We grow up with multiple traumas.
Many times in our lives we are faced with events that are outside of our area of coping, that we are unable to fully recover from.
Traumas are the result of events which exceed our expectations, that we are unable to compensate for or fully recover from. (Read more on trauma)
Despite the fact that many suffer profound trauma in later life, our first trauma, usually suffered in the early years of our lives, will have significant impact, probably the most impact of all traumas.
My book, A Return to Consciousness, looks at how all trauma, but especially how that initial trauma affects us. It helps us to understand the impact and effects of trauma, how to recognize when our traumas are affecting us on a daily basis, and how to work towards successfully recovering from them. Thus ensuring we lead a wholesome, fulfilling, and productive life without being subjected to the impact and limitations that trauma brings.
Hear Pietro’s Radio Interview: A Return to Consciousness.
Each trauma we encounter acquires its own set of resistances.
Imagine a young toddler losing his mother in a mall and they are separated from each other for a couple of hours.
Instead of comforting and helping this little boy recover from this incident she severely reprimanded him for not paying attention.
He never did recover from his trauma around losing his mother, and so he formed a Wide-Angled Vision that extended out to all close friends and family. Wide-angled vision in this case means his expectation of trauma extended out from fear of losing his mother to fear of losing anyone meaningful to him. (Read more on Wide-Angled Vision.)
For example.in later life whenever this one-time toddler loses sight of his wife and children he feels an anxiety in his stomach that can quickly turn into full-blown panic.
As an adult, if he ever, for any reason, cannot find someone – particularly family members or close friends – he parents himself in the same way his mother parented him that day in the mall. Invariably he reprimands himself for not being attentive enough.
He sees his loss as being his fault and never takes into account the other person’s responsibility. Consequently, his friend may not have shown up on time because he procrastinates and invariably ends up late for everything, but our traumatized adult never takes this into account. Instead, he becomes angry at himself, assuming that he failed to provide good directions, or be clear on the time they should meet.
Seeing himself as being at fault is his first and often his only reaction.
Working through a trauma does not automatically mean that we will have solved any other traumas we may have been exposed to in our life.
Each trauma produces its own resistances, wide-angled visions, and shame which influences the choices we will make in life.
Each trauma requires its own recovery process and its own unique journey to reach recovery.
When we carry the intent to resolve any trauma (or indeed bring any form of change into our lives) that mere intent will cause us to encounter internal resistance or defense. (Read more on the various forms of resistances and defenses.)
Our resistance is there primarily to prevent trauma from re-occurring. It is generally hyper-alert and over-reactive, and will see it as its duty to lead you away from change or familiarity, since, from the perspective of resistance, change and the movement away from the familiar may once again lead to trauma.
If we were to personify resistance: it would much prefer that you totally forget about your trauma. What is forgotten will not hurt, it reasons. Thus many people, if confronted, will deny their trauma, sometimes blanking out huge portions of their childhood in the process.
Becoming conscious of our resistances, the form they take, and how they manifest and limit our lives, then learning ways to negotiate our trauma is the key to overcoming our trauma.
Rather than trauma having influence over the direction of our lives, becoming conscious of our resistances allows us to be in charge of the direction we wish our lives to be taking, and comfortably embodying change into our lives.
As well as becoming conscious of the nature of our resistance, as inherited guardians against the re-occurrence of trauma, recovery begins by taking ownership of our trauma. This is stepping out of denial and stepping into taking responsibility for our trauma and knowing when trauma may be influencing our choices.
Taking responsibility brings the self-awareness to reflect on our decisions and actions, and to challenge and question our motives and the costs upon ourselves and others, such as:
Am I a helicopter parent, and over-protecting my children because I wasn’t protected enough as a child?
Do I seek to control the people in my life because when I suffered trauma my life felt out of control?
Is it difficult for me to trust, having once been traumatized by someone I once trusted?
It may seem that a good portion of our lives to come will have to be devoted to facing, re-encountering, and resolving all events exceeding our expectations that we have never fully recovered from.
This may or may not be true depending upon the intensity of trauma suffered. However, the good news is that the experience of recovering from one trauma benefits our recovery from other traumas.
The story of Manuela shows how one village’s recovery from trauma naturally aided the recovery of its neighbouring village.
The Story of Manuela
Manuela was brought up to fear strangers – and with good cause.
The nineteen-seventies and eighties were atrocious times for the highland villages of Guatemala.
Forty years later, the old ones still talk about the seemingly endless incursions by the guerilla army, who arrived demanding to be fed, then left with the capture of the village daughters’ virginity and the village’s winter supply of corn. With their homes looted, the villagers were ordered to stand in the village square, often for hours, to listen to political rhetoric they had no concept or understanding of, nor the desire to know about.
When the guerillas left, the army came, armed to the teeth with guns, ammunition and suspicion.
To the army, all highland villagers were supporters of the guerillas. The evidence they found of the guerillas’ recent visit was proof to them of this. Clearly, they reasoned, the village housed and fed the guerillas when they wandered from their nests into the mountains. As far as the army was concerned, such treason had to be punished.
The army didn’t merely line people up against a wall and execute them. These animals took pleasure in another’s pain. It seemed almost as if it was a sexual turn on for them – maybe it was – such was the indulgence and seeming pleasure in inflicting arduous pain on another.
Every family had lost someone from either the army’s torture, or their need to line up a group of men in the village square, threatening that one person will be shot until the villagers inform of the whereabouts of the guerilla’s hideout in the mountains.
Forty years later, the highland villagers were still traumatized by these events.
For twenty years after the war ended, the elders literally chased any stranger away from the village.
They embraced a paranoia that the newcomer might be a guerilla coming down from the mountains, or an army infiltrator intending to spy on them and betray them.
Political candidates coming to win the vote, foreign medical teams, missionaries, all were chased away under the same umbrella of suspicion.
When, eventually, the elders lost the energy to chase the strangers away, all visitors, usually tourists, were ignored. They were left unserved in the one village restaurant and told there was no accommodation to house them.
That is, until Manuela decided to open her guest house.
In the year Manuela renovated her house into the guest house, she became the object of suspicion in the village.
She was born in the community, had gone to school there, made friends she was devoted to, eventually married a man from a respected family in the village.
Yet in the weeks after she made her declaration in the village meeting of her intent to open a guest house, she received no encouragement, only incessant arguments, with everyone telling her – best friends, family, husband, acquaintances alike – that she was staining the village, making it vulnerable to foreign influence, that only harm would come to them and she should never trust outsiders.
These arguments lasted until she put the sign on the guesthouse.
When the sign went up the villagers intensified their resistance – no one talked to her.
When she walked down the one main road in the village people walked on the other side and ignored her greeting.
They refused to serve her the vegetables, meat, and food she needed to tend to her guests at the village market.
Instead, she had to walk to the next village five miles away, to buy her supplies. There, they knew of the controversy, but were willing to serve her being grateful for the regular business Manuela was bringing to them.
As each year progressed Manuela’s business grew.
Her guesthouse was now listed in some key and very influential foreign guidebooks.
People arrived there carrying backpacks from places all over the world. It became known as a backpacker’s haven, with foreign travelers and tourists gathering there every night, holding informal forums on where to go, when to go, and how to create a definitive travel experience.
It was when Manuela had the idea to open a guided tour operation that attitudes began to change in the village.
Manuela was becoming noticeably wealthy and this inflamed conversations of resentment and envy among some of the villagers, and for some, curiosity and the desire to have a share of the lucrative pie that was now a part of village life.
Some of the more enterprising villagers were already taking advantage of the tourist traffic, with two families clearing one of the rooms of their houses and opening restaurants, while another offered laundry services.
Although, the market vendors would never publicly admit this, they all were benefiting greatly from the foreigners who flocked to the market to buy their wares.
The village weavers especially were doing well, some were even talking to international entrepreneurs’ intent on exporting their clothing for sale abroad.
When Manuela put word out in the village that she wanted to hire people to take the tourists out on horse-riding tours and nature hikes in the surrounding jungle and villages, that she wanted guides for climbing the now defunct volcano that formed the village backdrop, she never expected to have over thirty people visit her passionately offering their services for this new venture.
By this time, Manuela had enough money to feed, educate, and provide for herself and her growing family.
Her grandparents, her husband’s parents and grandparents, her aunts and uncles, who once disdained her and refused to look in her direction, now received generous financial gifts on birthdays and Christmas that they had come to expect and rely upon.
So, being a person of good heart and caring, and knowing that the rejection she had had to endure in the years leading up to her success were due to the villager’s trauma during the war, she generously decided to employ the services of all who wanted to be employed as a tour service operator, at least the ones of good heart and standing in the village who were not prone to drinking and beating their wives and children.
All the highland villagers had suffered from the same war trauma. All harboured the same resentment and suspicion of foreign incursion.
All villagers within a day’s walk of Manuela’s village had heard of her success and the prosperity of her village. So, when Maria, an enterprising lady who had worked as a chamber maid in Manuela’s guest house (which incidentally was now being expanded into a hotel with thirty rooms), decided to open up her own guest house in the village five miles away from Manuela’s village, she too met with similar resistance.
But there was a difference.
Whereas Manuela suffered over ten years of isolation and resistance, Maria noticed only a year’s worth of rejection in her village.
During the first year of business, Manuela constantly encouraged Maria to ignore the rejection and to have faith that it would pass.
Maria knew that in time suspicions would evaporate, especially when her village experienced the benefits of her trade.
Also, most of the residents of her own village were envious of the wealth that had been flowing into Manuela’s village over the years, and they wanted a piece of the pie too.
Many of the women, though swearing to their husbands that they would have nothing to do with Maria, secretly, helped her out renovating, cleaning, and preparing the guesthouse when their husbands were away working in the fields.
By the time the foreign travelers and tourists began to flock to Maria’s house the villagers were in full support of Maria’s venture.
It had taken only two years for them to come around to Maria’s way of thinking.
Maria meanwhile remained forever grateful to Manuela in the next village for paving an easier road for her and for all who were to come after her.
Manuela, was an innovator.
Her community had suffered profound trauma.
Consequently, the resistance she encountered within the community was profound.
But she stayed with her intention to build her guest house, and the community eventually realized for themselves the benefits of trusting Manuela’s enterprise rather than seeing it as a potential threat to their security and welfare.
Maria was the beneficiary of Manuela’s path.
In fact, the whole of Maria’s community benefited from the path Manuela forged.
Maria’s community saw significant potential benefits for all of them once they successfully moved beyond the limitations of their traumatized history.
Manuela paved the way for Maria, for Maria’s community and for all other communities in the highland region of Guatemala.
The same scenario applies to ourselves.
Having traveled the path of recovery for one trauma, the chances are high that future travels will be, while not always smooth, certainly potentially quicker in reaching and realizing their destination.
A successful journey on the path of recovery greatly influences future journeys of recovery, in exactly the same way that the process Manuela’s community went through served to support other communities like Maria’s, part way through their processes of recovery.
Questions for Contemplation:
What is/was your trauma?
How does your trauma show up in your everyday life?
What resistances emerged from your trauma?
How do you employ Wide-Angled Vision?
Have you taken any steps to recover from your trauma? Has the process of recovery benefited you and others?
How did the people living in Manuella’s village use Wide-Angled Vision?
Hear Pietro’s Radio Interview: A Return to Consciousness
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