Sometimes we think that we’ve moved on from the people and places that used to hurt us, only to realise that we have become the thing that used to hurt us. We see this in how we deal with others. This is sometimes the reason why it no longer hurts us. We feel in charge of the situation when we subject others to our inadequacies and insufficiencies.
Time is not a healer, years only numb the pain but they cannot silence our trauma.
Trauma is transferrable. Some talented professionals are boardroom bullies because they never dealt with the traumatic experience of being bullied at the park when they were little kids. Some partners are bedroom bullies because they never dealt with being bullied at school. Now they manifest the bully that hurt them through the power dynamics their career or relationships afford them – they ill-treat their teams and they glorify vilifying their competition. Call it ego, I call it unchecked bullying.
Some spiritual leaders were deprived affirmation by their parents (mainly the father) – which is a form of bullying by the way – and the positional appraisal they now demand from congregants seems to temporarily fill a childhood void. On the surface, you may think that they are hungry for power. When in actual fact they are constantly longing for a voice they may never hear. A father figure saying well done. This is not to say that we should not recognise the accomplishments of our leaders or that all spiritual leaders have this challenge. But public recognition should not be an instrument to appease private trauma.
Speaking of fathers, as a child, I used to long for my father to see me. This later became what the love of a father meant to me. To be seen not for what I did or what I could do. But for who I was. I longed to know that he sees me. I grew up feeling like I had to perform for his recognition – either through my grades, sports or otherwise. In this type of love, there is no safety because we all drop the ball. But when you see me for me it means that even when I drop the ball, I am still yours.
When I started reading more about personal leadership and leadership in general, I recognised this void in my life. This is how it happened. One day I consolidated a list of all the ‘good qualities’ from the people I admired and considered exemplary. Reading through that list I saw that I was attracted to what my father never paid attention to. I also recognised that when I was a youth leader in the church I had been making others feel like they needed to perform for my approval. Having standards is one thing but this type of leadership is self-serving and blind.
I changed it and the quality of my relationships with people who either report to me or work with me has improved dramatically in every area of my life.
Parenting is not a perfect exercise and my dad gave me everything that was in his ability – lessons, skills, education, provision, protection, confidence and identity. However, I lacked the mindsight to see that he sees me. I only started receiving this kind of attention from him when I moved out from home. I think I was 24 years at the time. Through the years the quality of our conversations has notably improved from “how are things at work” to “How are you?” My dad and I have a long way to go when it comes to mending our relationship but I am glad that little by little we are starting to address issues that would ordinarily be off the table.
To you, it may not be a relationship with your father but one with a new lover who is paying the price for the sins of the one who left, lied, cheated and abused you. The one who is with you now finds himself/herself having to accept that you are not just broken but you refuse to heal. Even though you claim the past no longer hurts, you keep manifesting your unresolved trauma on him/her. Time has not healed you but it has instead, made you more fearful under the disguise that ‘you became wiser’. And the truth of the matter is, you have become the bully at the park.
Just because we manage to muffle the courage to move out of hurtful environments that does not mean that we have left the traumatic experiences behind. We carry them onto our next. Healed people heal people and hurt people hurt people. In 2018 we cannot afford to be broken healers. Let’s make it our aim to go on a journey of healing in all areas of our lives. I know we lead busy lives but be patient with yourself and you will discover your true self in the process – the healed you.
As one poet once remarked, “There are medicinal properties down the corridors of introspection.”