An army of skeletons convene within my mind
Prepare to wage war against my sanity
Weapons withdraw upon sight of the figure
Retreat with pity
For this lone fragile figure
Trauma is one of the most detrimental effects of a world overcome by extreme poverty, oppression, violence, and objectification of body and earth. These false ways of being have the potential to break down the mind, body, and soul leaving only fragments of understanding. Those suffering from trauma can become locked in states of survival that both robs them of the ability to move forward and further seeds patterns of violence, addiction, and mental unrest.
A traumatized individual is not necessarily more at risk than the average person walking down the street, but rather experiences the world as though they are. The human nervous system is built to regulate our sense of safety and danger. For someone living in a traumatized state, their bubble of protection has been destroyed and the option for safety no longer exists. The nervous system is set to high alert for threat and repeatedly finds ways to whisper “danger, danger” be it through seemingly irrational emotions, insomnia, body tension, or avoidance of normal life routines.
This hyper-vigilance can cause a wide range of symptoms including sleep disturbance, nightmares, paranoia, physical and emotional numbing, irritability, depression, muscle tension and body soreness, difficulty concentrating, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and anti-social or self-destructive behavior. Someone impacted by trauma may also experience intense reactions to scenarios related to their specific trauma.
All symptoms of trauma point to the body and mind’s inability to register that the danger has passed. In a sense, traumatized individuals are stuck in the moment of impact; dismembered and forced to relive a terrifying experience over and over again. Even when there are no conscious thoughts or memories associated with the incident, both the body and unconscious mind continue to remember. This aspect of living in the present while repeatedly experiencing the past causes one to feel confused and fragmented. This constant disorientation heightens the need to protect oneself and can ultimately lead to deep isolation and despair.
While trauma may come through a single moment of impact — one act of violence or extreme danger — trauma may also come through living in an environment of poverty, abuse, or oppression. Complex trauma, which is the result of maltreatment during childhood, is particularly detrimental because the child is still in the early stages of forming a sense of self and easily absorbs and identifies with whatever is around them. In this way, trauma can turn one’s sense of self into something horrible and confusing. One then grows up fragmented — functioning through broken and twisted parts rather than through an integrated whole.
Every human experiences self-doubt and insecurity; and every human has the task of creating a fully whole and authentic Self — but for those who are deeply fragmented it is quite simply a dangerous journey. We can become easily overwhelmed by relentless voices of fear, self-doubt, and worthlessness. We often live through patterns of stability followed by patterns of being pulled back down into a sense of self that wants to dominate and destroy. While we may be able to step into periods of recovery, we are often unable to fully see the process through or to understand what triggers another episode of “going under.” Often these voices are so ingrained within our sense of self and we are so used to living through them that we do not even know they exist. We just know that “something is wrong with us.”
So what do we do? How do we reclaim our underlying wholeness?
Healing trauma is a difficult and complex process, often requiring years of focused care and professional support, but spiritual and healing practices can have a profound impact on our recovery. We can support trauma recovery by training ourselves to trust and remain grounded within the present moment, we can cultivate life-empowering qualities, such as loving-kindness, gratitude, and compassion, and we can create safe containers where we can learn to honestly express and give voice to our trauma. Rather than trying to hide from, cover up, or suppress our symptoms, rather than giving into shame and insecurity, we can support one another in sharing and expressing our truths. We can create safe containers to express and discharge our suffering.
What is interesting about this process is that when we learn to enter into the process with clarity and intention — when we integrate spiritual & healing practices into our journey — and when we create safe containers to do our work within — then the powers of spirit and soul naturally arise to support our process — the natural energies of life carry us forward. While this work has the potential to bring us face to face with our most difficult patterns, it also has the potential to bring great freedom and an embodiment of fierce wisdom and compassion.
This is the work of the spiritual and healing artist, and the work of spiritual and healing community. This is the work of becoming truly authentic and truly whole.