R is for Remember Gratitude: Wonder Compass

 In Remember Gratitude, Weekly Wonder For You

Dear Woman of Wonder,

Here we are! R is for Remember Gratitude in the Wonder Compass, a collection of compass points, or skills, we can use to comfort, nourish, navigate, and support us on our healing journeys as trauma survivors because it’s so very easy to get lost in a swampland of pain, fear, anxiety, and depression of the past.

To recap, so far the Wonder Compass includes the following compass points:

W is for Wander Inside

O is for Own Your Story; Transform Your Life

N is for Nurture Yourself

D is for Dive into Creativity

E is for Engage in Community

The Wonder Compass was not designed to be linear process like it’s been presented in these Weekly Wonder posts. Rather, the Wonder Compass is a round, never-ending, a circle where we can dip into creativity one day, nourish ourselves another, and journal about our story on still another. Some days, we’ll engage in all six compass points at some level. Other days, none. And it’s all good.

And now why Remember Gratitude is part of the Wonder Compass.

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As women with a history of sexual trauma, happiness can be elusive because the wounds of sexual abuse and trauma often sit on our shoulders and whisper in our ears all the reasons why it isn’t possible.  Ideas like: “If I feel or act happy, the trauma I suffered must not have been all that bad,” or “I’m bad because sexual abuse happened to me.” There’s so much shame that can follow us wherever we go. Often, we find ourselves living in the shadow of our past, struggling to be joyful in the present. It can all feel like a life of what I call anti-wonder.

Anti-wonder was my own tight fitting habit for decades following the trauma of sexual abuse that happened to me as a child. To be happy required too much work. It seemed easier to remain depressed, until, as an adult and mother of three, I saw a video of myself on Christmas morning looking so very sad and weary. I was unable to crack a smile for my two older children as they ran to me in all their excitement. Festive wrapping paper covered the floor, the tree was wrapped in lights, and my children laughed and shrieked with delight. I stood with my baby girl on my hip swaying and silently observing the wild chaos. My face and voice were flat.

Watching that video a few months later, I was shocked. I saw what anti-wonder looked like and that was a turning point for me.  I decided to do something about it, and that something was to simply be more grateful. It was a small step, but it was my way of taking responsibility for my own happiness. A crack was made in the habit, and a little light began to come in.

Imagine your life richly.

Lakota saying

The negative states of mind that follow a traumatic experience can last for years, decades, or a lifetime if left unchecked. To counter that, here’s what research has shown that gratitude journaling can:

  • Lower levels of depression
  • Strengthen relationships and connections
  • Improve physical and emotional health
  • Boost exercise
  • Boost optimism
  • Boost progress on personal goals
  • Boost alertness, enthusiasm, and energy

But there’s more.

It’s not just about giving thanks when things are good. As Saundra Goldman from the Creative Mix recently blogged in her post Enough With Gratitude:

I believe gratitude is born out of heartache and suffering. Like happiness, gratitude rises when you least expect it, the result of being present to all that is, including the dark stuff.

Being present to all that is, the good and the bad, our shadows, our glories, our sorrows and our joys. All this irreconcilable stuff, and still to say, Hallelujah. Wow. That’s gratitude of a different magnitude than just jotting down three or four things every night that you’re grateful for, which is what we usually think about when we consider gratitude journaling.  Read more of Saundra’s thought provoking post here.

Rather, perhaps the goal of our healing journey is to eventually arrive at a point where we can express gratitude for our past, because it has made us who we are. It has given us opportunity to become more compassionate, more aware, more present to the present moment.

It has taken me a long, long time to get to this point. To realize my past history of trauma is not my greatest weakness, or the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Rather, I’ve opened and grown and traveled to the point where I can say this for me and for you, dear Woman of Wonder:

We can transform our past lives of pain and shame into new stories of strength—stories that foster connection and intimacy with others and ourselves. We can employ holistic practices to help us “get through it” since there is no quick or easy way to “get over it. We can learn listen to our bodies, to wander bravely into our silence, to finally own our story.  We can allow our past traumas to become our greatest strength.

And we can be grateful along the journey.

I’m currently taking an online course from Lisa Sonora called The 7 Creative Powers where Lisa suggests using this prompt for expressing gratitude:

I am so very happy and grateful that….

Rather just list three or four things–the things or people you are grateful for–this prompt asks you to go deeper, begging you to explain why you are grateful for something or someone.

I invite you to try it out. Let me know how this puts a different spin on gratitude expression for you. I’d also love to hear your comments on anything I’ve posted here.

I am so very happy and grateful that you, dear Woman of Wonder, are with me on this healing journey.

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