There is a parable where the student asks “Master, you teach me how to fight, yet all you do is talk about peace. How do you reconcile the two?” The master replied, “It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.” I love that parable. Why? Because I see so many clients hanging onto their own little war. I’ll explain.
Having worked in mental health my entire life, I for a few years, worked with servicemen and women returning from war zones. Even my best friend (who is 20 years older than me) has taught me this very valuable lesson. Those who have seen war, do not talk about it. The more that I worked with these warriors, the more this became obvious. Not that talking about their experiences wasn’t therapeutic, but because they did not want to stay stuck. While therapy and group work was very helpful to most, those who did not speak of the war on a daily basis seemed to be better adjusted in day to day life. Those who spoke about the atrocities, had a hard time moving forward, and having productive relationships. In other words, they saved the war talk for a controlled environment.
Likewise with a lot of trauma that we may have experienced in our own lives, the more we talk about those problems, the stronger they become. However, I want to make this point clear. Talking about trauma in a safe environment with a supportive professional (or even a trusted friend) can be very beneficial. What is not beneficial is taking on that trauma as your identity. Using pain (if done properly) can propel you forward. If it is not done in a safe space, it can act as an anchor leaving you feeling stuck.
When I look back on all the warriors I’ve worked with, they survived, because the kept moving. They realized that the war has forever changed them, but they did not want to keep fighting (in their head) on a daily basis. For that reason, they speak of war as little as possible. Equally as important, is that they have learned to forgive themselves for what they may have done in a survival setting. Like the warrior, the person who has been traumatized must work on forgiving themselves for their actions born out of that trauma. Prolonged trauma, can cause even the strongest to make some unhealthy decisions.
If you’re reading this and you have dealt with your own trauma (or war), it’s over now. You are safe, and there is no need to keep fighting. The saying “Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction” applies here. If it’s in the past, find your safe place and people. That is your opportunity to talk about it if needed. Be mindful of how you identify yourself. I have used these two examples many times in the past. A woman who fought Breast Cancer is a Breast Cancer Survivor. In the 90’s people who were infected with HIV/AIDS, started calling themselves PLWA’s. See what I am getting at? They took their power back. Breast Cancer SURVIVOR. Person LIVING with AIDS.
It’s time to move forward. Forgive yourself and know that you are a warrior. Like the parable of the teacher who taught his student how to fight, but only spoke of peace, he knew he was a warrior, but was not concerned with the war. Be the teacher. The warrior in you won’t die. Just don’t actively look to keep fighting a war.