A Trauma Worth Healing

I’ve been traumatized. I’d like to say it’s over. I’d like to say that I’m healed. I THINK I’d even like to say that I remember it.

But it’s not over. I’m not healed. And I can’t remember it.

I can say this — I’ve come to believe that the core work of The Crucible Project is helping men heal from trauma. We’re an “emergency room” of sorts that helps men recognize the emotional trauma in their lives, bring it to the light, learn from it, love it, and heal from it.

I was traumatized as an infant. I was left in a hospital by my birth mom. I imagine that I screamed. I writhed. I yelled until my lungs could push no more. She never returned. She left. She abandoned me. And a part of me has been looking for her EVER since. I’m reminded that I was abandoned when I’m around other Dominicans. It happens when an old, brown-skinned woman looks at me for longer than is typical. It happens when I see a gap in someone’s teeth like mine.

I’m sad, angry, scared and confused because there’s this booming message that I hear when I’m triggered: YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH; YOU DON’T MATTER; YOU AIN’T NOTHIN’! The message replays when my wife decided to end our marriage. It sneers when I join ancestry.com in an attempt to find my birth mom.  It has been playing recently as a new and unexpected relationship looks like it’s coming to a close.

Your trauma might be different: divorce, getting fired, loss, breakups, blowups, neglect, abuse, seeing parents fight. These experiences are trauma.

Seeing that we live in a broken, fallen world, trauma is simply part of the human condition. Maybe you were the victim. Maybe you were the aggressor. Maybe you were an observer. Somehow, some way, humans are marked by trauma.

Our bodies and brains are physiologically changed as a result of the trauma we’ve experienced. Bessel Vand Der Kolk explains in The Body Keeps the Score that “long after a traumatic experience is over, [your mind] may be reactivated at the slightest hint of danger and mobilize disturbed brain circuits and secrete massive amounts of stress hormones.”

You know what happens next. The trauma gets triggered, and here’s what can follow: panic, fear, yelling, impulsivity, aggression, a sense of being overwhelmed, hibernation. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want any of this. Ever. And when this emotional trauma surfaces, we can run to all sorts of things to numb the pain:

  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Food
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Porn
  • Sex
  • New clothes, cars, or other things
  • Likes on a social media post
  • Promotions, degrees, or accolades
  • Isolation
  • The quest for a perfect body

And guess what? They work. Temporarily.The truth is that if we want healing — true healing — we actually need to rewire our hearts and minds. We need to stand with safe people in the memories of those traumatic experiences and face the lies that those experiences told us. According to Van Der Kolk, if we want to heal from trauma, we need to allow ourselves to “have experiences that deeply and viscerally contradict the helplessness, rage, or collapse that result from trauma.” The Crucible Project invites men into that trauma in order to contradict the helplessness, rage, or collapse.

  • Have you ever stood in the memory of a traumatic experience?
  • Have you ever heard the voices of lies that speak to you daily?

Well, if you’re like me, I hadn’t. And I didn’t know that I needed to. All of that changed on my initial Crucible Project weekend. I yelled, sweat and cried through that initial weekend. I stood in the face of my emotional trauma. I fought the lies that I had unknowingly given so much power to. And I became more aware of the choices I make in my life to deal with pain (e.g. coping mechanisms) that distract me from true healing. The Crucible Project allowed me to contradict helplessness and rage. As a result, I felt lighter. I actually looked different. I thought differently. I loved differently. I had changed. It was then that I knew I needed this work.

And my journey continues. Truth be told,  there are times I still hear the whispers of lies. When I listen to them, I feel untethered. And when I feel untethered, I get insecure, scared and withdraw. As a result of facing the lies, I can acknowledge that I’m hearing them but not let them in. I can acknowledge the truth about who I am and receive it. If not for The Crucible Project, I wouldn’t have known I was hearing, let alone, believing those lies. And I wouldn’t know the truth — that I am blessed, I am connected, and I am cared for.

In fact, I just worked on “me” earlier this week. I strangled the lies that were yelling at me and was reminded of healing Truth: God stitched me together in my mother’s womb. He knew my mother was going to put me up for adoption, and he loved me through it. He was with me. He still is. And I’m His son so worthy of His love.

– By Tony Bradburn

Tony completed his initial weekend in June of 2008 and is a graduate of our two-year transformational program. Tony hails from the idyllic shades found in Crystal Lake, IL. After being adopted from the Dominican Republic at the age of 6 months into a family in Elgin with two biological children, going through school, getting sober, becoming a teacher and a football coach, getting married, going to more schooling to get a few Master’s degrees, having four beautiful children, moving into educational administration, getting divorced, and now having principalship duties, it’s safe to say that Tony’s path has never been a straight one.

Photo Credit: David Quitoriano via Creative Commons