It’s been two weeks now since Open Boulder Nationals. Many people have come up to me this week, concerned about my wellbeing, considering the very vulnerable blog I wrote about my experience. Last week was a scheduled training break and I took full advantage of the rest for my body, to do the work for my soul. Here is the process that I went through – I hope that someone might be able to use this as a guide through their own tough times.
Step 1: Cry – immediately
I need an outlet for my hurt, and the hurt needs to be felt and expressed. This is best for me being witnessed by another human being, who can hold space for me with loving kindness. Express all the doubts and insecurities that you are experiencing at this moment so that they don’t stay bottled up until they start to fester. The other person’s job is not to fix or reassure, but just to witness and empathise.
Step 2: Sit with it, feel the pain (with distraction) – first couple of days
This is the part where you try to distract yourself but your thoughts keep coming back to the ‘trauma’. It’s important to have an anchor here – whether it’s conversation, tv, a book etc – so that you can bring yourself out of the spiral of despair when it starts to become overwhelming. You will not be able to avoid the gradual pull back to the painful thoughts, and that’s OK. Sometimes writing (journalling etc.) about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences at this time can help validate your experience so it’s not all in your head. Accept commiserations from others, but this is not the time for solutions or ‘moving on’.
Step 3: Space – next few days
So often in life we get swept back into the flow and busyness of life very quickly, and that can be a good thing. Creating a sense of normalcy – life as we know it didn’t end – and a reminder of your identity outside of the traumatic event. However many people get caught up in this step and just continue on in their normal lives, rather than just using it to create space or distance between the rawness of the event in order to constructively undertake step 4.
Step 4: Process – try to start within the first week, or as soon as it feels like the emotion isn’t too raw / when you can think for a little bit without crying
There are still feelings of hurt here. You will likely cry again, and it may feel like opening old wounds. Your self-protective mechanisms will want you to procrastinate in order to not feel the pain again, but if you don’t process now the pain won’t go away – it just gets healed over, waiting for a bump to tear away the fragile covering and expose it once again.
This is the time to do some deep self-reflection. Where is the hurt really coming from? The answer to this will be different for everyone, depending on the situation, and their own background and life circumstances. The questions that my life coach, Fenneke, offered me were:
- What part of me feels hurt?
- What do I need to sit with?
- In what ways can I be self-compassionate?
- What’s the role I give to myself and others in my performance?
- Knowing that I am mentally and physically stronger than ever, what’s the impact that I am letting this event have on me?
- What am I gaining from this experience?
For deep trauma, steps 3 and 4 are repeated over and over, sometimes for many years.
Step 5: Forgiveness
There is often unconscious and deep-seated self-blame for many of our traumatic experiences. By processing, and identifying what it is that we blame ourselves for, we can (in time) forgive ourselves. This is the key to closure and healing.