Why Joy Is Important For Healing Developmental Trauma

“We all have everything we need within us to create our fullest potential.” ~Abraham Maslow

Did you grow up with a critical, distant, or ignorant mother?

She probably made sure that your physical needs were covered, but she never noticed or understood your emotional needs. If she was anything like my mum, she may even have shamed you for having them!

You’re an adult now, and you have everything you need to be happy. So why aren’t you? Instead, you feel unworthy, disconnected, and lonely even when you’re with people you love. There’s this constant emptiness inside that makes you angry and sad at the same time. 

Maybe you still long for a loving mother like you did when you were young, hoping that one day she’ll show up, or maybe you’ve given up hope that your mother will ever change.  

Either way, she left open wounds inside your entire being—invisible traces of the trauma that you sustained. And you need to heal these wounds so that you can rediscover your true nature, activate your full potential, and live a life of your choice—a life filled with joy.

Healing is crucial for your health—mental, physical and spiritual alike. The good news is, you don’t have to live in misery waiting for the “perfect” day to start being happy. In fact, bringing more joy into your life now will help you heal.

Think about it this way: Joy is like the sun that eats away grey clouds and opens up the skies. Everything it touches brightens up and fills with the energy of growth. 

Joy helps minimize the stress of the fight-or-flight reactions that you grew accustomed to because of to your traumatic past. It activates positive patterns in your brain instead, helping you heal and thrive.

Just like it helped me.

How I Learned to Speak Joy

I was thirty-one when I made the life-changing decision to move abroad, far away from the stress of the strained relationship with my mum. On the outside, I was a confident adult woman, the mother of a seven-year-old boy. But inside, I felt like a scared little girl longing for a safe place to hide.

Moving to a new country brought much positive change into my life. But, like nearly everything in life, with the good came a challenge.

Running from my narcissistic mum, I left behind everything I knew—everything I had built in my life. I also left Mum alone with my dear sick father in the age before the Internet, when international phone calls could bite holes in a family budget. What I wanted was a break from the pain inflicted by Mum’s behaviour, but I never stopped worrying about her and my dad.

I swapped my career in one of the country’s best medical centers for the life of a housewife, surrounded by strangers who spoke a language I didn’t understand. I uprooted my little boy and brought him to an unfamiliar place far away. We both felt like two survivors who had landed on another planet, and I needed all my strength just to stop myself from falling apart. 

So how did I step beyond merely surviving, and begin to thrive? By making a conscious decision to live in the now and enjoy what I have.

As simple as it seemed, it was a challenge in itself. You see, Mum taught me that life was serious business, and neither fun nor joy belonged there. Fortunately, the healthy part inside of me knew what I needed: to master another “foreign” language—the language of joy. Fortunately, I listened.

“Even when you didn’t have the mother you needed, there’s a place inside your heart that totally knows how to love.” ~Jette Simon, psychotherapist

So, there I was, learning to enjoy mundane chores like vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms—what could be less joyful than that? But I would turn on MTV, sing along, and swing my hips to the tunes blazing out of the big black box of a TV we had back then. And that simple trick drizzled my life with positivity, helping me to turn boring, everyday stuff into pleasurable activities.

After that small success, I learned to seek and…

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