Recognise this little guy? You may have seen him popping up in Monster stories. You may (or may not) recognise him popping up in your own life too.
Cute huh. Innocent looking. Well, allow me to introduce you…
Trauma is everything you’ll ever need, right when you need it. The best friend, parent and partner you never had. Your ally, soul mate, comforter on lonely nights and armour against the world. Your loyal and loving right hand, your personal consigliere, always by your side, always got your back.
At least, that’s what it wants you to think.
Trauma paints reality like a master at work, a picture Michelangelo would be proud of; “The greatest trick trauma ever played was to convince us it doesn’t exist.”
It’s cloak and dagger, Cold War espionage. Slight-of-mind and misdirection. It’s self-doubt and ego-tripping. Your best buuuud and your fiercest foe. The enemy at the gates of your true self. The knife in your hand and the one in your back. It lurks in the shadows of plain sight.
Trauma is everywhere and it’s convinced you it’s not. It’s convinced you it’s them, their fault, their doing, and guess what? It’s convinced you it’s you, your fault, your doing too.
Trauma is not the most joyful of topics, the word itself conjures negative emotions right off the bat, which is probably why it carries such stigma and taboo. Why we avoid it, don’t talk about, don’t even acknowledge or recognise its existence within us all (to some degree).
It’s all part of its masterplan – denial, shame and self-defence. It doesn’t want to kill us, it’s host, no, no, no. That wouldn’t do at all. It simply want’s to suck all the expectation of a good life out of us. Take away love, compassion, hope, happiness, self-worth and all the other great shit it can get its grubby little hands on.
Tying our hands with the knots of the past and waterboarding us with hurt.
Which is precisely why it’s important to recognise and talk about trauma, raise awareness about it, shine a light on it – because it affects us all. Wait, that was way too soft…
Trauma fucks us all – and not in a way we enjoy.
Trauma wants to be ignored, it wants us to forget about it, avoid it, cope with it, be fearful of healing it. Just so it can continue to control, bully and abuse under the guise of protection, of ‘survival’.
It’s dangerous because we can become so bound by it, yet so blind to the existence of its knife in our back and strings above our reality. Denying or becoming accustomed to the impact those strings have on us, our life and those around us.
Traumas goal is to spread, keeping those it infests prisoner, whether they’re aware of its presence or not. Jumping from person to person, from parents to their children, even spanning multiple generations.
It doesn’t discriminate, much like a virus, yet far more powerful and destructive. The recent pandemic is evidence of that. Whilst our attention is on Covid, trauma has been growing and infecting billions more. Tensions are high and mental health problems are sky-rocketing (suicide rates along with them).
Is this not the real pandemic? The other ‘outbreak’ we’ve been witness to? Not least these past 18 months.
It’s acknowledged on a small scale, the odd tidbit. But the majority of the common people, mainstream media and powers that be do not seem to consider it a priority though – the loss of homes and jobs, the rise of abuse, discrimination, inequality and civil unrest. The ability to feed or see our loved ones, to be able to catch or receive treatment for other life threatening illnesses and diseases. Even now, as we steam ahead out of our third lockdown here in the UK these things are barely mentioned.
This isn’t all about trauma of course, but it’s ever present and growing.
Trauma is relentless if left unattended, unrecognised or taken seriously. Wreaking havoc among the lives of those with which it touches. It can and does destroy those lives. That’s the importance of this, why it’s necessary to shine a light on trauma, expose it, raise awareness about it, whatever form it takes or mask it wears.
Traumas legacy can last for decades if we don’t face it with compassion and love – here and now. It’s on all of us to do our bit for self and each other.
In trauma mode, our thoughts, actions and perceptions of the world (and self) are driven by the past, not our present.
We are therefore not present ourselves. This is where the fucker of trauma is exposed – our survival instinct denies its existence. Because to accept its existence, is to accept that we are or have been living in trauma mode. That it’s been thinking, speaking and acting on our behalf. That our truth is not ours after all – its traumas.
It’s hurt. Fear. Learned behaviour. Our parents, bullies, abusers, betrayers or invalidators. How we were treated. What others told us we were. How others made us feel. Our truth is theirs - not ours.
This is such a difficult pill to swallow, and on the face of it potentially devastating to us. But actually, it presents a life-changing opportunity; to realise our power over self, life, the present and our future.
So what if the reality trauma projects is not actually how it is? That’s a good thing right?! The fact we see the world and ourselves in a better light is enough to make us dance around like a monkey on a pogo stick surely.
Unshackling from trauma means choosing new, better and happier things, things that are in line with our best interests at heart rather than trauma and its need to survive.
Sounds great right? Easy. Course it’s not, but the hard part is behind us. Trauma’s exposed. It’s grip on us loosened. Each moment that passes we prise more of its tentacles from our mind. Cut the cords attached to our neural pathways, moving away from trauma and closer to self.
We reconnect in many ways as we pursue self; whenever we say no to trauma. Go against fear. Ignore self-doubt. Take chances. Embrace newness. Do and behave differently. Say something else. Make other choices.
Every time we let go. Trust. Forgive. Accept. Empathise. Love.
All of these are acts of self-care – healing in progress. They may seem small and insignificant, but they never are. They’re us resowing the seeds of our self. Piecing us back together and learning to love ourselves again (or for the first time).
This is stopping trauma in its tracks with a roadblock of love in our hearts.
The ugly beauty of trauma is in its variant.
Using a flu virus analogy, it can jump from person to person, mutating as it goes. But its origins, whilst similar, aren’t identical. In terms of trauma that’s the ‘event’ that started it all; war, disaster, illness, injury, violence, discrimination, betrayal, abuse…
We learn during our fight against trauma, that the origin isn’t actually relevant to our recovery. Despite our focus on the origin being the all-consuming part of our perceived escape from it. Certainly at first, and sometimes for years after the fact, it’s something that happened. We ‘survived’ it.
Enter trauma. If the event was the exposure, ‘trauma’ is in the *living* afterwards. The hurt and emotion through recovery…the impact it has on us, our sense of self and the world around us. Trauma and healing are one and the same in that sense, born of the same egg, two snakes wrestling for dominance.
It’s the legacy of something that impacted us so greatly it altered and diminished us in some way.
The reason for this droning (and spelling it out like you didn’t already know) description is because within it we see trauma for what it is – something *within us* that we can impact in return. Change for the better, stopping the wrestle and regaining power over self.
We cannot change the past (the event), but we can change its legacy (trauma), and how it impacts *us* and our lives.
I know. Trust me; “Easy to say fuck-face, but…”
Chiiiiill Winston, this isn’t a session with a psychologist we’re having, just an informal chat from one perspective to another, born out experience, research, learning and feeling, through years of visceral and rational attention to detail whilst fighting my own (and others) traumas – what I’ve personally lived through (survived).
‘Lived through’ is the positive affirmation as a result of that work. And it is work. Hard work. It isn’t about the event remember. The what, why or when. What physically happens is not the story, not the lesson or work to be done.
How we live above (not with) trauma, the aftermath, that’s our story and the legacy we can create.
It’s good to learn about the science behind trauma, but in the end, it’s all about us, what’s inside, and it’s all there, all the tools we could ever need.
How we respond to ‘events’ and trauma weaving through us, altering our perception of our internal and external worlds is the tormenting snake wrestled with.
We can heal and tweak the nipples of trauma (it hates that by the way). We can find our way to self. There are examples of this everywhere you look, not just here in Monsterville. We’re all healing something, all of us. Which paradoxically is why there’s no ‘Trauma for Dummies’ we can pull out and hand to loved ones – the ‘journey’ is too damn personal.
We have snippets, sound bites and scraps of beermat with useful sign-posts on them, but we’ll never have all the answers, the full schematic. Certainly not for anyone else. We can love loud and do our best to show the way, but we can’t force belief. People need to find belief in themselves.
Inner work comes down to our awareness, capacity and willingness to do so – it’s arguably the most challenging (and worthwhile) thing any of us can do for ourselves. We fluctuate, we’re fluid, undefined – there’s always room for improvement and growth.
The trauma I imagine most of us can relate to is not feeling ‘good enough’. The antidote to such emotional baggage is love and respect. How we see, feel and give them, because it was our (early) lessons from others in these areas that were missing something or messed up in some way, triggering our sense of lacking worth in the first place; our parents (waves to Freud), friends, partners…
Anyone with whom we gave our love, trust and true self. It’s what others did with those things that resulted in us feeling rejected, devalued, unloved – ‘not good enough’. Other people are the ‘event’ remember – the thing that started it all, but not what we should be focussing on if we want to let go and heal the resulting trauma.
We should focus on what was needed (not given or taken away). Finding ways to nurture those needs for ourselves without being made redundant by trauma.
The uncomfortable truth about ‘healing’ is that it’s all on us.
We don’t appreciate the magnitude of moments we do until much later. At the time we’re too focussed on the event or awareness of trauma, we don’t notice our fight for self is continuously going on. It’s only when we’re active in it that our fight against trauma is noticeable, it becomes a more conscious fight, for ‘self’ rather than a subconscious instinct to survive.
I say magnitude. But that doesn’t do it justice. The moments we switch to our consciousness is the Godzilla of digging deep for the best interests of us. *We* take the strings out of traumas hands and take charge.
We ain’t done yet, far from it. But boy have we just won an epic battle.
Mexican waves and raucous applause are warranted – we don’t appreciate them yet and we don’t get carried away. It’s okay to sit for a while. Rest, re-charge. But don’t settle. Don’t be satisfied with this ledge. Resist the temptation to accept this new norm simply because it’s better than what came before, what you’ve just exhausted yourself through over the days, weeks, months, years…
We’ve come a long way, we survive and we head forward, it’s a gruelling marathon of a fun run.
There’s no right or wrong way to take part. No timeframe to adhere too, no deadline to meet, no record time to break. Take your damn time. Do it how you want to do it. Just make sure you are. Step by step. Little by little.
We miss opportunities to connect to self. Moments we touch our emotions and deny them ‘getting the better’ of us when we should allow them to. It’s the last thing you want to do, but do it. Sit with sadness. Cry. Express anger. Break-the-fuck-down. It’s okay and precisely what’s needed. None of it has to make sense, feel good or feel like a worthy pursuit at the time. It won’t, but it is. It’s simply self expression, authenticity. It’s you. The real you trying to live.
Why we heal is about reconnecting with our self. Letting *us* out, allowing ourselves to be real and open to the greatness life has to offer. That means connecting with how our self (we) feels.
We can think we know, that we’ve cracked it, smashed trauma out of the park, but the moment we turn our back is when we feel its temptation massage our mind; “Is that our true confidence showing itself or the stroke of trauma on our ego?”. Any kind of positive self-affirmation feels good, so it can be hard to tell until we get to know ourselves personally.
It’s absolutely the thing we avoid, cope with, manage, distract ourselves from and try to control. For obvious reasons. In order to survive and make it through the day.
Our power is evident when we go against trauma. When we do despite fear, self-doubt or self-criticism. When we get up despite trauma telling us not to, ‘I can’t do this’, ‘Not today’, ‘Just five more minutes’…and five more, and five…
Trauma kicks and screams in those moments, making us feel super uncomfortable. Healing happens in all the moments we go against it. Choose us, or let go. Crying, breaking down, being confident when we’re petrified, going when we fear going, doing when we don’t think we can. Each time we go against our fears crippling idle chit-chat we heal a little bit. We grow a little bit more and fear a little bit less.
It’s the accumulation of all these teeny weeny moments that mount up to healing.
When we recognise it’s about being in the moment, about little choices, small wins, tiny acts of release and experiencing ourselves, no matter how painful it feels, we realise the Godzilla of what we’re doing and have been doing each and every day. That’s when we feel gratitude and love for ourselves.
Because that’s all healing is – learning to love ourselves.
In time, these moments of presence with ourselves and our recognition of them, those insidious voices in our heads start to shift, from self-critical and hatful, to ones of warmth and kindness. It’s why all those crazy people out there keep saying ‘be kind to yourself (dumbass)’.
We heal and we grow. Continuously. Our only goal is to remember this, and keep going, being kind to ourselves as we do so.
Don’t give up. You may not be in a place to believe me, but you got this.
We all experience trauma of some kind, as kids and adults, exposed to it by chance, proximity or choice.
It always leads to one simple question: How can we stop the cycle of trauma? The answer to which isn’t simple – because it (and healing) come in all shapes and sizes.
Trauma from our abuse of each other is one we face most, this rejection of us as a human being has the potential to strip us from the very fabric of that being, causing untold suffering. For this reason, the answer to the rather simple question (for Monsters) is that we, as humans, have one role and one role only; to love the shit out of one another.
Simply because what’s taken from us by such trauma is often feeling genuine love and respect for self. Feelings that are reinforced as trauma follows up traumatic events with repeat doses, subtle or not so subtle triggers that play on the negative thoughts we now carry, which *can* change us, extending traumas reach (It’s not called ‘self-sabotaging’ for nothing).
This is why our role as humans, as partners, parents, siblings, friends…is simply to nurture love inside ourselves. In doing so, we protect ours and may show what love, respect, trust, acceptance and self-worth truly looks and feels like to those around us too – as we offer an alternative narrative to the one spoken by trauma.
Because that’s what love is.
It’s not the darkness of humanity or the tyrant that is trauma. It’s light and why shining that light is something we can all do.
Love isn’t expensive, it has nothing to do with cost, hurt, control or survival, whether that’s love for self or another. That’s the beauty of it, it’s completely free. It’s soft and it’s fierce yes, but never a burden (despite traumas lies to the contrary).
Love is about us, it’s an emotion within, how *we* feel about it belongs to us. People can be the events that traumatise us, impacting our perception, but our relationship with love is always our own. Ours to give and receive as we choose – both to ourselves and out there in the world. We’re accountable for it.
We cannot allow ourselves to become our hurt (trauma’s cycle). So if you do anything today, choose love instead.
So. Trauma’s in your life. In your family, your past, given to you from above, the side or wherever. What are you doing about it? Are you going to be the one to stop it in its tracks or let it pass through you to others?
We’re all aware there is no excuse for abuse - No “I can’t help it”, no “It’s not my fault”, no room for denial, avoidance or blame - only accountability.
Challenging its existence is on all of us, it’s a humanitarian issue. By doing nothing we’re just vessels for the hurt to spread – the very thing we despise and wrestle with is passed on.
To stop it we must actively heal ourselves and reject others trauma, including that which exists in our closest relationships. You may not know trauma like others know trauma, but that’s irrelevant; how you treat yourself, how you treat others and your tolerance for how others treat you is the vital role we all have in tackling trauma.
There are no exceptions; victim, survivor, thriver or none the wiser. Your parent, partner, best mate, Dave down the street or Monster in the mirror. No matter who we are or what we’ve been through, no matter our role in someone else’s life, we must always treat ourselves and them with love and respect. Period.
Make no mistake – this is not suffering, diminishing or compromising self for the sake of others. We cannot make those excuses for trauma and those who do not challenge it. We may think we’re helping, being loving even…but we’re not. Not to them and certainly not to ourselves. This is ‘enabling’ trauma. It’s time to say “No. No more, you end here. With me.”
We can challenge trauma with what was missing during its creation – love and respect. As this light shines, like a vampire trauma will panic, thrash and bite, attack out of fear, exposing itself.
Stand firm in your love and respect.
Nurture these within yourself so you may spread that good shit far and wide and stand firm if (when) you encounter trauma. Love softly, love fiercely, it doesn’t matter, love is the greatest power we have as humans and the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and anyone else.
Go about trauma with love. That, as they say, is that.