I just finished listening to Caroline Myss’ new CD, Navigating Hope. As I have mentioned before, Caroline has been a key spiritual teacher and mentor for me since 1995.

Once again, she gives a brilliant account of what hope is, why we’ve lost it, and how we can get it back.

I do not intend to review her CD, but to comment on how trauma destroys our ability to sustain hope and why hope is so crucial to our will to live. Without hope, we are only surviving, sometimes barely making it through from one day to the next. Trauma sucks the life out of us.

Hope can bring it back!

Let me start with a synopsis of Caroline’s definition of hope.

Hope is a grace.

“Grace, claims Caroline, is the breath of God – an invisible essence beyond intellect that moves swiftly amongst us”.

Grace helps us through times of transformation. One of the key elements of grace is that it’s an alchemical force and requires our participation. All graces have individual expression.

The grace of hope motivates us to try again, to hang on one more time, to believe in the impossible.  Hope also helps us to believe  in another person just once more, to give a person one more chance. Hope enables us to think that we’re going to try this against all odds, to believe, to have faith. When we have faith, we also open our inner being to become hope.

Rather than simply having hope, we embody it.

And, here’s the big one according to Caroline, hope comes only through the intervention of God. That’s why it’s a grace. It can only be given.  It comes when it comes, and we have to be open to recognize and act on it. Having a spiritual discipline helps in acquiring that recognition.

When we undergo trauma, we lose that faith, that innocence.  And with the loss of faith, we lose all sense of hope. We no longer feel safe. We no longer feel protected. We no longer believe that we can protect ourselves;  we lose our trust in our ability to fight or flight. We’re afraid that what happened will recur, and we are powerless to stop it.

Often, that is true. In natural disasters, we have no control over the elements. In war, we never know when we’ll be bombed, incarcerated, or tortured. In abuse, we are too defenseless to stop the beatings, to stop the rape.  We  replay the trauma through flashbacks, through nightmares – fully regressing back to the trauma itself.

We feel we have no choice but to submit. We have no hope that things can change.

It’s true that we have no control over some external things in life. What we do have control over is how we respond to the external turmoil.

But, until we  start the journey of healing our wounds, we will feel powerless.

The decision to heal our wounds is the first and pivotal step. We can go through all the steps. But, if we haven’t committed to the healing journey, we are doing just that – just going through the steps. So, why is it so difficult to make this decision, you ask? Wouldn’t everyone want to heal?

Of course we would, is the logical answer. Then, why don’t we?

Having gone through the healing process myself as well as helping many clients to go through it, I have a response. It is hard work. It is also painful work.

There were many a time when I just wanted the pain, the grief, the rage to stop. And, dealing with unresolved trauma was bringing it up all over again. I often wondered why I was doing this to myself. Many times, I just wanted to hide.

Yet, my body never forgot the molestation, the beatings. My feelings never forgot the teasing, the put-downs, the emotional manipulation. And, for me, it turned into cancer. That was when I knew I needed to finish this work, or I could die.

What I learned was that the pain festered in my body anyway and that post-traumatic symptoms would force me to face the horror all over again. I had no control over any of this.

As I slowly peeled off the layers of trauma, I began to understand that peace descended into my being after every emotional outburst. I began to understand that I wasn’t stupid, as my father told me again and again. When my mind shut down and I couldn’t think, I learned that it was the immobility response that was triggered from the trauma.  I began to have hope that I could heal. And, with this hope, I could find the courage to endure the pain in order for it to leave. Ironic, isn’t it?

What I know now is that the only way to stop the pain is to consciously choose to go through it.

I have hope that all trauma survivors can heal, if they so choose!