“Everyone is a hero. This is a given.”

Mandala © 2015 Laura K Kerr, PhD. All rights reserved.

Everyone is a hero.

This is a given.

We have a call to adventure. 

We refuse. 

A crisis ensues.

We cannot turn back—and we answer the call.

We collect helpers, teachers, guides. 

And we cross a threshold into the unknown. 

We lose our identity and enter an abyss, a nadir,

the belly of the whale. 

We emerge. 

We begin traveling back home to what we have known—

recrossing the threshold. 

We return. 

We have changed.

I remember when I was deep in the work of recovery. I was in my thirties, and enduring flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse. Flooded by fragments of memories and feelings of profound betrayal, I cried a lot and easily. I started on a quest of sorts to put an end to suffering and to live a ‘normal’ life, which I imagined as having peace in my mind and body, and living without constant fear. At the time, one of my friends headed off to climb Everest. I idealized his adventure, thinking, Wow, to live such a heroic life! It wasn’t until I finally reached my goal of peaceful mind and body that I could see how extraordinary my efforts at healing had been, that I too had undergone a great adventure — one that took me not to the highest peaks, but to the darkest depths.

I don’t think we frequently honor how hard it is to commit to overcoming traumatic pasts and the grip of fear. But heroism is necessary here too. And although there aren’t always outward signs that one has surmounted a great obstacle, the inward changes are no less profound.

© 2015 Laura K Kerr, PhD. All rights reserved (applies to writing and photography).

  • ComplexTraumaJourney

    Hi Laura, Thanks for sharing your insights. Too often the trauma survivor’s experience is seen only in a negative light. Even when the experience of childhood trauma is seen through a recovery lens, I believe it is often seen a limited ‘bracketed’ (possibly dishonoring) way. I am uncomfortable with recovery models suggesting there are ‘survivors’ vs. ‘thrivers’ (that is, those that we’re able to ‘get on with the business of life’ versus the ‘losers’). The idea of moving through a process of individuation feels more honoring to me, athough this work was not emphasized by my trauma therapist. I did not recognize the connection of my life experience to the Hero’s Journey until I experienced the Dark Nights of the Soul. While I felt a profound sense of alienation, despair & hopelessness, simulatenously, the challenge in the darkness felt like a ‘call to arms’. Either, I could give up in defeat or accept the journey was mine to ‘own’ and accept as part of a larger purpose which I did not fully understand, but somehow the universe was inviting me to participate, to take a role in how things were to play out. In this way, I experienced a sense of reconnectedness with my self through fragmentation. While I am still not healed, it gives me comfort to know that I walk the Hero’s Path accompanied by many other trauma survivors. You’re work makes me feel uplifted, hopeful and not alone in my journey.

    I look forward to reading more of your writing since I find great resonance with my own experiences. I also like sharing your ideas on Twitter. You’ve probably got a lot going on with your writing, social media work and other acitvities, and it would be great to see you on Twitter. I think many trauma survivors and others in the ‘trauma informed’ and ‘trauma survivor friendly’ mental health community would appreciate your writing and insightful commentary and persepctive of the trauma experience. You can find me @complextraumajourney:disqus on Twitter. 🙂

    Warm regards, Jennifer Mourrain

    • Jennifer,

      Thanks so much for honoring me and other readers with reflections on your own healing work. I really appreciate your eloquent description. I also think a lot about how many of us feel we are “still not healed,” and how painful that belief can sometimes be. Of course, the commitment to heal is worth it; we do get stronger and grow in immeasurable ways. But we also continue to suffer. At least I have found this to be the case, although I relate to my suffering differently as a result of my commitment to recovery.

      Fate has dealt us an unfair hand, and yet we must travel the path we find ourselves on. And I wonder if we could stand in the light more, so to speak, with less of a sense of feeling alienated and shamed, if we saw those inevitable Dark Nights of the Soul as periodic passages, part of the path we must walk, rather than evidence that we are somehow broken. And yes, I know this is easier said than done! But I get more peace when I try to accept those Dark Nights will always revisit me (at least they still do), while working towards expanding my capacity for joy and peace of mind when I can.

      Thanks for the encouragement for Twitter. I was on it for a while, and probably should return. I guess I’m kind of out of the loop!