Buying back meaning after trauma

Sudden or cumulative trauma rends and wounds the sense of self so part of the healing is both the acknowledgement of what has happened and the re-experiencing of what was so unbearable at the time. Taking hold of the anxiety rather than the anxiety taking hold of oneself can be achieved through this process and so some sense of understanding is gained. If we can understand what was so terrifying and destructive we gain control of it and also a sense of the meaning of what took place. The fear of breakdown is understood as referring back to the breakdown in the continuity of being that has already happened, and with this meaning and understanding it can be possible to feel compassion for oneself. In this way the trauma is not banished or repressed and it is not disassociated from, but rather it becomes something that has happened and now has been experienced, and so the power and fear of the unknown is diminished. It remains a part of oneself but not such a dominant part but it takes its place in the story of one’s life.
Unfortunately sometimes there are traumas that seem to defy meaning no matter how hard one tries and collective trauma of war and sadism will leave deep scars and may never be given adequate reparation. Is it here that the figure of Christ can represent something beyond the psychological and the known language of therapeutic healing? For Jesus Christ – the shepherd in the shadow of death – takes us into the spaces between suffering, death and resurrection into a spiritual experience that defies the logical and rational and that is beyond theories and our ability to translate experiences into words and so give meaning. This is the place of peace that we cannot possibly understand. And it is deeply personal.

Ann Belford Ulanov says that we need a name to hold onto as ‘you can’t talk to an abstraction, but you can talk to Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed…’ At this point the healing is coming from another source because the Spirit is pressing us towards abundant life, towards finding the lost sheep or the lost coin – the part of us that was lost and that is now found.

Fundamentally the healing of trauma is the story of creation and recreation and also of integration and reintegration. It requires the aggressive and destructive energies to be harnessed towards wholeness…and it requires hope that sometimes and someday things might be different.

This is the feeling expressed in this poem:

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

– by Sheenagh Pugh