The beginning of long summer days, getting active with friends, and ice cream cones can lead us back to our most fond childhood memories. Who wasn’t ramped up about, “no school for the Summer!?” While some people have plenty of childhood memories, many cannot come up with more than fuzzy images that drift away upon further examination. Many adults also lose sight of how to be creative on impulse, a fundamental component of a joy filled, childlike experience.
Lack of memory + creativity are a trauma response.
People often ask me why they have a blank space instead of nostalgic recollections. You’re pretty sure you didn’t experience anything that bad? You know you’ve had significant trauma? Please remember that an emotionally toxic, disattached, hovering or neglectful household can be abusive. Trauma isn’t always explicitly physical and sexual in nature, nor horrifically out of the norm. When we think of the latter, we are only thinking of acute trauma. Trauma is universal. Memory suppression is protective in nature and can occur as a result of all sorts of traumas.
Traumatized people anticipate rejection and ridicule. They feel unable to try new options outside of the norm (work, cook, clean), because of a certainty of failure and a belief that experimenting with something new is to be feared. While trauma causes us to consistently be pulled into past, hard memories, it also stampedes on our ability to think of a different future. When people are hyperaroused or shut down, they cannot grow. As trauma recovery occurs and executive functioning is restored, so is the capacity to be creative and playful.
What’s most important, of course, is healing. We heal and look for different outcomes through solutions based therapy. How? It is about discovering the you-ness beneath the masks you wore to survive, the roles you took on to protect yourself, and deep wounds. It is about learning to nurture yourself and your energy. It is about having self respect and learning to safely release shame and anger. It is about relearning how to have FUN.
How can you connect with others and create an awesome backyard crew with whom to share scraped knees and fun treats? How can you embrace that, in alone times, it’s okay to feel loneliness but recognize that you are never really alone? How can you accept and be gentle with yourself for the trauma you endured? Can you take risks while you navigate finding tolerance for joy filled, new memories? Can you simultaneously give yourself permission to be patient, as you resist your tendency to be cautious and skeptical? Can you tolerate the discomfort of relearning how to access your imagination? Can you draw lines in the sand, saying NO to what you don’t want, but the next hour, play in the sandbox with curiosity? What would it feel like to feel light in this way? Where would you feel it in your body?
All hobbies have an element of curiosity and creativity. In the long term, it’d be worth exploring: joining a sports league, taking up a method of artistic expression, but there’s plenty of fun ways you can begin to realign with that silly kid part, today:
- Bake something
- Buy the silliest board game you can find and play with your family
- Have a sleepover with a friend
- Find a childhood toy on Ebay + put it in your workspace
- Go to an arcade
- Be impulsive. See an ice cream cone- buy it.
- Get dirty. Build a sandcastle.
- Challenge someone to a race down the street spontaneously. Bonus: you’ll help them feel their inner kid, too!
SELIG, the root word for silly, means blessed in German. While it’s incredibly hard work to heal trauma, if you learn to trust yourself and your therapist enough to lean in, you can totally experience abundance. Trauma healing is about a return to innocence. Maine, it’s a 70 degree day, get silly! It’ll heal you.