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  • Written by Eric North aka “The Happiness Warrior”


Most of us have been through something in our lives that has caused us much pain, shock, fear, or trauma.

No matter how someone else might perceive them, these events are real, and they are deeply personal. Most often they cause so much distress and confusion that we keep them stored in our minds; compartmentalized, but never forgotten. Some of us live our lives without ever revealing our truths to anyone. Sometimes we fear that we’ll never get over them.

Trauma is real but how we set our minds to forgiving ourselves, understanding our actions, and adapting an attitude of resilience is how we can begin to live our lives with more purpose, empathy, and understanding. With a self-affirming mindset, we can remove trauma from our lives and live our lives with more gratitude and courage.

As real as this trauma is, it holds us back from enjoying our lives and truly feeling happy. Unresolved trauma interferes with our connection to the world around us and keeps our vibration low and questioning. Why do we feel we deserve our suffering? Why do we work so hard to avoid telling our stories? Ultimately, the attitude we choose to adapt and a mindset for forgiveness will save us from our downward spiral.

Several years ago, I somewhat reluctantly agreed to go on a tubing trip with a large group on the Shenandoah River. I’ve always been sort of loner and like to be in charge of my destination. Big groups were never my thing, and my intuition was on alert. I tried to say no and follow my inner voice, but my friends insisted. Still somewhat hesitant, I agreed to go with an open heart with a mindset for fun and adventure.

There was quite a large crowd gathered on the riverbank on that beautiful midsummer morning. The mood was filled with anticipation, and many were already very inebriated and quite rowdy. As we began to drift with the current the mood began to change, and I felt all too sober and disconnected. I rarely drink and alcohol deadens my temper and mood. I moved further and further away from the pack and soon I was almost alone and peacefully floating in the warm sun as the pastoral landscape lazily passed me by. Nature has always been my medicine and I was happy in the quiet and solitude.

At one point we came to a swimming hole with a rope swing. I was one of the last to arrive and many had already taken their turn and moved on down the river. Seeing no one around, I tied my tube up and climbed up the riverbank to the rope. I grabbed a hold, took a few steps back and swung out over the water near where I thought I had left my tied-up tube. The water was much deeper than I expected and found myself sinking almost immediately. Slightly panicking I realized that someone had taken my inner-tube and the water shoes that I was wearing kept dragging me beneath the surface.

Once a strong swimmer, I felt the strong pull of the current beneath the surface and was running out of air. Feeling desperate I somehow kicked hard enough to pop my head up, choking and sputtering. My relief was short-lived, and I had nothing to hold on to and the current pulled me under again. I was running out of air and for a moment I thought my life was over.

It was terrifying and not how I ever thought I would die. In my last conscious breath, I saw another loose tube floating close by on the surface overhead, grabbed the rope, and pulled myself up from under the water. I was shaking, in shock and no one had witnessed my struggle. I rested in the tube for a bit, shivering and cold. Eventually I got my breathing under control and pulled myself together. When I rejoined the others I never said a word and kept my trauma and feelings to myself.

EVERYONE HAS PTSD

Ever since the rafting trip, I’ve both consciously and subconsciously avoided activities on the water. I haven’t swum or done any of the things I used to love doing. I told myself that it didn’t matter but deep down I felt fear and shame of my inauthentic behavior.

This past weekend I took a much-needed trip out of town. For two and a half years I had been home taking care of my family and businesses during the pandemic. I had been busy putting my life in order, caring for my family, rescuing my businesses from forced closures, and strengthening both my body and mind. I needed to test myself in public again and see the world with a new perception. It was time for me to get out into the world again and live in my intention and authenticity.

While I was on my trip I was a guest on a podcast about fear. We were a panel of four. We all shared our stories and how we’ve handled our fears and the understanding that we’ve gained from facing them. It was a great discussion, and I thought about my secret fear of being in the water and irrational fear of drowning.

The next morning, I went to the pool in the early dawn and began my morning breathing and visualizing exercises. I focused on conquering my fear. The warm saltwater pool was beckoning, and I remembered happy memories of learning to swim at the Y when I was young. The joy I always felt in the water was right in front of me ready to conquer.

So, I got in the pool, and I started swimming as I had learned long ago. I remembered my breathing lesson from long ago and felt a sense of peace as I began to move through the water. I was a bit careful at first, but muscles have memories, and the lessons of my early years came back.. My body began to feel at one with the water. I began to feel safe, confident in myself, and happy in my revelation.

I swam one fifty-meter lap and was exhausted but alive! I knew I could do better on the next lap and set out again. Five laps later I was beaming inside and happy. I had restored a promise to myself. I felt the happiness that comes when we test ourselves and conquer our self-imposed demons and fears.

PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING

When we learn the power of self-belief we can begin to see things as they really are. Self-awareness can be an emotional process that can bring much needed light into our spirit. When we are aware of who we are and what we are capable of, we can begin to create a newfound respect for ourselves, raise our integrity, and create more personal happiness. This self-awareness raises our vibration and allows us to realize that our happiness comes from within.

HEALING IS OUR OWN RESPONSIBILITY

As humans we have a lifetime of traumas in our memories. How we process, heal, and forgive is how we create the lives that we desire. In every darkness there is always a light. There’s a lesson in everything in life and always a glimpse of enlightenment to be found. Attitude is ours alone and something that no one can control or take from us. Attitude is a gift that creates that enables our healing. It’s the path of our choosing through life. Attitude is the antidote to trauma.

Love yourself, heal both spirit and mind, forgive and know that you can do great things. Develop the discipline to conquer your fears and raise your vibration and happiness. Know that if we believe in ourselves we can be capable of anything!

PUT FEAR IN A BOX

I’ve always felt that the best way to confront fears is to go beyond thinking about them and actually saying and confronting them aloud. When I state my fear in a strong voice strength and conviction, I can always make it smaller and less alarming. Each day the worry becomes smaller and eventually is pushed out of the way and forgotten.

Life is too short for wondering what might happen about things that will never occur. Leave fear in the past and learn to live in the present. I like to think of life as a big, beautiful picture, and how I can make the imperfections smaller.

WRAP UP

No matter how hard we try to change our subconscious thoughts they will always remain unless we fight them head on. The enemy is always less powerful when we are direct and able to fight through the temporary emotional pain. Each trauma is painful in its own way, but they are also powerful lessons that teach us resilience and wisdom. We may not feel it at first, but the universe has a way of balancing the equation.

My weekend away was powerful and I had many affirmations and insights into my life. Most importantly I conquered my fear of drowning and I learned how to swim once again. I restored my personal integrity.

As The Happiness Warrior, one thing I know for certain, no matter how old we get or under what circumstances we all have the power within to change our lives, choose the right attitude, and confront our fears. Our stories are meant to be told, shared, and help us feel the connection with others. Nothing is worse than holding it in!



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