I wrote about The Importance of Bearing Witness on December 22, 2020. Which now feels like a million years ago. Many things have changed in two years, but not my thoughts on how important it is for us to share our stories and to listen to the stories of others.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.
“Bearing witness is a term that, used in psychology, refers to sharing our experiences with others, most notably in the communication to others of traumatic experiences. Bearing witness is a valuable way to process an experience, obtain empathy and support, lighten our emotional load via sharing it with the witness, and obtain catharsis. Most people bear witness daily, and not only in reaction to traumatic events. We bear witness to one another through our writing, through art, and by verbally simply sharing with others.” 1
April is Child Abuse, Alcohol, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Those awarenesses remind me of the importance of bearing witness.
That is a lot of really hard awarenesses in one month. But, it is a trifecta of awarenesses for me. And, though I would never wish this awareness trifecta on anyone else, I know I am not alone. And so, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the importance of bearing witness.
I have modified the original post because, well, two years ago, I was at the beginning of my journey. I have learned a few things since then. And it is pretty long, so I have broken it into two parts. If you would like to read the original post, you can find it here.
Bearing witness is telling your story and hearing the stories of others.
Two years ago, I started writing down my story and sharing it through my blog. That was the beginning of the weight lifted from my soul. It was then I began realizing how abused I was as a child. I was so lost and alone during my childhood. And still am in many ways.
Growing up, I had so many people deny my truth. I was told how wrong I was, from professionals to immediate family (who still refuse it), they all minimized my truth. And so I hid, and I pushed my truth down within myself because I was wrong. If I wasn’t wrong, why would people deny me so much? That is the logic I used against my truth my entire life.
When our stories are minimized, we deny ourselves our truth. We begin to disbelieve ourselves. It makes coming out with our story difficult. As I learned, healing was impossible when I didn’t know my truth.
My stories, our stories, create the awareness that April is supposed to do. But it isn’t the month itself that brings awareness; it is the stories shared by the survivors and thrivers who are brave enough to share their stories.
Not only does sharing my story help me, but it will also help others. I know I am not alone. I know this from other people that have shared their stories, and as a researcher, the data tells me that I am not alone. So perhaps, I can share my strength and hope with others. Because for so long, I felt so alone.
Bearing witness isn’t only about sharing my story. It is about the story of others. When other survivors bravely tell their stories, I need to be brave and listen.
As a society as a whole, we need to put aside our discomfort and hear their stories too.
Only then will anything change.
- Kristi Pikiewicz Ph.D. (December 3, 2013). The Power and Strength of Bearing Witness. Psychologytoday.com. Retrieved December 21, 2020. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/meaningful-you/201312/the-power-and-strength-bearing-witness#:~:text=Bearing%20witness%20is%20a%20term,to%20others%20of%20traumatic%20experiences.