To truly leap...

Of all the formulations of play, the briefest and the best is to be found in Plato’s Laws. He sees the model of true playfulness in the need of all young creatures, animal and human, to leap. To truly leap, you must learn how to use the ground as a springboard, and how to land resiliently and safely. It means to test the leeway allowed by given limits; to outdo and yet not escape gravity. Thus, wherever playfulness prevails, there is always a surprising element, suggesting some virgin chance conquered, some divine leeway shared. Where this “happens,” it is easily shared and acknowledged
— Erik Erikson

All growth requires leaps. And because healing is really growth on a careful, remedial plan, healing requires lots of leaps too. The first leaps are leaps of faith— in trusting yourself, in trusting your healing providers, in trusting a process of healing that you can’t really understand, but know that you need. These leaps of faith are huge, and the thing about leaping is that you have to do it a lot to believe in it. If you have ever watched baby goats, or sheep or foals, they try their legs out constantly —they buck, they leap and they land. They wiggle in the air. They leap and they find their ground. Over and over.

The thing about leaps is that they are both frightening and exhilarating. Like the first time you learn to jump off the high dive, or ride a bike. Leaping means testing out the laws of nature— testing out how you interact with the world. And in healing from trauma, the leaps are often to test out a world that does’t run on the old laws of trauma. Trauma creates a world with its own natural laws—and you know these laws in your bones. You know what will happen when you make the wrong move, you know what will happen if you speak. But in a world without trauma, you actually don’t know the rules. When you first start to leap — to speak up for the first time—to say what is true for you—to risk asking for help— to say “no” —risk being vulnerable— all the things that the laws of nature of trauma forbid: it will be both frightening and exhilarating. These things which look so average from the outside are truly leaps for healing.

And just like the baby animals learning to use their legs and understand the world: you need to enjoy those leaps. Savor the exhilaration. Take a moment to feel proud of the leap. Smile. Wiggle in your chair. Pat your self on the back.

Trauma is such serious business and healing requires leaping—it requires playfulness. It's so counterintuitive. The only way to heal is to stretch into the unknown, to try something again and again and when you leap—you are really playing— you don’t know the outcome—for a moment everything is suspended—and then you land—and know something about the world, and yourself, and probably relationships that you didn’t know before. What leaps can you take today? How can you savor the leaps? How can you support others to play and leap?

© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2014