“Trauma is an illness of not being alive in the present.” Genet.
When I wrote my story, The Promise, I wasn’t thinking about trauma.
I’d been reminiscing about a beautiful, talented young client, a dancer, I’d met years ago. She had a troublesome secret from her childhood. As a therapist, I heard many accounts of people, especially children, being the target of violent attacks. But that never stopped me from feeling vulnerable and disturbed when I heard another one.
I’d been haunted by my client’s description of the terrible event. I asked myself, “How can I share such a cautionary tale with the world? Is there a way for people to heal from these experiences?”
Years later, my curiosity led me to an answer. As I watched a video of a champion pole dancer on You Tube, I thought of my client and a plan for the story began to hatch. Shortly after, I came across a snapshot of a man I’d used as a prompt at a writing workshop. His soulful eyes intrigued me. Both the dancer and man in the snapshot found their way onto the page and the fictional story of Misty and her lover Ned, was born.
As they emerged on the page, my heart went out to Misty and Ned. Both had traumatic childhood losses. Both are burdened by memories of their traumas.
One hundred years ago (when it was a new thought) Freud said the effects of early life experiences are far-reaching. These become a part of who we are and sometimes define us. Now we’ve identified traumatic events as part of those experiences. And we’ve learned some about how to help people heal but we still need to know more
Have you ever wondered how some people are able to survive wounds and overcome their grief to become authentic and fulfilled while others feel hopeless, stuck or depressed? As individuals, all of us respond to trauma in ways that are varied, deep and far-reaching. Like the characters in my stories: Misty heals while Ned remains haunted. They are people of different temperament and background, who deal with trauma in different ways.
We don’t always know how early how deeply traumatic experiences will affect our lives. We can only reflect upon what it is in a person’s nature or circumstances that enables that person to survive, even thrive, while another still struggles with her wounds.
We can get a clue is by examining peoples’ early lives. We can often see different circumstances which played a part in the way that they respond to traumatic events. Bessel Van der Kolk, a recognized expert on trauma, has said “people who live in deeply caring and accepting environments handle potentially traumatic events much better than those living in harsher environments.”
So, it is not as much the quality of the traumatic event but the attachment system. The majority of people who retreat, or as Genet would say, are “not alive in the present,” have experienced poor caregiving experiences.
Ned and Misty are particular examples of this wisdom. Misty was fortunate. She experienced loving support from her mother and, ultimately, her father. Ned was not as fortunate. At too early an age, his emotionally distant father abandoned him and Ned became a caregiver for his mother, a “parental child.”
In the second blog in this series (Part Two), I’ll distinguish between types of trauma and talk more about the ways in which Misty healed as well as Ned’s challenges and how he might have been able to overcome them. I’ll also suggest other examples of trauma and resolution in my characters’ lives.
In Part Three, we’ll look at Healing Modalities, including body therapies, and outcomes of Post Traumatic Growth.
The fifth podcast in our series, Psychologically Speaking: A Special Blue Heart Session with Dr. Kixx Goldman, explores “Healing Trauma.” It airs on Spotify through Listen Notes or Google Play and all of you are welcome to join with us. We welcome your thoughts.
Speak From Your Heart and Be Heard: Stories of Courage and Healing is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle and some independent bookstores.