Trauma Is Tricky

Sometimes I get traumatized by pain, and my fear of it. It tends to happen when I’m already on edge, and I’m in a situation where I feel trapped. It’s happened in an airport security line, on a bus, on a long aimless day in my apartment, in my car. My pain gets tremendous, my nervous system goes on full alert, and I shut down in fear. I cannot hold a conversation. I lose touch with all of my helpful mindfulness tools. And I become very angry, very defended.

At some point it ends, and I go on to feel relatively calmer. But the memory of that moment when I felt overwhelmed stays with me, and that’s the trauma: an experience that hurts to remember. I recall it and right along with the memory is an awful hardness, a scariness.

The trauma will only release when that hurt place inside me feels loved. Sometimes that happens directly after the experience, if I can be alone and I have enough presence to bring deep kindness to myself right away. Often it takes days. But always, if I hang out with the pain long enough, and continue intending to be kind to myself, a deep love will flow in to heal the broken places. Afterwards, I remember the traumatic experience but also the love, and that somehow transforms the whole memory into a kind, gentle thing.

But every time I face a new traumatic experience, I forget that there is love. I forget that love is just waiting for a time when I’m quiet to rush in and reassure me. And in that forgetting, there is hell. It is a cruel, hateful place, where I am doing everything wrong, and everything is getting worse, and there is no hope.

And if I can only hang in there and feel that hell, very, very gently hold the hell in my body, and wish to be kind to it, then I am always reminded that love is here too, all around and even within the hell, love for my hurting, desperate self and love for all the hurting, desperate selves out there. Love enough to heal every scar.

So if you are having a difficult time, know that you are loved like that too, and that all you need to do is hang in there. Love is coming, and sooner or later, it’s gonna find you.

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