Every human being alive today has experienced trauma and suffers, in some way, from the effects of it. Every person who has lived, and those yet to live, will encounter trauma.
Trauma is our human legacy. It is the serpent everyone meets in our Garden of Eden. It is the universal force that knocks us off the rails. The fall from our Eden is a fall from consciousness. Our lesson plan, our personal mission-impossible, is to return to consciousness, to find our Eden again. This is the essence of our life’s journey.
In the Book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve encountered the trauma of the serpent, they faced their shame and God could no longer find them. Likewise for ourselves, shame emerges from our trauma, and we lose touch with, and even forget about our intrinsic godliness and goodness.
We are supposed to recover from trauma. The recovery is meant to take us on a journey, one that will last the duration of our lives. The journey, as all journeys do, moulds, strengthens and opens us up. Many hit rock bottom on the journey. Some rise up from the bottom – some don’t. Many even die from the rigours of the journey.
Like the Mission Impossible scenario, where the agents are given instructions for a mission and the tape self-destructs seconds after relaying instructions, most traumas occur so early in life, as adults, we cannot even remember them occurring. Our own tapes containing the memory and meaning of our traumas have self-destructed. Consequently, many, if not most, do not know the nature of the mission. Many, if not most, do not even recognize that they are on a mission.
Trauma is a stigma. Stop someone in the street to do a survey and ask if he believes he has experienced trauma, chances are he will emphatically deny it and will likely walk away. Nobody likes to associate themselves with the word. Trauma, society over time has decided, is a word used to describe those unfortunates who have been on the other end of abuse: sexual abuse, torture, excessive control by another, bullying, inappropriate physical punishment, name-calling, inhumane treatment, prejudice. Trauma means you go to therapy spend time on a leather couch with a shrink and talk about your trauma and the outcomes it has had and continues to have in your life. In decades past, society has held those who have undergone therapy at arm’s length, seeing them as disturbed and different, even, as in nineteen-fifties America, locking some of them away and performing grotesque surgery on some in an attempt to ‘normalize’ them. Why shouldn’t the person on the street walk away from the surveyor who asks him if he has experienced trauma? Who would want to carry the label?
Yet, society needs to get over it, and is indeed showing signs, that it is. More and more people are seeing visitations with therapists and councilors as a necessary part of their emotional and physical health. Yes, physical health. As more and more evidence emerges of the link between our emotional history and its physical outcomes, people are seeking emotional help and counsel to not only resolve their emotional life, but to make better choices and to lessen their stress, which in turn carries the potential to profoundly impact physical health.
We need to know we are on a journey. Many do not even recognize that life was a journey until they are lying on their death bed looking back. We need to own the fact that trauma at least influenced the paths we were to take on our journey. Acknowledging our trauma is the difference between taking the journey in the dark, or in the daylight. In daylight there is far more chance of seeing, appreciating and sometimes recognizing where it is the journey is going.
It also allows us to recognize when we may be making decisions and choices to prevent trauma from occurring again, that is, living life in a defensive, protective, limited way and being scared of life and its potential consequences. Rather than having the feeling that we are in charge of our own life and the maker of our own destiny.
We all have the right to manufacture our life. It is the legacy of our existence. But we all have to work for it – each one of us. If we don’t, trauma, our personal serpent, makes those choices for us, often without us ever knowing it.