July 12, 2021

The Unexpected Lesson I’ve Learned from Frida Kahlo about Trauma.


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Frida Kahlo was no stranger to trauma.

The renowned Mexican artist suffered near fatal injuries, endured more than 30 operations, and survived a complex marriage that encompassed fights, multiple affairs, and a rocky divorce.

Kahlo has always inspired me to come to terms with the painful side of life and find strength in misfortune. But, 17 years ago, when I first read her story, words like “childhood wounds” and “trauma” weren’t used so much. That said, Kahlo, for me, was an example of someone who merely endured constant pain.

Now that I’ve become more familiar with trauma and how it shapes our lives, I think Kahlo did more than just endure her pain.

Last week, fatigue and sadness suddenly washed over me. I felt like nothing could make me feel better. To my surprise, after writing an article, I felt a sense of freedom. My sadness didn’t go away, but it was transcended.

This made me think of Kahlo and her self-portraits and diaries. Maybe she wasn’t trying to overcome her traumatic experiences: she was channeling them.

“My painting carries with it the message of pain.” ~ Frida Kahlo

For me, this is a significant lesson to learn. We’ve all been through traumas, and we’ve all tried to overcome them in one way or another. And more often than not, we struggle to cope—to end the pain.

Some traumas are too overwhelming, and no matter how hard we try, we eventually find ourselves hooked on a memory or a past event.

“I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.” ~ Frida Kahlo

Like Kahlo, we try to drown our sorrows, but to no avail. Kahlo teaches us that maybe we don’t need to drown them—we need to channel them.

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” ~ Frida Kahlo

Go for a walk, paint, write, dance—do anything you love. You might not erase the ugly memories, but you might feel better.

“They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” ~ Frida Kahlo

What’s your own reality? How do you choose to channel it? You don’t need to solve. You don’t need to overcome. Sometimes we just need to acknowledge the pain and transcend it. Maybe that’s how we heal.

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” ~ Frida Kahlo



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