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Processing Trauma Through Imagination

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

I wrote this piece in response to a prompt I was given during a writing course. The assignment was to select a trauma and imagine myself as the creator of a video game where I purposely designed the traumatic experience to challenge my hero and force her to attain higher levels of wisdom. Because I was processing childhood trauma at the time, the following piece is how I moved myself from victim to victor.


Sexual crimes against children are heinous. These evil acts are frequently perpetrated by trusted adults. In my case it was my grandfather, whose care I was left in while my mother worked. I was four years old.

It was a year before my mother discovered what he was doing to me. At first, the effects were detrimental. I felt all the undesirable emotions: confusion, fear, shame, anger (to name just a few). Things were really bad for quite a while. When I was twelve, I ended up being put into a mental institution after a suicide attempt.

That was my turning point. While there, I realized that, at my core, I’m a true fighter. My name, Kelly, literally means warrior.

I began to learn how to metamorphose from a victim into a champion. It didn’t happen overnight. It was more a marathon than a sprint. And, oh, how I trained—in the most grueling ways. I fought demons so frightening that sometimes I didn’t know how I’d defeat them.

But defeat them, I did.

I eventually emerged transformed, with a mission to create a world where heinous acts are opportunities for the hero to unlock powers and level up.

In reality, I believe I didn’t experience evil at the hands of my grandfather. I think I encountered an unhealed cycle of trauma. I’m convinced that there’s not a whole lot of true evil in the world. I think it’s more likely that there’s just a great deal of wounded soldiers fighting wars they inherited, which they’re not equipped to fight.

Victimization is a cycle that cannot be broken. It must, instead, be transcended.

Players in my game begin young, in a world of darkness, forced to overcome external and internal obstacles that threaten to impede their advancement; but they are bestowed with the gifts necessary to transmute every ounce of suffering into an even greater output of goodness. As players overcome traumas, they gain courage, grow in size and strength, and unlock superpowers along the way.

Though unfair, those selected for this particular journey are the chosen ones—in training as the game’s greatest healers and leaders. They’re being challenged to evolve by uncovering powers, which they already possess. Like an onion, they must peel back layers within themselves to gain access to each of the four vital superpowers: forgiveness, empathy, compassion, and leadership; which empower them to build armies of freedom fighters that can eventually help them win the game.

If you’re tasked with such a crusade, you’re being primed as a hero. But you, the player, must make a decision to overcome this challenge. It’s all about mindset. Only players who learn to master their thoughts and control their actions will transform into heroes.

My grandfather lived and died a victim of his unprocessed trauma. I, on the other hand, transcended from victim to teacher, follower to leader, and destroyer to creator. What kind of player will you be in this game we call life?

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