“The power of being oneself in intimate relation to others who truly regard you with warmth and respect is enough to change the rhythm of life.”
— Susan L. Roth and Ronald Batson, Naming the Shadows. (New York: NY, The Free Press, 2002), 71.
When I am traumatized and hurting, where do I go? Honestly, I usually seek solitude in order to dissociate, self-medicate, regroup, and figure out how to reengage life. It is a bleak and lonely experience which reinforces my belief that no one can really understand or care. In the end, I am more avoidant and pessimistic, expecting others to wound me yet again. Unless I want to remain in a constricted, well-worn pattern of disengagement and delusional self-sufficiency, I am challenged to change my response to pain.
According to Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., in The Body Keeps the Score, traumatic events are almost impossible to verbalize. Trauma mutes an individual’s voice where one is perpetually at war internally. A tremendous amount of courage is needed in order to break the secrets and allow oneself to know and name what has happened. However,
talking about painful events doesn’t necessarily establish community — often quite the contrary.
Friends, family, and support groups may reject those who are hurting. As a result, well-meaning people often become impatient with loved ones who are stuck in their grief.
Now, here is a quandary. Withdrawal is a frequent response, so what are some viable ways to engage trauma? Van der Kolk suggests establishing inner “islands of safety” where one can identify postures, activities, and movements, such as art, writing, music, massage, acupuncture,
and dance, which are grounding during difficult emotional moments. Connecting with varied internal body sensations creates a counterbalance to feeling out of control. This also is an entry into trauma resolution which includes modulating exploration/safety, language/body, as well as
remembering the past and feeling alive in the present. Making this contact with bodily experience helps to overcome trauma in order to get back in touch with oneself. The complete story cannot be told without well-functioning connections between the conscious brain and the
body’s sense of self that are often damaged by trauma.
Yet, language is still essential to healing. An individual’s full story can only be told after words are incorporated with repaired brain/body/self integration.
We may think that we can control our grief, our terror, or our shame by remaining silent, but naming offers the possibility of a different kind of control. If you’ve been hurt, you need to acknowledge and name what happened to you.
Reaction within our group surrounded the concept of listening and how other modes of expression can be utilized in trauma recovery. Yoga, for instance, has been experienced as a release of imprisoned, wordless harm. We discussed how creative methods possess the possibility of unraveling painful narratives. Primarily, we pondered intentionality in healing
through relationships — what we need to establish before our wounds are excised with another. Does the relational connection possess enough safety? Are we too tired or lazy in seeking others to join us on our healing path? How are we in observing the periphery of our pain — is there an awareness of what is not verbalized? Being comfortable in aloneness and familiarity can be the antithesis to becoming whole.
Questions abound, but answers are elusive. Each of us desires a life rhythm with others where our traumas have an opportunity to surface and be held with love. Beyond our internal safe islands, we long to inhabit community, far from the shores of abandonment and isolation.