“I think normalcy is a myth. The idea that some people have pathology and the rest of us are normal is crude. There’s nothing about any mentally ill person — and it doesn’t matter what their diagnosis is — that I couldn’t recognize in myself. The reality is that in every case, mental illness is an outcome of traumatic events. And by trauma I don’t mean dramatic events. There’s a difference.
Fundamentally, it has to do with whether human needs are being met or not. Since we live in a society that largely denies human developmental needs — doesn’t even understand them, let alone provide for them — you’re going to have a lot of people affected in adverse ways. Most of the population, in fact. And so then to separate out those who meet the particular criteria for a particular diagnosis from the rest of us is utterly unscientific and unhelpful.” Gabor Mate in Why Are So Many Adults Today Haunted by Trauma by Jenara Nerenberg June 8, 2017.
Some of the most powerful words I’ve ever read: “The essence of trauma is disconnection from ourselves.” Gabor Mate (in the article above). How many times did a professor write on the board that disease really = dis(ease)? How many times did I tell that to clients? What could be more essential, existential, or spiritual? My question is: does chronic pain try to help us reconnect to our essential self or is it a warning that we have fallen out of touch with that self? This is where my life is currently. . . living with chronic illness and retreating to recuperate and re-establish my life, a healthy life.
There are so many self-help books out there. Different theories, programs, medications, groups, beliefs, etc. And so many fail. Diets, 12-step meetings, workbooks, and meditating don’t fix the problem. Part of my exploration is to look at what has worked and what hasn’t and hopefully to gleam some ideas for myself as to what will make a difference in my life.
I’ve never been a group joiner. Well, that’s not true. I’ve joined groups but never stayed for long. I spent most of my childhood alone. Two working parents and only one sibling who was considerably older than me. There were few kids in our neighborhood as I grew up. I grew up estranged from the majority of both sides of my family and the people who I was surrounded by (some pretty terrific ones) were all adults — family friends, elderly neighbors, and a crazy evil godmother. Despite being alone, I am not sure if I was really ever lonely. At times, I have craved community, for a larger family, but I’ve often found myself confused that are people in communities and families. And for every time I thought I understood people, there have been countless times that I’ve scratched my head in wonder.
So, I have a bit of a conundrum when I read Gabor Mate’s words, “Our true nature is to be connected.” I see myself as an introvert. I’ve stated that personally groups are a bit much for me and that I have a tiny family. If to heal means to reconnect to our true nature and our nature is to be connected, does that mean that this endeavor is hopeless? Hardly! It actually brings me great hope as I understand tonight that it is also in connecting to our true nature that is healing.
What does that mean? That means that for the last two decades of trying to convince everyone I was an academic or a professional or of working in an environment that went against my every ethical conviction or of holding on to family pain that was not mine to begin with may be the self-inflicted or at least self-initiated trauma that has led to where I am currently.
Like other things that I have posted, I have no answers to share with you. Rather, this is about sharing my journey, my questions, my probing the question that Stephen Levine asks so often, “What is the healing I took birth for”? Yes, that’s where I am at tonight. The night before Christmas Eve and all the world is celebrating. Tonight, I am grateful for glimpses of hope and light.
Here are my questions for tonight:
- What is your definition of trauma?
- Do you see trauma and internal or external events?
- What traumas have you experienced?
- Do you think that trauma is more widespread than our society seems to believe?
- Do you think trauma has always been a part of the human experience?
- Do you think we are less suited to healing from our trauma today?
- What about our society, today, is inheriently traumatizing and is there anything we can do to reverse it?
Do something nice for yourself and for someone around you. Most importantly, be true to yourself. Be at peace.