The cycles of trauma

Your trauma wants to stay alive and if it has to, it will kill you trying.

A traumatic moment, be it corporeal, sexual or verbal is often characterized by a truncated moment in time. In other words, the abuse is often characterized by an action that didn’t have the proper preamble or closure in order for it to either be expected or resolved. Rape, for instance, from an alien’s perspective might look like rough sex or bondage, but once the knowledge is there that one of the parties didn’t consent, it becomes a hideous and traumatic act for the victim.

There are times when anger and yelling may be warranted, but if the speaker is raising their voice and using words that are not at all warranted by the situation, it’s a form of verbal assault or verbal abuse. If on the other hand, a piano fell on a mover’s toes, he could yell and cuss as much as he would like and everyone around him would understand. Granted, once the pain subsided, it would be expected for him to extend an apology to those around him so that the moment had the proper closure and resolution. When either the lead up or the conclusion to the event are missing, there is likely going to be trauma, in particular if that moment is hurtful or aggressive in some way.

In that sense, trauma is an irresolute moment seared, as if branded, in one’s brain. And to get rid of the trauma you either need to learn and understand what lead up to that moment, or someone (perhaps yourself) needs to give you a sense of closure from it. If you can’t do this, your trauma will continue to find ways of rearing its ugly little head, be it in the form of sudden bursts of anger, blinding fear, and all manner of irrational behavior. This is often the case for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for whom something as inoccuouse as a loud noise (like fireworks) could be all it takes to trigger the individual into an emotional episode.

This condition can be profoundly difficult to live with as these individuals will often reflect their traumas on those closest to them and may often ruin friendships, family ties and loving relationships with significant others. This will only serve to aggravate their condition further as they will inevitably find themselves gravitating toward people and situations that are likely to bring them into contact with new assailants similar to those that inflicted the original trauma to begin with. The trauma is seeking itself. Its mind is bent upon seeing its own reflection. It’s almost as if there is a subconscious desire, on the part of the mind, to replay the event. But why!?

Whenever I try to untangle biological problems such as this, i always turn to evolution.  But what could be the evolutionary advantage of PTSD? Why not select out the behavior? I mean, just imagine how much more traumatic life was for humans when dealing with protecting our children from lions, tigers and bears. So clearly there must be an evolutionary advantage to having these symptoms to trauma.

The most common symptom to trauma is memory loss. The mind simly wipes the event from memory. Here we clearly see evolution working its magic.  So sure,  it’s quite possible, that trauma is the result of only a partially erased moment. And perhaps why it’s so incomplete. But still, there must be an evolutionary correction that lead to its cyclical nature. My theory is that trauma is behaving like a broken record that keeps repeating itself in the hopes that a resolution may be arrived at. Perhaps an awakening to the memories that preceded the event or figuring out how to bring closure to it. Like a ghost, coming back for unfinished business.

Perhaps it’s not so much that your trauma wants to keep re-emerging, it’s merely a fractured moment that needs to be un-severed. The mind has an event with a gap in it, and you need to complete it, in order for the healing to take place.

If you can’t, you’ll probably just kill yourself or find ways of recreating moments that lead to that traumatic incident and find someone else to “select” you out of the herd in the process.

Another solution is isolation in a safe space or environment where none of the triggers are ever likely to be stimulated. You may recall the precogs in Minority Report whom, at the end of the movie, had to be relocated away in a dreamy log cabin up in the mountains to finally find peace from all the trauma they were subjected to. But very few ever have the luxury for such a move.

So in the absence of this, what can one do? How does one resolve the trauma amidst a world that presents a plethora of opportunities to keep the events freshly preserved in our minds? Be it fireworks on 4th of july, police sirens, train horns or even he mood swings of those closest to us? Not to mention the stresses of having bills to pay, mouths to feed, etc?

The answer, i believe, is “completion” and “closure.”  The victim must understand what lead up to the moment and also how to resolve it. A very special confidant can assist. Be it a counselor or a close friend, but these individuals need to know how profoundly difficult their role is going to be and must be able to endure the suffering that will likely come of it by being able to compartmentalize their role in those moments of profound rejection when they are, in fact, needed the most. The one suffering from the trauma must also learn how to compartmentalize and be willing to not fall prey to the comforting embrace of the familiar tune that is this broken record and try their hardest not to turn those that help them into assailants.

Finish your trauma, and it will stop repeating itself. But if you continue finding comfort by falling into its clutches, the cycles will perpetuate until something even more terrible happens.

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