(But there is something better)
Sometimes, a client will say to me, I just want to feel like I did before. I want to go back to what it was before, I want to feel normal again.
First of all, back to what it was before, and normal, are different things.
And neither is possible, not really.
And I assure you, you don’t want them either.
Let’s dig into this.
Was what it was before ‘normal’? And was it happy? A lot of the time, predators chose us because we were vulnerable in some way. They preyed on us because they saw an opportunity to get away with it. Life had already dealt us a faulty hand.
Is it normal to feel insecure? Is it normal to feel less than or unworthy? It might have been your normal, or it might not have been, but if it was, why would you want to go back to that?
What is normal? One person’s normal is another’s freaky.
If you want to go back to normal, I want you to think about what you mean by normal. Is it a going back to, or is it actually a seeking it out for the first time? Is it a way of feeling like you belong rather than feeling like an outsider? Does that come from how others view you, or from how you feel inside?
If you do feel like you were normal before – do you really want to go back to it? Was it really devoid of any pain?
What you really want is for it not to have happened and not to need to deal with how you’ve been changed, how the world is changed, how you feel marked out and fragile, like people are staring at you, like they can know just by looking.
How about instead of wanting to go back to something that didn’t even exist, you think about what you can jump forward to instead?
Because there’s no going back.
What happened, happened. And that has changed us irrevocably. But please, don’t think that means you are forever trapped in victimhood, or even survivorhood.
We cannot change our pasts. But we can learn to thrive. Sometimes that’s thrive again. Sometimes that’s thrive for maybe the first time. But we can.
Think of someone you really admire in this world, alive or dead. You’ll find a survivor story buried deep (or shared widely) behind every single one. I defy you to find someone who has reached a pinnacle in this life who has not been pushed there by the need to survive, to overcome something. Even those we might despise have trauma pushing them.
I don’t know if this is born out with research at all, but it is my belief that it is only through overcoming rock bottom that we can become extraordinary.
People talk a lot about post traumatic stress disorder (which isn’t a disorder at all, since it is a perfectly natural reaction to an unnatural event). But it is my belief that once we have moved through PTS(D), we can access post traumatic growth.
I firmly believe that every survivor of sexual violence is super-human. We have experienced what no human should be made to experience, the violation of our bodies from the inside out. And we have survived. We are still walking in this world. We wake up in the morning and decide to get up and be in this world, knowing what this world can be. We are super-human. We are not fragile. We are not weak. We are the strongest people on the planet. We have ‘grit’ even on the days we have to stay in bed under the covers – because we’re planning on doing better tomorrow.
(This is DEFINITELY not to say that those who don’t manage to survive are in any way weak. Sometimes what has been done is too terrible for even the super-human to overcome.)
I want you to look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re a super-human. It will not feel comfortable. You might not be able to say the words out loud. You may definitely not (yet) believe it. But keep at it. The shifts will come.
If you can let go of the false hope that you can go back to normal, you leave room for the possibility of creating a new normal for your life. You give yourself choices about what you want that life to look like. And when you are proactively making choices, you are not a victim of circumstance. When you are proactively making choices, you have power.
So what does life look like in the new normal?
Whatever you want it to. When you take back power and choose, then there’s no stopping you.
I’ve talked before about post traumatic growth, and the phoenix that rises from the ashes, and kintsugi (or kintsukuroi). In ‘After’ I wrote –
“We are changed, but those changes don’t need to be in being broken. Some things that are broken are more beautiful after. The Japanese art of kintsukuroi is a great example of this. Some things that are broken are stronger after. For example, the thigh bone, the femur, is the biggest bone in the body, yet takes only 6-12 weeks to heal and will be stronger at the site of the break afterwards. We don’t look at Oprah and think of her as a victim; we don’t look at Lady Gaga, and think poor her. There are (unfortunately) countless role models of those who’ve taken what life’s dealt them and shaken it off, refused to be identified by it, and instead they roar.”
So, I invite you to look around and imagine the life you would love to have if this awful thing had never happened, if you had never been made to feel less-than, worthless, undeserving. If you had never felt unsafe.
Give yourself permission to dream.
Lottery-wins nothwithstanding, what would you like your lived experience to really be? How would you like to be spending your time? Who with? What kind of friends do you have – are they ones you already do have? What kind of work are you doing? Where are you living? What kind of hobbies do you have? And so on.
Don’t edit yourself with can’ts or should’s. How to’s come later. The first step in designing your life is to dream.
Simply by dreaming it, you can’t dream it into being. But once you set your unconscious dreaming, it does have a habit of noticing the opportunities you can take action on to step-by-step get closer to it. I anticipate you’ll find this hard – the ability to daydream is impacted by trauma. Practice. The ability will return in time.
If you fancy exploring your dream life with me in a safe container, then book a Holding Space call with me here. Book a call.
Or, if you’d like to learn how to move from surviving through to thriving, and unlock the secrets to ReConnected Living, you might want to look at joining me on my group mentoring programme, RECONNECTED, details here.