous year’s experiences. Unresolved trauma carries many unpleasant, frightening, stressful thoughts, beliefs, feelings and sensations which contributes to a continuation of some of the pain of trauma. The person with unresolved trauma can feel defective or destined to recall negative experiences such as those that caused the original trauma, where they experience deep sorrow and grief preventing them from living a more normal life.
The tradition for New Year’s celebrations includes creating some kind of list of resolutions, with an emphasis on behaving in healthier ways and enhancing one’s moral compass. Given the nature of unresolved trauma, generating a list of resolutions can be a source of frustration and despair.
Perhaps redefining the kinds of resolutions a trauma-impacted person needs can put a more hopeful and positive spin on this tradition of generating a list of resolutions for the New Year. Here are a few suggestions:
- Resolve to be kind to yourself, to respect the power that unresolved trauma can make your life more difficult than it is for those who do not struggle with such trauma, and to appreciate that you are doing the best you can. This doesn’t mean become some kind of martyr; it means you are claiming the right to appreciate that unresolved trauma is very real and very powerful in draining you, restricting you, and sometimes terrifying you.
- Resolve to find ways to promote safety in your world, both in your inner world of thoughts, feelings and beliefs and in your external world, where you have relationships that include the right to feel safe and protected, knowing you will not be harmed, pressured or shamed.
- Resolve to find your personal power that so often is weakened as a result of trauma. That power is an invisible force that trauma often crushes, leaving a person feeling weak and helpless – the huge unfairness of trauma. If you need help finding your power, ask friends and colleagues for their suggestions. Discovering you have the power to change your core beliefs from ones that attack and diminish your sense of self is a critical and fair right that you have.
- Resolve to find ways to experience the grief that is always a part of trauma. You have the right to feelings of anger, sadness and regret around the injustices of being a victim of trauma.
- Resolve to find resources that will allow you to work on your own plan for recovery and healing that is fair and comprehensive, but that does not pressure you to find just a quick fix strategy. There is no time limit on how your personal journey toward recovery and healing should go. You deserve to have these resources.
- Resolve to trust in the power of the processes that promote recovery and healing that occurs over time. Your process will probably feel too slow and sometimes impossible to experience. The inevitable relapses can be a source of frustration and discouragement. Tell yourself these are normal steps in healing a recovery. You have the right to be hopeful, even when you don’t feel hopeful. Take the time that is necessary for recovery and healing to gradually occur.
- Resolve to learn more about trusting yourself and others, since many trauma-impacted people struggle with trust issues. It can be a big step to open yourself up but we all need to be connected with at least one trusted person. We need to trust ourselves, learn that we can become reliable, safe and nurturing; characteristics that the trauma-impacted person often struggles to experience.
- Resolve to do the hard work of learning about trauma and its causes, impact and ways to be resolved. Generate your own passion and enthusiasm for the work ahead of you that will carve out a path that eventually results in relief, peace, joy and self-love.
- Resolve to let go of bitterness, hatred, vengeful feelings that can detract from a focus on moving forward. When you do examine the processes that caused your trauma, you may discover that there are understandable reasons. Trying to blame and shame others rather than focusing on their own issues and needs uses up precious energy that is better served trying to find personal clarity, understanding and peace.
- Resolve to find the potential positive of having experienced trauma. The way these experiences promote personal growth gives you perspectives on life that you would not otherwise have. It makes you more empathic to others who have similar life experiences and gives you resolve to find ways to prevent trauma from occurring in the lives of others, especially children.
- Resolve to find ways to love yourself more deeply and with acceptance, not with condemnation or negative judgments. Practice transmitting messages that promote your own sense of self-worth, value and potential. Tell yourself that healing is possible, even if you are not quite sure how to accomplish that. Believe in yourself, in your inner core that can be strengthened over time, while eliminating that inner force that diminishes your sense of purpose and worth.
- Resolve to believe that the future holds many wonderful, meaningful and joy-filled moments that can bring you happiness and contentment because trauma and its aftermath often blocks these. You deserve these abilities to learn, grow and heal.
When you embrace these kinds of New Year’s resolutions (and I highly encourage you to create your own as well,) you can help yourself have some clarity and direction for a healthier New Year with the potential for meaningful recovery and healing.
Invitation to Reflect:
- What have you experienced when trying to generate New Year’s resolutions in the past? Have they contributed to your feeling more empowered or more discouraged and even self-disparaging?
- How can embracing some of these resolutions help you feel stronger and more empowered so that your unresolved trauma does not define you? What can help you be confident that you deserve meaningful, loving New Year’s resolutions?
Diane Wagenhals, Lakeside Global Institute