Having survived sexual abuse at the age of 12, I can only describe the secrets that followed as lugging around a gut-wrenching 100-pound object everywhere I went.. It was the invisible elephant in the room no matter where I ran. My attitude was that I did not choose this life nor did I want it—I could not truly share my life with anyone else. I wanted the pain to stop. No matter what. And, if that wasn’t possible, I was prepared for life itself to stop.
When I was in my early twenties, I read about the concept of the freedom to choose. One of the first books I read that made a profound difference in my life was by Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search For Meaning”. There were so many quotes that struck a chord with me, especially this one: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Reading Viktor Frankl’s words was the first time I learned that I could choose a different response than what I was used to. I could simply choose to have a happy response to something that I previously had a sad response to because of that space. He chose to change his response to his suffering during the Holocaust and I too could do it for my own suffering.
A short while later, I read Eckhart Tolle’s, “The Power of Now”. One of the things I learned from reading this book was the concept of how much the past has an effect on all human lives and how much more so for people who experience some sort of trauma. For me, this was the first time I was able to see how much the reality of the past and the concept of the future both played a role in my present-day attitude.
I was able to see the past and future for what they are, and therefore, to have them work towards my advantage versus disadvantage.
Even with knowing that I had the ability to choose my response to a thought, memory or an encounter, my past always provided me with an excuse to choose the negative response, which was seemingly natural and wired. Additionally, I learned that the more I was willing to challenge myself by making difficult choices to step out of my comfort zone, the more my past as a whole would end up working to my advantage. You can think of this as adding money to a bank account that starts off with a negative balance; when steadily adding money to the account, the account will inevitably have a positive balance.
Still, knowing that I could choose and look at different perspectives of what reality or the past, only provided me with temporary relief. It was still very hard and I didn’t feel settled most of the time. I had many unanswered questions, consistent complaints and couldn’t share this with anyone.
During the following years, I came across a company offering personal training and development programs. There is so much to say about this program and the effect it has had on my life. Without this program, I would not be sharing my story with you today and cannot say that I would have survived to this point. I learned that knowledge is not enough. No matter how much I was learning there was always knowledge that I did not know that I did not know.
Putting what I learned into action is where I grew and took on new ways of looking at responsibility, integrity, communication, forgiveness and generosity amongst other things. I credit this program for the fact I can now publicly share about my past and have the space to empower others.
Although I will stumble, I will always work on finding the right balance so that I can stay present to being the best version of myself. This will give me the ability to be there for the people I love and support. There was never one solution to healing from my traumatic experiences just like there is no one path to success. Finding the courage to reach out and committing to living a life where I am consistently challenged has been the foundation to changing my life forever.
This is the second submission from this author, you can read his first article here.