Scientifically, it is defined as a response and not as an actively thought-out or planned action. By definition, trauma is characterised as a person’s response to a life situation that is deeply disturbing or distressing, so much so that the person’s general ability to process the entire scope of the circumstance and effectively cope with the ongoing condition is dreadfully compromised. This response may be triggered by a single incident or by a series of events or a set of circumstances even, and this trauma response leaves the person feeling absolutely helpless, completely shatters their sense of self-worth and challenges their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. Trauma is characterised by its tenaciously pervasive nature. What begins as a seemingly one-time response, gradually permeates into every other facet of the person’s life and leaves a series of subtle or vividly pronounced adverse effects on the person’s usual functioning, as well as his/her emotional, physical, social and/or even spiritual status of life.
Truth be told, trauma takes up a different form in the lives of different persons. No one goes through life unscathed. As harsh as it might sound, every person has one or the other traumatic phase in life, and all for different reasons, under different circumstances, and with different co-existing simultaneous life situations.
Quick Reminder: Let’s say someone is sharing the worst experience(s) from their life. Or, it is a general group talk of which we just happen to be a part and someone’s extremely disturbing life experiences are being chatted upon. The least we can do is listen, and simply listen without any comment or advice or suggestion or anything to add on to the conversation, unless explicitly asked to do so by the person who has in fact lived through that traumatic experience. The absolute worst we can do is come up with “Had it been me, I would have …….” That person has already gotten a glance of what could be and that person has lived through what was. We didn’t. We have lived through our own share of trauma and turbulence in life. Granted. Acknowledged. But we did not live through what this person survived so the least we can do is shut it. Really. Let’s not tell them of all the ways in which they could have handled it better. Life will give us enough chances to flaunt our smartness. While listening to someone else’s suffering is so not the time.
Exception: If, however, someone’s trauma response completely derails them from the general code of ethics, human rights and pro-social behaviour, yes, it is a civil, humane responsibility to help them realise it for themselves and take preventive action.
Ever gone from denial to avoidance?
And by avoidance in dealing with the situation, I mean only sleeping the entire day because as long as you are asleep you don’t need to face anything or anyone, right?
You can force yourself to sleep, and dream that you will wake up and realize that everything is better and not what you think it is. Except, that never happens and you wake up to find that everything is in fact how you know it is. It is all so real.
And that is when you break down completely.
From sleeping all day, you go to only crying all day as if that’s all you can do about the situation at hand. Worse, if you are someone like me who absolutely hates to cry and crib about anything in life but suddenly finds herself doing exactly that and only that; hell, you go from tears to fury in days and that anger only burns you up.
That anger, that frustration makes you, in all probability, hurt everyone around you. People you love the most and people you never ever want to hurt in this lifetime become the people you keep lashing out at because you are super annoyed and frustrated with your own self.
But you know what?
It is this very anger that will also give you all the courage you need to do the right thing, to make a wiser choice, to give yourself permission to decide that you still have the power to make things better from this moment onwards.
Accept the right kind of help life offers to you. Let your trauma teach you to be safely vulnerable, to reject opportunistic acceptance with the same grace you have learnt to accept undeserved rejection. Seek acknowledgement of your situation over and above mere validation for your response. Seek healing.
And from there on, you will go on this highly complicated roller-coaster journey that has no end to it because let’s face it, trauma never ends.
Trauma is not an episode. Trauma is not just a phase.
The more we fight this reality, the more difficult we make the healing process for ourselves, you know.
Let’s accept it.
Trauma is a part of us. Trauma is a permanent part of our lives from the incident(s) till forever.
What we do with the paralysing fear is what decides the course of our life thereafter but there is no end to it. It is not a thing of the past, for you become a product of your experience of this very traumatic incident in your life.
How can you as a person be someone only of the past?
You are real and present. You are also the unknown future; the future that you create for yourself.
Whatever this experience is, it is a permanent part of your life. Try as hard as you may, there is no forgetting, there is no going back to a life before this incidence. The flashbacks never stop. And out of the blue, without any warning at all, bits and pieces from the entire life episode starts replaying in your mind like a movie on loop and even you don’t know what triggers these flashbacks until it’s already been triggered. And this one flashback then takes you back to every single unwanted, unfair wrongful moment of your life.
You see how difficult it is to stay guarded to not be triggered, to not go back to that helpless place in your mind because you do not even know what takes you there until you are already back in that engulfing suffocating space and then all you know is your desperate struggle to come out of this vortex of every negative experience in life?
Yes, triggers become the never-ending obstacle race on the way to emotional wellness. This is why you need to hold on to that momentary, fleeting thought of “That’s enough. I will not let this define me. I will not let this experience pull me down to the trenches and give up on my rational capacities. I will evolve into a better, kinder, way more sensible version of myself. I owe myself that.”
This is why you need to nurture the heightened sense of awareness that the trauma induces in our over-thinking process and use this sense of acute vigilance to map your own behaviour, and take tiny little imperfect necessary scared actions towards the person you want to become.
The truth is: We heal WITH the trauma, seldom FROM it.