Day 216 - Trauma Containers
Heavy thought for a Friday, but this is what I woke up with this morning. My evening ended last night in a discussion with a friend who has a pretty significant trauma. It is something that has plagued him his whole life and is something that I believe, from what he has said and hasn’t said, that it is something that has undermined every intimate relationship he has ever had or tried to have.
See childhood trauma acts like erosion. It is there, barely detectable after the traumatic incident has passed. Hidden but present. I mean seriously there but undetectable on a daily basis. Then one day you come to survey your property (or mind in this case) and you find that the entire hillside of your life is now over in the neighbor’s yard. Your mental faculties have eroded to a point where most people use substance or sex or shopping or food to numb themselves. They can’t fathom the work that is going to be required to stop the rest of the hillside from coming down...so they retreat into something else, anything else and pretend not to care.
I think most people who come from a traumatic childhood and, by this I do not mean that you had to mow the yard every Saturday. I am talking abandonment, attachment disorders, mental, physical or sexual abuse. Everyone has trauma around growing up. But there is another level that when it happens to a person changes them forever. I think most trauma is not attended to in a meaningful or helpful way, our society preferring to pretend that it didn’t happen and move the fuck on. However, this leaves the trauma survivor with the idea that whatever emotional aftermath they have, is meant to be summarily dealt with and moved over as fast as possible. Talk to anyone with rape in their past, they will tell you how long people would allow them to talk about it, if at all. You would be shocked at the brevity of the time period.
So back to my friend...he is involved in this relationship. And he loves this woman very much. One of the things that he loves about her is that she is capable of taking his rage and holding it. She doesn’t react to it, she can hold the trauma reaction. She is capable of giving him what he has always needed and never received. Pretty powerful especially when packed inside beauty and grace and a storyline that says, “THIS IS THE ONE!”
I do not know if she is “The One” or not. It is really none of my business. However, I do know how powerful it is when you find someone who is gifted for seeing, acknowledging and holding your trauma. These people are RARE! They are like people sized containers for trauma. For whatever reason, they are capable of holding it and it doesn’t seem to affect them negatively. They do not need to shut it down or alter it or tell you to get over it. They can just hold it. Like a glass bottle holds water. Pour the water out, the bottle remains unchanged. Pour the trauma out, they are able to hold their shape and form.
I had my own trauma container person once upon a time. After not even knowing that I needed one, once I found it, he was hard to let go of...largely because I thought he was like Christ or the Buddha or Allah. I thought he was the embodiment of something holy sent to heal me and there was only and forever to be one of him. I was wrong and right.
Wrong in the sense that a person sent to hold your long unacknowledged trauma is meant to stay forever. Right in the sense that I needed to be held in that way. Wrong in the idea the I needed that holding for the rest of my life. Right in the way that once held in that manner, I could and would move forward in my life needing something different from that point on.
Maybe what I am saying is not making sense. If you have trauma, you will understand. If you don’t, you likely won’t. That is the thing about trauma, you kind of have to have your own to ever hold someone else's.
And that is where the rub is...at least that has been my experience. A trauma survivor can help you hold yours even if they can’t hold their own. Weird twist, right? But it is true, sometimes the people who help you the most are the people who can’t even help themselves. It is like they have this island of brilliance and they give it all to you, leaving nothing left over for themselves. But this little island of brilliance is too small to build a life on with another person, so they move on and leave you stranded on that tiny little piece of land...until you realize that you also have to move on. Life is not sustainable there...for anyone.
What I have learned, the hard way, is that there have been many trauma container people in my life but I didn’t recognize them until him. I didn’t see how they shore up my erosive nature until he came along. Now I can see little trauma containers everywhere. Which can seem kind of fractured and scattered but it isn’t. It is like he came along and helped me see the eroding hillside, and because I had someone who was there with me to really see the landslide and hold my hand while I stood at its base, I was ready to be washed away with it. I became unafraid.
As usual, my fears were misplaced and the landslide was not really as bad as I thought it would be. Mostly some pebbles moving down the hill, with a little debris. He helped me take remedial steps and shore up my instability. So my need for a strong retention wall changed and I did not need such a strong trauma container anymore.
When he left, I thought he was the only one. But in his wake, I see them everywhere now and most importantly, I have become my own trauma container. I can hold my own pain and loss and grief and it has dissipated to a point where it doesn’t feel like it will kill me. It doesn’t feel like it will take me out or even fuck up my life anymore. It was through his love and support that I saw, for the very first time, that I was a worthy container all on my own.
I have come to believe that there are now many others that I can trust to walk into my inner erosive landscape. It wasn’t just him as I previously believed. His love was an alchemy that changed me...forever. And while he did not remain in my life forever, his affect did.
Today I remain hopeful that someday I can allow another access to the interiority I shared with him. I am pretty sure I can because I am pretty sure that if there was one, there can and will be another.
So I say to my friend, you are your own trauma container. She is one who helped you see that. She may remain or she may go, but you my friend, you are going to be ok either way. Do not mistake the teacher for the lesson. You are strong enough to share this part of you again...you have become your own retaining wall and you will find another that is capable of holding you still.