If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.
My family takes road trips. A lot of road trips. We have driven from Kentucky to Florida, Boston, Oregon, Colorado, and California. It’s fun to have the windows down, music blasting, taking in beauty from different regions in the country: beaches, mountains, cities, and countryside. My husband and I like to listen to audio books together to help pass the time as we cruise through the country.
Our most recent trip was to Oregon to celebrate Christmas with my in-laws. We had been driving for about 30 hours with another 10 to go when we stopped for dinner in Wyoming. After dinner, my family loaded in the car, kids got blankets and pillows to sleep, and I cued up our audiobook for my husband and I to listen to. After about ten minutes I noticed my husband was listening to music with his earbuds, not listening to the audiobook with me.
My voice immediately raised as I dramatically turned off the book. Somewhere in my head I knew that my reaction was extreme, but that logic was drowned out by roaring hurt feelings. This audiobook was supposed to be something we did together, a way for us to spend time together and bond. My husband listening to music felt like a direct slap in the face. It felt like he was saying “I don’t want you, I want to do my own thing. Spending time together is not desirable to me, in fact, I want as much space from you as possible in these tight quarters. I’m going to remain distant from you for the entirety of our trip. You are on your own.”
One of my most common requests in our marriage is that my husband and I be on the same team. That he doesn’t abandon me relationally or emotionally. And this simple act of listening to music instead of the audiobook felt like a declaration of not being on my team, for me, supporting me.
My husband noticed my dramatic reaction, and all I wasn’t saying. He explained to me that he didn’t realize I was putting on the audiobook. I didn’t believe him. It felt too intentional, too personal, too much of an attack. I could barely think through the noise of my emotions.
But blessedly, a phrase broke through the noise. “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” One of my mentors says this phrase to me. If my reaction is really big, or hysterical, then it is triggering a wound from my past. I’ve been involved in The Cross Ministry Group since 2011. One of the teachings from the ministry is that our past wounds affect us today. This slogan in combination with my years of sitting under this ministry has taught me to slow down and let my emotions be my teacher. What happened that something as simple as listening to music would feel like abandonment to me?
When we stopped for gas, I went to the bathroom, sat and prayed. I asked God to show me the wound. Show me what happened that is making my reaction so big. And He did. You see, in middle school I had a group of friends. I thought everything was fine and then one day I was told that I was kicked out of the group. I didn’t know what I did or what changed. I did know that it was my fault. And if I didn’t do anything to deserve to be kicked out, then it must be who I am. Simply because I’m me, I am worth leaving behind. I am no good. I am undeserving of friendship.
In a bathroom stall, in middle of nowhere Utah, I had a good cry. I mourned the loss of friendship, the messages that an unsuspecting little girl received, and the expectation that arose that if someone got to know me well enough, abandonment was inevitable. God met me in that bathroom stall and ministered to my spirit. God reminded me that I’m safe. My relationships are safe, and He is taking care of me.
The Cross Ministry Group has taught me that you have to go back to the wound to move on from the wound. I do not think I am healed from ever experiencing this trigger again. I know that I have the tools to not be controlled by the wounds of my past. I can experience the emotion, bring it to God, and move forward in the truth of who I am: a daughter of God who is so loved.
How do you do this? First, by recognizing it. Quit denying the feelings and reactions you are having. Name them. Speak them out loud. Confess them to God and maybe a trusted friend. Second, ask God to show you what happened. Third, experience the pain from your past so that you can enter into the present. And in all of this, grace. Grace for yourself, for what you experienced, for how it is affecting you now, and for your ability to move on.
Working to bring our thoughts and emotions captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) is not something that can be mastered once, or a few times. It’s a lifetime work. It’s sanctification. It’s beautiful.
I got back in the car, looked at my husband, and smiled. I can’t tell you if we listened to music, to the audiobook, or nothing at all. I can tell you that I felt comforted, I felt at peace, and I felt secure in my marriage in a way that ten minutes earlier was an impossibility. By going back and feeling my wound, I was enabled to see the present through an accurate lens. My husband and I had a misunderstanding, and I am free to give and receive love instead of defending and protecting myself.