How trauma arises
At least once in our lives, most of us have come face to face with the imminent possibility of death. We have all been in accidents, or had medical emergencies, or been abused, neglected or abandoned, or witnessed others in life-threatening situations.
Trauma occurs when we feel both terrified that we might die, and alone with our terror. We feel completely isolated while facing great danger. It seems that there’s no-one there to protect us, or to hold and soothe us, to bring us back to our connection with life, love and loved ones. We feel that we have been abandoned by all that is good, cast into a nightmare of terrible threat, excruciating emotions and total aloneness.
Our inner protection
With trauma, these emotions are so strong that they actually overwhelm our inner capacity to cope. But miraculously, there is an innate intelligence at the core of our being that immediately and automatically springs into action to protect us. It goes into overdrive to do two things – contain the overwhelming emotions, and give us strategies so that we can continue to function in the world. And these inner strategies are often very effective in numbing the pain, containing the terror, and allowing us to get on with our lives.
When our inner defenses have to protect us against trauma, as distinct from the usual difficulties of life, multiple, interlocking layers of protection are formed to ensure that we are removed as far as possible from the overwhelming pain of the trauma.
Often, our inner protectors push the trauma below the surface of consciousness, so that we literally forget the original event, or we remember the event but have lost touch with the emotions. This is why so many of us have experienced traumatic events, and yet are able to live relatively OK lives, at least on the surface.
Spirit gets buried
Our inner protectors usually succeed reasonably well in removing us from our painful feelings, but there’s a price to pay for the protection. The price is that these protectors also remove us from who we really are. They bury our impossible emotions, and they also bury our Spirit.
This creates a very painful situation for those of us who feel deeply drawn to Spirit, and have also been traumatized. We cannot help the desire to know, experience and live as Spirit, and yet what’s in the way is layer upon layer of protectors whose job it is to prevent us from accessing the depths of our being. Often, the inability to access Spirit actually increases our desire to find Her. So we find ourselves in the difficult place of deeply longing for our true selves, and deeply blocked from getting there.
We start to wonder what’s wrong with us. How come our “meditation” consists of uncontrollable monkey mind, day after day? How come our friends experience states of grace that we have never known? Why do others make great progress in therapy, but we feel we are still mired in the same old issues, year after year?
We get discouraged, and start judging ourselves as somehow inferior. We feel like the slow learners of the ashram, the ones who will never make it. We look longingly at our teachers and gurus, and their realization seems completely out of reach. We may give up altogether, and just decide that we’ll never get there, so why keep trying. And always we feel so much pain about being separated from the thing we love and most want, our true spiritual nature.
Patience, compassion and healing
What we need to understand is that it’s not our fault that we are traumatized, and it’s not the fault of our inner protectors that they don’t want to give us access to our depths. They are simply doing the job they faithfully took on, which was to protect us from the overwhelm of the trauma. We need to bring great compassion both to ourselves and to these protectors.
Only as we approach these protectors with love and the desire to truly understand them will they start to relax. If we keep on judging and rejecting them, we will stay stuck and nothing will change. But as we start to understand the true role of these protectors, and acknowledge them for their total commitment to our wellbeing, they start to soften and transform. They also start to trust that we are strong enough to face the trauma ourselves. As we repeat this process with each layer of protection, we eventually uncover our traumatized inner children, and can give them the love and healing they need. And as they are healed, we find that our hidden Spirit is finally free to permeate our consciousness in all its glorious multitude of forms.
When we have been traumatized, this healing process will definitely take time, and we need to be very patient with ourselves. We need to understand that trauma can only be healed by taking things slowly, and we need to not overwhelm our system with more than it can bear. When it comes to healing trauma, slower is faster. If we go too fast, we risk retraumatizing ourselves.
But it is absolutely possible to heal, and I would truly encourage those of you who have been struggling with your path to Spirit to not give up. Spirit is eternally patient, and will wait as long as it takes for you to find Her. Just listen to Her calling in the depths of your heart, and like Hansel and Gretel, follow the thread of your own inner process all the way back to your own true Home.
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