Last night I watched a show called Fit to Fat to Fit. The inspiration for the show came from a personal trainer who continually found himself failing when it came to working with and helping overweight people reach their fitness, health and weight loss goals. He said after trying everything possible, he realized the problem was with him. So he gained 75 pounds to understand what it was like to be overweight – on physical, mental and spiritual levels. Then he underwent the process of trying to lose weight, from the place of being overweight to begin with. He said the experience changed his life and those of who he worked with after that experience.
I watched with interest – the other trainers that followed his example and was grateful to see just how it affected them, on all levels. From starting with arrogant beliefs of “all fat people are offensive, lazy and unmotivated with no willpower” to “it’s math – calories in vs. calories burned, I don’t understand why they just don’t get it” to watching them become depressed, struggle with their usual activities, judge themselves for missing their goals, not “living” life ,being the people they want to be, to even cheating on their diets and having cravings of their own.
It was fascinating to watch their transformation through humility and thus be able to better understand who they are as people and ultimately benefit who they are in relationship with those they are there to help. Watching them realize their own judgements turn into healing awareness fostered such a different relationship with their clients, was really powerful.
Then I found myself wondering if the same worked with trauma work. Can someone who hasn’t experienced any/similar levels of trauma truly understand what someone is going through, and be able to provide meaningful assistance? I will be honest and say that similar to the experience noted above I have some doubts. I believe that the theoretical knowledge of how and why things should work is helpful to be sure, but nothing quite matches the support and understanding of someone with shared experience.
I am not sure if the shared experience is effective because of the similarities or if because there is an inherent trust for those who are authentic in their personal knowledge. Somehow this shared experience provides a level of safety that is not available to an educated, yet unexperienced, stranger. I in no means am saying any of this from a judgement standpoint, but a position of curiosity and personal experience.
There is comfort in sameness and safety in knowing you are not alone. I wonder if these two pieces are in fact essential for the necessary groundwork for successful working/healing relationships. This truth of who we are and what we have experienced – being authentically us – is in fact the most essential element of building trust, of ourselves and others.
I know personally, that helps me to reframe my story into something meaningful and something FOR me, that has value, learnings and teachings – instead of something that happened TO me and keeps me in the victim mentality.
I am going to explore this further in future posts, but would love to hear from you if you have any comments or thoughts in this regard.