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Overcoming Trauma
by Liz S.



I had begun spiritual counseling during an extremely turbulent time in my life. I had been struck by a semi-truck, and the accident reverberated in a variety of life-altering consequences. I underwent cervical surgery, but was unable to return to my former profession as a critical care nurse. I was a single mother of one child, had recently divorced, and was living in a hundred year old house, which I had been refurbishing. Because of my injuries, I am limited physically and experience constant, chronic pain. I had also been diagnosed several years earlier with chemical depression, which had been stable on medication prior to the accident. I am also a recovering alcoholic who had been sober for two years at the time of the accident.

As my financial situation grew graver, I was forced to sell my home in Kentucky and move with my daughter to live with my parents. My physical condition is such that I am unable to care for my daughter at times, and my parents have been incredible at maintaining a stable, loving home life and schedule for her. Finances are at the breaking point. My disability evaluation determined that I am 40% physically of what I had been prior to the accident, and 100% disabled from my profession.

I sought spiritual counseling to help me cope with all of these changes in my life. I was guilt-ridden over being unable to provide for my daughter financially, at times physically, and what I feared most, even emotionally. I was horrified and humiliated that at age 39 I had been forced to return home to rely on my parents for so much. I had lost my identity as a self-sufficient, responsible adult and parent. My body image was shattered. Especially difficult was learning to accept that my identity no longer included being a critical care nurse. With all of this baggage in tow, I began spiritual counseling. My counselor encouraged me to attend a workshop.

My introduction to the Intensive Journal workshop was a revelatory spiritual experience. When I arrived, I was utterly defeated by my losses. While there was no instant relief, I began a significant new phase in my healing. The processes I learned have enabled me to address issues I had previously been unable even to define, let alone to explore. I am learning to integrate the events in my life as part of a continuous journey instead of viewing them as circumscribed by the accident.

It was here that I first learned how to meditate and to listen to my own inner voice of wisdom. This skill has shown me how to hone my intuitive skills, and opened me up to new avenues of spirituality, acceptance of myself, and ultimately, acceptance of my life situation and continuing challenges. My concept of the Divine is now much more vibrant and nurturing. By using the method, I was able to discern what my real issues are, rather than the superficial, easy-to-identify triggers. I was able to begin to take those first tentative steps towards answering the life-defining questions: Who am I? How shall I survive? Where do I go from here?

In the Dialogue Dimension of the workbook, I engaged in a written dialogue with aspects of my life, which enabled me to process and resolve interpersonal struggles in a productive and healthy manner. The most wondrous aspect of this method is that I have been able to achieve a great deal of serenity in my interactions with others, regardless of their actions toward me. As a result, I am able to be whole emotionally. My new ability to forgive at a deep level allows me to release many of my fears and anxieties. I am able to love unconditionally and foster richer, more satisfying relationships. My ex-husband and I get along very well now, which is much healthier for our daughter.

Using the Dialogue with Events exercise allowed me to access and process the rage and fear surrounding the accident and its aftermath in a productive manner. My first reaction to traumatic events is to stifle painful feelings to remain in control. I had amassed a horde of unexpressed emotions, which had culminated in a disconnection with myself. I feared that acknowledging the depths of my fervent feelings would crush me. By approaching this powder keg through a variety of dialoguing exercises, I experienced my emotions without being overwhelmed by them. I am still learning how to identify and accept my feelings in a healthier way through the method.

I very much appreciated the respect for solitude and lack of pressure to talk during the workshop. Any display of feelings was respected, but no one ever tried to "fix" anyone else. The atmosphere was constructed to promote self-revelation and introspection.

What I have found to be the most rewarding about the Intensive Journal method is its practical application to my life. It is always available to me, and it has become much more valuable to me as time has progressed. I still see my spiritual counselor, who often suggests that issues we discuss could be better defined through using the method. The beauty of this method is that through the process of writing, I gain insights into myself and find solutions to aid me in facing my challenges. These entries have led to more productive sessions with my counselor, less dependency on her to provide solutions for me, and greater recognition of my ability to problem solve and care for myself.

Reading what I have written out loud during sessions also provides me with fresh information. I become aware of additional emotions that surface during the act of reading out loud to my counselor. These stirrings clue me into other areas of the Journal that I use to delve more deeply into feelings and situations. I often receive imagery that I further explore in the Twilight Imagery section. Rereading previous entries gives me concrete validation of my spiritual and emotional growth.

The program has helped me see who I am. I am continuing to learn how to acknowledge and ultimately accept my feelings in many areas of my life. It has been most beneficial to me in coping with my chronic pain. Instead of raging at the pain and the limitations it makes on me, I am learning to accept its presence. I have often discovered that buried emotions or problems that I have been avoiding are heralded by increases in my pain level. By using the exercises to examine these problems, I have noticed a decrease in the amount and dosage of my pain medications over the last three years. The number of days that I have been completely incapacitated by the pain has also declined.

Another section of the Intensive Journal workbook that has become very useful is Peaks, Depths, and Explorations. Here I have been able to scrutinize my tendencies or patterns of behavior to discern new approaches to change old, dysfunctional, or destructive responses. There is a great relief obtained simply by jotting my thoughts and feelings down on paper. This practice has been of extreme value in addressing some of my questions: Why was I disabled by the accident? Why me? Why do I suffer chronic pain? Will anyone ever love me with all of the obstacles that I face?

The Intensive Journal method strengthened me in my struggles with depression and anxiety. I am plagued less often by despair and suicidal thoughts. I waste less time worrying and attempting to control situations. I am able to access the Divine presence more readily. I am also learning to accept myself and appreciate myself for who I am instead of what I do or am no longer able to do. I enjoy time with myself and am more productive and less fatigued. I feel less distracted by what other people think. My feelings and actions are more authentic and genuinely mine. I am learning to forgive myself. For the first time in 41 years, I am learning to be comfortable in my own skin.

The Intensive Journal program has brought me many gifts and tools to aid me in my life's journey. The ability to change my perspective on the challenges in my life is the most significant gift I have received. I may not have survived without the program. I have achieved increased serenity, insight, and acceptance. My life and relationships are infinitely richer for this experience. Thank you, most sincerely, for offering this life-changing program!

__________________________________________________________________ "Intensive Journal" is a registered trademark of Jon Progoff and licensed to Dialogue House. Copyright 2003. Reprinted with permission of the author.