Alone with Trauma...
I have developed a perhaps obsessive interest in trauma and its related issues. I see trauma as a fundamentally life altering. It is something that we all experience but no one really talks about or works to address it. Trauma being the thing that we all keep closeted away, hiding, even though it is really running the show of our lives from inside the confines of its hideout.
Trauma being the thing that sits and waits for us, directing our choices, our interests, our relationships, our sexual identity, it really controls pretty much every aspect in our lives but if you ask almost anyone, they will tell you that they have really never been to therapy over the stuff that so deeply wounded them, they don’t want to talk about it, it is in the past and it should stay there...except it won’t.
Here is what I have come to know about my own trauma:
It was not the bad shit that went down per se that caused me to be how I am. It was instead being alone with the trauma as a kid to process it. This is not anyone’s fault, it is mostly how trauma is experienced for everyone...alone. Stuff happens in our lives and we are required to keep it quiet, not discuss it. Even if our trauma is strewn all over the headlines, we are still alone with our thoughts about what happened to us. And it is painful, sometimes life alteringly painful so we attempt to shut it all down, close it off and forever seal the door on it. We do not talk even when the people who love us are right there and would help if we asked.
This appears to work. Which is why most people deploy it as a coping mechanism. But trauma is not well contained within the rooms of our home or mind. Trauma leaks out all over the place until and unless healing takes place and that healing does not neatly fit into today’s world. It is a life long process of watching it show up in new forms, new ways, morphing and changing itself into something new, requiring always that we address and readdress it...forever.
Trauma is a lot like grief actually. The things that devastate us emotionally become part of who we are in this world and we carry them with us, we are required to deal with the loss for the rest of our lives, if we are lucky, finding a place within our skin where the grief can exist while being prevented from taking over. Same with trauma. It needs a home, and if you aren’t careful, it will take your life.
Addiction is really trauma’s beard. People use anything and everything to get away from the pain of trauma’s lasting scars. We believe that what has happened too much to handle so we attempt to zone out, leave, disengage but it will follow us forever, the belief that we can out run it, disconnect from it, is what fucks us up more than likely anything else. It is this need to not deal, that really ruins our lives.
I know, I have been there. I ran away for a very long time, hiding, medicating, checking the fuck out and attempting to turn it all off. And here is the tricky thing: it worked. It was a solution that worked when nothing else did. Trauma begets compulsion because trauma requires attention NOW! But we are deluded in our escape, what begins as relief becomes a further more destructive prison than trauma previously required. Now you are serving two masters, Trauma requiring the numbing and the numbing requiring everything else. In relatively short order, you, your life, your interests, your kids, your family, your livelihood, your health it is all gone. And most, never get it back.
Look at our prisons. That is societies greatest accumulation of trauma examples. There they are victims of their own solutions to their own traumas. Left to their own devices they do unspeakable acts and alter everyone’s life forever. They become heavy links on the trauma chain, killing, raping, stealing life from those about them. Taking what is not theirs to take, all in an effort to feel better for a moment. It never works on a long term basis, but for a moment of sweet relief, they are delivered to another place where they can float above and beyond their own fucked up trauma. And trauma perpetuates.
You don’t have to have empathy towards the inmates. I know that is unpopular. You will have a lot to say about this I am sure. But if you cannot see that our prisons are filled with the most traumatized individuals of our society you are fooling yourself.
Trauma is a rapacious creditor. It dictates the course and the course will be hard, it will be life taking, it will be at least as damaging as the event that occurred that brought trauma to the scene.
Secrecy and solitude are what allows trauma its full impact. The stuff that happens to us does its damage but what alters our lives forever is being left alone with our own thoughts, usually as children, to deal. We are hurt and suffering and are then left alone with that suffering. And so we morph into something and someone else. Because we believe it is the only way to deal. And we can't fix what is broken with what is broken. We need others to heal.
This does not mean that our parents are at fault. They did the best they could with what they have. They were surviving their own trauma most likely and their reaction or lack thereof was perpetuated by their own unhealed trauma. It isn’t personal. They did their best. The average person completely unprepared for the effort required to ferret out the trauma, and all its tendrils.
I guess what I want to say today is that trauma requires secrecy and solitude to flourish. It is like a cancer that grows only in the absence of light, discussion and communion. I am at least half way through my life...and I have been dealing with my own shit for at least thirty years. I will never be done. But I am so improved. I am so much better than I was. And in large part that is because I began to talk about it. To share about it. To invite others into my trauma and tell them about it, hear their perspective. I do not want the trauma of my past to reign supreme a million years later, so I have to give it voice, space and a place to process now, otherwise it grows silently in my flesh until it causes me to act in ways that are not life affirming and actually will kill me.
We cannot demand entrance to another's trauma hidden world. They have to let us in, but we can become safer and open to the invite if we deal with our own. It is by dealing with our own that we open up space to help others heal theirs. Because while trauma is intergenerational, so is healing. We may never completely heal but we can communicate the cure with the disease. It takes heart, it takes work, it takes a great deal of courage to deal with your own shit. To make a decision to look in all the places that scare you, and really see who you are, why you are the way you are and begin to change that is the bravest thing I have ever done. And I pray every single fucking day that my work, my willingness to go there, helps you, my kids, my parents, my colleagues, my friends, my online world. I pray that my dealing and sharing my own suffering, helps inspire you to begin to deal with yours. Because it is the speaking of your shame that recedes trauma paving the way for recovery to begin. And I am strong enough to listen...