It’s been said by the leading trauma researchers that being able to do something about what we’re going through can determine whether something becomes traumatic or not.
I agree. But I think it can start with the voice.
I think it can start with whether we’re ‘allowed’ to use our voices after a threatening event.
Think about it.
If a child encounters something that feels completely unsafe, and can scream and shout to bring attention to the situation, and if adults listen, that’s the first step.
Then if the child is allowed to have a say in how to stop whatever is making him feel unsafe–and how to keep it from happening again– then I believe he will be less likely to develop symptoms of trauma.
In that case, the experience actually becomes something that helps the child build trust in his own voice and in the community, because he learns he can speak, he can be heard, and others are willing to help him.
If this happens every time the child encounters an unsafe situation, he will grow up strong, instead of harmed—with a strong community of support.
It’s the same with betrayal.
If we can speak out about the betrayal and our voice is heard, then when we’re ‘allowed’ to have a say in a plan that helps us feel safe going forward—without shame, blame, impatience and pressure—then it doesn’t develop into a traumatic experience. It can actually strengthen us and help us know we’re part of a deeply loving community.
But when we aren’t able to have a say in a plan going forward, if we aren’t even heard in the first place… if we are instead misunderstood to the point of being further harmed, then the feelings of not being safe will continue.
And if it happens often enough or long enough it can develop into traumatization/PTSD, which will only increase the pain we feel and make it more difficult to heal.
AN UNFORTUNATE PATTERN
In 20+ years of looking at this issue, I’ve seen an unfortunate pattern.
Whereas the best-case scenario after betrayal is where a woman is heard, what I’ve seen is that things are usually fine up until the very moment she starts using her voice. At that point, I’ve seen many husbands turn their backs on the wives. (I’ve even seen families, friends, churches, and therapists do the same, but that’s for another time.)
Instead of it being a season of growth for all involved, it can become a season of silencing her using any method possible: labels, Scripture, intimidation, untruths, and on rare occasions physical abuse.
And that only delays her healing.
Whether you haven’t found your voice yet or use yours all the time, remain aware that it can get worse before it gets better depending on the person you’re talking to.
If you feel repeatedly misunderstood, keep looking for someone who will understand.
But if you aren’t used to using your voice, please know there are several things that usually need to be in place first, so be careful about coming down hard on yourself. It’s normal to be timid around intimidating people, but keep praying, keep working at it, and keep looking for understanding people to surround yourself with.
And also remember to listen to your inner voice—and that small, still voice—and one day you may find that speaking up becomes much more natural to you.
Feel free to write in the comments section about a time where you used your voice. What was the result?
If enough participate, I may share this part of my story in the comments too.