Getting Unstuck & Finding The Source of Trauma - Cari Kenzie

Getting Unstuck & Finding The Source of Trauma

On April 15, 2013, Cari had just finished running the Boston Marathon and was receiving attention in the medical tent when bombs exploded at the finish line. Shortly afterward, victims began to stream in. Perceiving that those individuals needed medical help far more than she did, she left the tent as race volunteers chased her shouting, “Run! Run away as fast as you can!” She did.

The way we understand what happens to us today has everything to do with how we’ve processed what has happened to us in the past. There are pivotal experiences in our lives that affect everything that follows them and for me, one of those experiences was the Boston bombing.

I remember standing at the end of Boylston Street, observing the aftermath when a tapped my shoulder and I heard him say “Can I ask you a couple of questions? Where were you yesterday when the bombing occured? What was your experience?” The moment these questions landed I heard a voice inside my head, stating with an authority that demanded attention, ‘It’s not your story to tell,’ So I turned and walked away. Having now navigated that moment I know the energy of that statement was “You weren’t hurt, your family is fine, you got to walk away. So get up, brush it off and let those who were really impacted get the attention they deserve.” In other words, my mind was telling me that my experience was not as significant as theirs. I was to let them have their experience.

Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect in our own minds about what a traumatic experience is supposed to look like. We are constantly comparing our story to someone else’s, and in doing so we too easily discount our own, pushing it aside as unimportant. I’ve heard all the addages as so many clients come to me with profound experiences that have been discounted in a quick statement, ‘It’s just a first world problem’ or, ‘It didn’t happen to me. I was just called to the scene before help arrived.’ It doesn’t surprise me, we were raised to be grateful because, well “There are starving children in Africa.” Yet it still lands with a response of ‘Seriously?’ I know better. I know better because I thought the same thing.

When I saw what happened at the marathon, I set it aside, giving the immediacy of the experience to somebody else, but trying to hide it didn’t make the images disappear. I continued to see the mind pictures of what happened that day. They showed up in a number of different ways, but I denied them every single time, even feeling shame as though my emotion took something away from those whose experience I thought was more legitimate.

It took a long time for me to understand that there was a lot about that day to unpack and there’s a process by which we do it. When I’m working with somebody who has had a traumatic experience or they’ve encountered a very uncomfortable situation, I come in with a 30,000 foot view. Why? Because we tend to get stuck, looking at only one particular portion of the story, never getting to the entirety of the story that desires attention and healing.

As I dove further into my experience, I had to get curious about what the entire event meant and the emotions around every different part of it. Each time I went in and pulled out one piece, it would open my ability to see something different and from a new perspective. In my case, the first thing I had to do was navigate past the fact that I’d denied the validity of my experience. Giving myself permission to feel and explore. I had to go back and deal with the feelings of selfishness that surfaced when I ran away from the tent. The survivors guilt, the helplessness and so many other emotions.

The more I unpacked, the more surfaced. I kept having to go back in – it was like layers kept opening up. Eventually, I had to look at what I’d witnessed, allowing myself to remember and understand it all, and pull that piece away, too. This is where what we do is different. Traditional therapies don’t often have the opportunity to do that. They tend to get stuck on the memory itself and never get to the core of what’s truly happening. The goal is to clear out all the old stuff so we can start again, without having to deal day after day with burdens we should have put down long ago.

If you’re feeling stuck, just reach out. You’ll be amazed at what freedom feels like.