Trauma is something that every human being will at one time or another have to encounter and deal with.
These can be minor traumas or severe ones. In fact, one encounters minor traumas quite often; far more often than most people realize.
Did you know that just watching the news and seeing other people suffering can, through empathetic resonance, evoke a minor trauma within you? It’s true.
That is the latest scientific finding in Psychology. So, merely watching violence, even fictionalized TV/movie violence, leaves you in a state of trauma to at least a mild degree. Of course, given that trauma alters your ability to respond and deal with the world, the implications of this are enormous.
However, it is the major traumas of life that quite rightly concern most people. Being the victim of violence, divorce, abuse. Being sacked from a job, or just being treated unfairly at work. And of course, one of the biggest and hardest of all – grieving over the death of a loved one.
During such difficult times, it can be very hard to function normally, or even want to function at all. You may just want to shut down or even wish you were dead. In the case of grief, it is very often associated with anger, judgment and blame; all of which can be against others as well as yourself.
A vast dark abyss opens and the trauma victim finds it very easy to wallow in it for quite some time. Yes, it is important to not rush the process. Our psyche is a delicate matter and at these times, things must unfold in their own way and according to their own schedule.
Indeed, traumatic times can be unbearably painful for the psyche. You may feel yourself torn about by your emotions, your confusion, your helplessness in the face of events and forces you are seemingly unable to comprehend or control.
However, it is at precisely these periods of your life that you have a rare and wonderful opportunity for Transcendence. There are basically two major ways to come to terms with trauma (although there may be others beyond the scope of this discussion)…
(1) Reframe the event, give it a new empowering meaning, and rise to a new level of consciousness;
(2) Reinforce the trauma with negative thoughts, dwelling on the pain of it, and thereby risk sinking lower, even to the point of mental illness.
Certainly, simply enduring and letting time pass is conceivably another option. Moreover, because trauma is fundamentally time-based, healing of a sort will eventually come as a result of enough distance from the events, without actually “doing” anything in the intervening period. However, even in this situation, underneath it all you are basically processing what happened to you in one of the above two ways.
Option (1) is the better way, although it is admittedly hard to make this happen. At least though, by being open to that possibility, you open your mind to healing through perceiving events in another light.
This is actually a shamanic path. Much of what we learn, most especially about non-material realms and truths, comes through the path of suffering and trauma. In our conventional everyday lives, when all goes well, we can fall into the cultural hypnosis we are accustomed to, leaving all our false assumptions unchallenged.
However, during a period of trauma and/or grief, all of our most basic assumptions may be called into question. This can lead to a radical new reinterpretation of reality, and hence the achievement of a new sate of consciousness. In turn, that may lead to a new and better way of living.
I myself suffered an enormous trauma of grief and loss during 2017 that has been difficult to even hint at until now. At the time, there did not seem to be ANY redeeming features to the situation; only loss, sadness and perpetual regret. However, through being open to perceiving matters in a radically different way, there have indeed proved to be enormous benefits in the midst of even the most abysmal and tragic adversity.
If you fail to try to see the gift, then option (2) is all that is left. Many people really do pursue that path and become sadder and less fulfilled human beings as a result. Bitterness and anger are like weeds: they can grow and take over the whole garden, and they will
if you give them a chance. We cannot criticize anyone who takes that route. Often, the nobler route is very hard to take. All we can do is gently try to point the way to a better understanding.
It is also important to remember that events are, of themselves, neutral. They have no intrinsic meaning. We give meaning to those events and we do so based upon who we are i.e. the life history we have lived, and the belief systems that we have created. A given event means different things to different people. Rain can be a blessing to a farmer with parched fields while being a curse to a couple getting married that same day. Hence, this implies that it is our different beliefs and expectations that give meaning to events. They have no intrinsic meaning of their own, and that includes the tragedies of our own lives, hard as that might be to accept in the moment.
So, you may wish to remember these ideas if you are currently experiencing trauma or know somebody who is. Ironically, in that moment, it is extremely hard to seek a better meaning to events. Yet, this is precisely when we need to do so, even if that means simply being open to allowing the universe to reveal that teaching in its own time. This is not something that can be forced, either upon yourself and certainly not upon others.
That said, we live in a reality that is only skin-deep. The depth of “what is” transcends our five senses’ ability to detect and interpret. There is far more present and at work than we can possibly conceive of with our rational minds. In the case cited above, miracles have manifested. This is a possibility for anyone who remains open to the teachings that our traumas have to teach us.
Let us see dark times not as enemies but as profound teachers. This will lead us to a better way to live, function, and understand.