By Tamara Brooks-Barnes
As a teenager and an emerging young woman, I experienced several traumas back-to-back. Some were sexual violations by grown men, my parents divorcing, one was an abortion, another homelessness, yet another was poverty. For three years, I felt like I was living hell on earth.
During those days, it seemed as if the moment I would take a deep breath, another traumatic event would consume my exhale. Over time I began to dwell in the place of being a victim. After all, I was a recipient of victimization regularly, so why not just live there? It never made me feel better, but at least I would be ready for when it happened repeatedly.
Many years passed before I realized that I had succumbed to a victim mentality. Who does that? I did, without even realizing such problematic truth. Playing the victim became my forte, and I was oblivious.
According to Robert Leahy, Ph.D., there are six characteristics of victim-oriented thinking:
You feel powerless
You tend to see problems as catastrophic
You tend to think others purposefully hurt you
You believe others target you for mistreatment
You hold tightly to thoughts and feelings related to that of a victim
You feel compelled to keep painful memories alive, not forgive, and take revenge.
I was not living in each trauma continuously. Still, the consecutive traumatic experiences had conditioned me to live in a space where many times, I felt that any form of an adverse occurrence was assigned to attack me or break me down even further. Yet, many of the traumatic affairs were probably just happenstance. However, no matter the case, anger and rage became my ride or die companions. We became bosom buddies, and I felt empowered whenever I became angry or outraged. That false sense of power eventually became my armor. I protected my partners in crime at all costs, and it did not matter who got in the way of our fire—myself, anger, and rage would burn them all.
The turning point occurred when my husband and I were having a minor spat. I was enraged! I was plotting ways I could harm my beloved. I remember sitting on the stoop of our apartment when he asked me, “What is wrong with you?” I replied, “I don’t know. All I know is that I AM FURIOUS.” That very night I prayed, “God, I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I know I am not okay, and I need help.”
The next day I went to campus; I was a college student at the time, there were flyers everywhere. Everywhere I turned, flyers were plastered on walls offering help for women of color. I cannot remember the exact words, but the bulletins were a sign to me from God. I contacted the number to sign up for the seminar. Something about the flyer penetrated my soul, and I could not get it out of my mind. I looked forward to finding out more.
The seminar was on a Sunday afternoon. When I arrived, the room was full of women of all cultures and ethnicities. The facilitator was a black woman, Barbara Jackson. She guided us through a series of exercises. Towards the end, she asked who wanted to meet with her privately. I signed up immediately. Little did I know, I was about to face all those traumas I thought were so far behind me.
I remember my first meeting with Ms. Jackson. I wanted to talk about my husband and all the things he could do to be a better husband. I wanted to talk about my first boyfriend and how he played me for a fool. However, Ms. Jackson had other ideas. She stated firmly and lovingly, “Let’s talk about you.” I remember I paused, and I said, “If my husband would just do what I said, and my boyfriend would have just been faithful, we wouldn’t be here!” Ms. Jackson said, “Your boyfriend did no more than what you allowed, and your husband is not your slave.” Wow! Those words shook me at my core, and they set me on a path to healing.
I had to confront my traumas, and therapy was the safe space in which I could do just that. I was yet to heal from being molested, my parent’s divorce, or from a forced abortion. Not only had I not gained healing, but I was also bleeding all over my husband, my children, and anyone who stood still long enough to try and get to know me.
I had survived it all for purpose, but in the condition, I was in, I was blind to seeing such a reality. I was in a critical spiritual condition, and my soul was crying out for deep inner healing. I knew it was crucial when I was in therapy with Ms. Jackson twice a week, group therapy once a week, and marriage counseling with our pastor. I was a wreck. However, I started dreaming again.
I was so emotionally dead; I did not even realize I had stopped dreaming. I had always been a dreamer, but by becoming detached from myself because of chronic trauma, I lost touch with who God had called me to be. Looking back, I was a zombie–rotting and decaying spiritually and emotionally yet walking around like I was alive.
I remember during this season, I cried and cried and cried some more. I began to share my traumas with my pastor, and he prayed and prayed and prayed some more. I still remember my first authentic worship experience. It came in the living room of my house. There was a man on television, Bishop TD Jakes, and was ministering on “Woman Thou Art Loosed.” It was the Lord’s doing, and it was marvelous in my eyes.
I was not a religious television watcher, but this day I had the television on TBN. I was not a shouting kind of woman either. Something changed in me the day I watched this program. Although I would praise the LORD, it was this day that I had my first unadulterated worship encounter. I raised my hands. I cried out to God, and I felt the presence of God like I had never experienced before.
That encounter with God made me hunger and thirst for His presence all the time. I would seek out times to worship the LORD. I kept sitting at His feet during this time, and I felt like I was coming out of a deep slumber. I felt the fog lifting; I felt lighter. I started singing in my home again. I read my bible with an intensity I had not had since I was a child. I started communing with the Holy Spirit. I was being refreshed, renewed, and healed.
During this season, my pastor began to talk to me about the prophetic anointing that he could see in my life. He encouraged me in my gift and nurtured my call. I did a lot of personal healing, but I also received healing in some very public spaces. Our ministry functioned heavily in healing and deliverance, and our pastor had a heavy anointing for forgiveness. He ministered on forgiveness many times of the twenty-five years I was a part of the ministry. Every time he ministered, I would always rush to the altar. I did not want to take for granted that I was in a posture of forgiveness.
Forgiveness caused me to shed the weight of the grief I carried for so long. I realized living with grief and nurturing the spirit of despair is a dysfunction that became a normalized lifestyle. It was the root of my trauma. Instead of confronting my traumas immediately, I learned how to give grief the honor it does not deserve. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had erected an idol in my life.
In the years since I began my therapy in earnest while seeking the face of God, I have come to realize that the enemy uses our traumas against us. If we suppress our trauma and neglect to deal with it God’s way, the enemy will use us as pawns. Then we, in turn, idolize aspects of our trauma to guard and protect ourselves, and mine was grief.
I do not know what your story is beloved, but you happened upon my words. I encourage you to seek God, seek therapy, and seek healing because your life depends on it. As a woman of Faith, I believe in prayer and therapy. Dig deep into God’s word and memorize healing scriptures because the weapons of your warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). There are many books to supplement God’s word, too, and many have kept me on my path to healing. Do not get discouraged if you face setbacks along the way.
Remember, the enemy is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Be like David and face your giants head-on and be healed in Christ Jesus, Amen. May you go with God into a land of healing. Be blessed, Prophetess Tamara Brooks-Barnes.
TAMARA BROOKS-BARNES is a Prophetess of God, an author, wife, a mother of three, and grandmother of one grandson. She operates in the prophetic as a Seer. She has an anointing to heal the brokenhearted in the areas of post-abortion trauma, rape, and family & marriage restoration.
Contact Tamara: firstname.lastname@example.org