Connecting to Joy After Trauma
by Desiree Leigh, Wake Up to Live
Not everyone has the ease of connecting to the emotion called joy. Many of us ‘assume’ that this emotion comes natural for all of us. I have done a bit of research into why a few of us have to work at this connection. For instance, many individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from war or have experienced other traumatic events which have ignited PTSD, such as rape, sexual abuse, natural disasters, physical injury, bullying, domestic violence, etc., have to make a concerted effort to work at feeling joy.
The emotion of joy does not arise within trauma victims when we have lost trust and confidence in life (or in others); and, the greater the loss, the deeper the scar. It’s not to say that this emotion, called joy, cannot happen. It can occur; but, it takes conscious effort to feel it.
I watched a great interview, in Thompson Rivers University library, on an individual that had PTSD. It was a beautiful interview of a vulnerable Vietnam veteran that talked about his experience at war, and how he had to work through this stress disorder when he came back home to live with his wife and two children. What stood out the most for me was when he said that his greatest loss was the loss of his innocence. He can never get that back; and, it still brings tears to his eyes. Additionally, working at being happy or joyful was another. He said that many individuals take happiness for granted – moving in and out of the emotion with ease and believing that everyone else should be able to do the same. He said that it didn’t work that way with someone that had PTSD, and that he had to, without a doubt, work at connecting with joy every day. When so many individuals have let him down, it’s difficult to overcome this loss of trust.
In the end, this Vietnam veteran was able to pull through, and, at the same time, learn to experience joy; however, he continues to work at it. Some of his soldier friends could not pull through. This was something extremely difficult for him to talk about. He, now, has his Masters in Social Work and works with other post-traumatic stress disorder clients, not only war veterans but other trauma victims of rape and abuse.
My intention to writing this article is for the readers not to take the ease of experiencing joy with such simplicity and naivete. Connecting to joy is not always easy for the many who have experienced trauma. Although, it can be possible for most, it takes much work. We find our ways.
Wake Up to Live with Desiree Leigh