- Janyne McConnaughey, PhD
Reflection: My Hope for the Future
It was an honor to speak at a Liberty University Psychology Department event this past week. What an opportunity to share insights about the lifelong effects and potential for healing from childhood trauma. My expectations for the number who would be interested in the topic were far exceeded when over 350 students filled the room—some sitting on the floor after the chairs were occupied.
It has taken me several days to process my thoughts. I hope I said what they needed to hear--the time limitation of speaking for 45 minutes with 15 minutes for questions was challenging though understandable. I taught at colleges for 33 years and students probably wouldn’t voluntarily attend any event longer than that timeframe. (I can’t blame them.) But, what a challenge! Considering what to say in 45 minutes was harder than writing a book!
I was prepared to share my insights with the students; but what I received from them exceeded my expectations. I received a profound hope for the future—a future in which communities and churches care deeply about—and understand-- those who are affected by traumatic childhood experiences. Most importantly, a future in which we believe trauma-informed care can help them heal.
Is that possible? It is so far from the world of silence which created my story; but it is my hope.
Seeing the students enter the room reminded me of my years of teaching college students. My students are now spread across the world and doing amazing things with their lives. So many of them have been my greatest supporters. I treasure the time I had with them as students and am delighted when I get to see them while traveling.
These new students were intently listening, and many took notes. (I forgot to tell them the slides will be up on my website, Janyne.org, in a few days.) They asked excellent questions and phrased them in better ways than I will state here. One wanted to know what the church could do to help those struggling with mental health. Another asked how to navigate understanding trauma-induced behaviors without accepting those behaviors as appropriate. Still another wanted to know if my childhood trauma had affected me while raising my children and one asked if the effects were different depending on the type of trauma. One wondered if trauma caused parts of us to be frozen at the various ages in which the trauma occurred. Then, an education student wanted to know how to help children with trauma-related behaviors in the classroom. (Oh my! I told her, “Please email me!” I hope she does. I can help with that question!) It was evident that they were deeply reflecting!
As I signed books, I asked what their dreams were. They had amazing dreams about futures that will make an impact in their world. As I talked with them, I sensed their potential. They all wanted to make the world a better place and came out in droves on a Tuesday night to learn about childhood trauma. I was so impressed and humbled.
One comment intrigued me. While talking to a student, I mentioned the fact that so many had come and laughingly said, “You all knew I was old.” His response was that they do talk about their experiences and seek help, but they don’t see people my age do the same very often —or even talk about what happened. (Well, I do know a few, but he was mostly right. We were raised in a different world; it isn’t easy. I am an anomaly—one they apparently respected.)
I told the students that the best time for me to heal would have been at their age Statistically, I know there were students in the room with stories similar to mine. When I was their age, no one understood the effects of trauma and the need for trauma-informed therapy. Would my life have followed a different path? I am not sure, but it certainly would have been easier and filled with the joy which I can now experience. I want that for those students
I would imagine that a greater number of the those attending had healthy childhoods (though all humans experience trauma in some form). They all came to learn how to care for others—in future careers, ministry, in the classroom, in friendships and relationships. It was a room full of compassionate students with dreams and I hope they were inspired to pursue them.
Thank you, Liberty University Psychology Department, for this opportunity. While doing the hard work of healing and struggling with the choice to publish BRAVE: A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma, I could never have imagined speaking to college students in this venue! God saw a possible future that I could not imagine and asked me to step into the therapy office to face my greatest fears—and heal. I am so glad I listened.