The Right to Heal: When Traumatized Kids Need Help to Recover
Children have a right to heal in the wake of trauma. Protecting this right is not simply a matter of offering therapy to every child exposed to traumatic events. In fact, it may mean not offering anything but a chance to heal, and only if the child is stuck offering adult intervention in the form of therapy. It depends upon who the child is and the context in which the child is facing the prospect of recovering from trauma.
Nearly 40 years ago, when I was a counselor at a religious summer camp, there was a battered poster on the wall of the educational center that was entitled “Strong Words.” It read: “Have you learned lessons only from those who admired you and were tender with you and stood aside for you? Have you not also learned great lessons from those who reject you and brace themselves against you, or who treat you with contempt, or dispute the passage with you?” I fought against the wisdom of those “Strong Words” then, but I embrace it now with the perspective of four decades more life experience.
Spiritual teachers have always recognized this truth. For example, the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola, included as a central tenet of his “spiritual exercises” the idea that our spiritual progress depends upon our ability to recognize and learn from both human life’s “consolations” (the times of harmony, peace, and joy) and its “desolations” (the times of struggle, sadness, and disappointment). Buddhism teaches that suffering is inevitable in human life and the answer is not to avoid it but to embrace it as opportunity to engage in spiritual development activities that lead toward a state of enlightenment, with “non-attachment” being the necessary approach to life to achieve this state of unconditional happiness. This is one sense in which trauma offers spiritual opportunities, but it is not the only one.
KeywordsTraumatic Event School Shooting Moral Stress Chronic Trauma Strong Word
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