By Jorge Diaz, MSW – Clinical Social Worker
In a country where we celebrate Independence day yet so many of us struggle with being free-free from our past traumas, free from negative and unhealthy messages regarding sexuality, and certainly free from the pain endured due to “being different.” The inner war within ourselves due to our sexual orientation and the inability to live free of judgment and shame associated with being LGBT is a tough journey for many. Some even feel that being or growing up gay in a “straight man’s world” is like embarking on life with two flat tires. Sad metaphor but true depending on various factors of who you are: social economic status, juggling dual identities and certainly families influenced by culture, religion and generations of family beliefs.
To be free is a powerful state of mind and the ability to set yourself free from past traumas can be a liberating yet painful experience. Is it possible to set yourself free from a traumatic childhood? Is it possible to reframe our experiences of rejection that impacted our self-esteem or the negative messages that begun to shape a negative perception of our identity? It’s unfortunate how many struggle with internalized homophobia or find themselves in a web of unhealthy behaviors or in a cycle of unhealthy relationships. Most don’t understand the possible correlation of the “here and now” with the “past and our childhood.”
Often patients ask “how is it possible to heal past and painful experiences?” Is it possible to erase them and start fresh? Well, no, not exactly.” In order to set ourselves free, we must acknowledge that we are trapped in the past or unable to move forward. We unfortunately do not have the ability to simply erase the pain endured as a child and it may also be impossible to forget painful experiences.
However, embarking on the journey of healing and forgiveness may be a healthy start. You will never forget, but you can certainly take steps to find closure. We may not have all the answers or the power to remove experiences from our memories; however, we do have the power to make appropriate changes to live healthier and productive lives. We may not have the power to erase or change decisions that resulted in negative outcomes, however, we do have the power to learn from the past and make healthier decisions for possible different outcomes.
We do not know what the future holds for any of us but what happens from here depends on you. If you were unhappy in the past, it’s time to heal-you may have a healthier and happier future. Expect life to throw in some tough or heartbreaking experiences or bumps in the road-how you overcome those barriers depends on you. Learn from your past and identify the necessary tools or support needed to face life challenging moments. In life, we must learn to win, lose and grow…..