What’s the purpose of trauma?

 

What’s the purpose of trauma?

There are several answers to this question, partly because meaning is something we create and add to life.

Creation & Maintenance of Trauma

What’s the purpose of the creation and maintenance of trauma?

At an individual level, the main purpose of trauma may be protection. The pain of trauma is an incentive to avoid situations similar to the one initially creating the trauma.

At a collective human level, it’s probably the same. Traumas serve a survival function for our species. When a situation is overwhelming and we feel we can’t cope with it, we create trauma and the pain of the trauma helps us avoid similar situations.

Healing from Trauma

What’s the purpose we find through healing from trauma?

At an individual level, we may get a lot out of exploring and finding healing for our traumas. We obviously learn from the process, we learn how to heal from trauma and perhaps emotional issues in general. We may find we are more mature and humanized. We may be more raw and honest with ourselves and others. We may find ourselves as more real, authentic, and perhaps in integrity. We may have reprioritized and found what’s genuinely important in our life. We may discover the universality of human life and that – even with our individual differences – we are all in the same boat. We may have found a different and more meaningful life path. Our life, in general, may be more meaningful to us. We may have found a deep, raw, and real fellowship with others on a healing path. We may have learned to be more vulnerable with ourselves and others. We may have discovered how the path of healing from traumas fuels, leads into, and perhaps is an integral part of an awakening path. We may discover the deep capacity for healing inherent in ourselves, humans, and life in general.

At a collective level, it’s similar only scaled up and with the extra illumination and richness that comes from the interactions of people with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences. Collectively, we learn about and from healing from trauma. We realize the universality of it, and of our profound capacity for healing. We see that healing from trauma is something we do together and not just individually. We discover that much of what we thought were individual traumas are actually more universal and collective traumas. We discover that culture is not only what gives us much of what we love about human life, but the painful unquestioned assumptions inherent in our culture is what creates much if not most of our pain.

Bigger Picture

What’s the purpose of the experience of trauma in the bigger picture?

If we assume there is something like rebirth or reincarnation, then the experience of trauma provides food for our healing, maturing, and eventually awakening. It’s the One locally and temporarily taking itself to be a separate being going through a reincarnation process and through that healing, maturing, and eventually awakening to itself as the One. The One the adventure always happened within and as.

Traumas seems an important part of the dialectical evolutionary process of humanity as a species and – by extension – of Earth as a whole. The aspects mentioned above and much more go into this.

And it’s part of the play of life or the universe or the divine. It’s lila. It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways. It’s part of the One temporarily and locally experiencing itself as separate.

Note

When I use the word trauma, I mean the traditional one-time-dramatic-event trauma, and perhaps, more importantly, the developmental trauma that most of have from growing up in slightly – or very – dysfunctional families, communities, and cultures.

In a wider sense, any emotional issue, any painful belief, any identification, is a form of trauma and comes from and creates trauma. It’s the trauma inherent in the One temporarily and locally taking itself to fundamentally be a separate being.

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Trauma-informed relationships

 

A first date question: “How aware are you of your traumas & suppressed emotions and tell me about how you are actively working to heal them before you try to project that shit on me.”

Unknown (to me) source 

I love this question. 

In a mostly trauma-unaware relationship, one or both get trauma triggered, react on it, and may project whatever was triggered onto the other. It’s easily a vicious cycle. 

In a more trauma-aware relationship, both are aware of the typical signs of triggered trauma (reactivity, over-reaction, defensiveness, blame, going into stories and ideology, etc), recognize it when it happens in themselves or the other, are able to step back and put words on it, are willing and dedicated to resolving and finding healing for their own trauma, and support the other in finding healing for her or his own trauma. 

Of course, life is messy. It’s not always so clean and clear-cut. But if this is the general trend and orientation, the relationship can be very beautiful and serve as a source of deep healing for both. The general rule is to take care of your own shit, as the quote says, and give space for the other to take care of theirs. When it happens for me, I can acknowledge it and put words on it, and actively seek resolution and healing for it. When it happens for the other, I can notice, quietly support, and allow the other to notice for themselves and put words on it. (And sometimes, I may share how I experience it, how it impacts me.) 

I also find that in these type of relationships and interactions, the love can be more of a constant even as these traumas are triggered. I notice I love the other, I notice trauma triggered in myself or the other, and the noticing of the love can continue as a stream through it. Of course, that’s not always the case either, but that’s OK. That’s part of the process. The love is still there whether it’s noticed or not. 

Trauma-related dark nights

 
Dark nights or challenging phases of a spiritual path come in many different forms. What’s common is that life rubs up against our remaining identifications with some of our identities and beliefs. Often quite central ones, and sometimes previously un-noticed ones. One type of these dark nights is the trauma-related dark nights. As Adyashanti says, the lid is taken off some of our remaining traumas. Our mind opens to the divine as all, or as the One, and that sometimes means it also opens to what’s unhealed in us. Another side of this is that it happens so these parts of us can be met, seen, felt, loved, and healed to some extent. And that’s required so the awakening – whatever clarity is here – can be lived more fully in more situations in our everyday life. As long as traumas are left, they’ll be triggered by life situations and we’ll tend to react to these traumas rather than responding from whatever clarity and love we have access to. So there is love behind this dark night, as there is love behind any dark night. It comes with an invitation to clarify, heal, mature, and live more fully what’s realized so far. It doesn’t mean it’s easy or painless. It often feels unbearable. It can seem like it will never end. Our minds may even tell itself that it has “lost” God or the awakening, or that something has gone terribly wrong. This may especially happen if we don’t have a guide who has gone through it on their own, or if we don’t have a community around us who understand what’s happening and support our process. And if we don’t, that becomes part of our process and comes with its own gifts. As others have pointed out, it’s a very human process. It doesn’t feel “spiritual” at all. And it’s deeply humbling and, if we allow it, humanizing. I am writing about this in a more general way here, but it comes from own experience. I have gone through this for the last ten years or so. First, there was an initial awakening or opening. Then, a honeymoon phase. Then, another form of awakening. And then health challenges and a trauma-related dark night (what some may call a dark night of the soul). It has gradually become easier but I am still not quite out of the woods. Life wants more in me to be seen, felt, met, loved, explored, allowed, and perhaps healed. At the very least, there is an invitation for me to heal my relationship to it, and that’s as or more important than the healing of the issues themselves. Read More

Dark nights of the soul & trauma

 

There are different varieties of dark nights in a spiritual process. In some ways, there are as many varieties as there are dark nights since each one is somewhat unique.

Still, there seems to be some general categories or facets of dark nights. One category or facet is a dryness or lack of meaning and enthusiasm. Another is an experience of loss of God’s presence or an expansive state. And one is where the lid is taken off of our unprocessed stuff and it emerges to heal and be recognized as spirit itself.

I imagine that each dark night is really an adaption to a new emerging phase, and it’s difficult to the extent we struggle against it and try to hold onto beliefs and identities not compatible with this new phase.

The type where the lid is taken off our unprocessed stuff is especially interesting to me. It seems that it’s mainly connected with trauma. A lifetime of trauma surfaces to be seen, felt, loved, healed, and for spirit to recognize it as itself. And it’s not only one lifetime of trauma, but several. Trauma from our ancestors is passed on through the generations (behavior and epigenetics) and our culture. Trauma may even be passed on from past lives. No wonder such a process can be intense and feel unbearable.

I find it helpful to think of it in a trauma perspective. It makes it more grounded and concrete and points to some ways we can work on it and ease some of the pain inherent in it.

It does seem that the process needs to run its course and lives its own life. And it also seems that we can work on certain elements of what’s happening and make the process a little easier on ourselves.

I have found the following helpful for myself:

Therapeutic tremoring (TRE) to release tension and trauma out of the body.

Inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries) to support release of beliefs and identifications. (These create a struggle with what’s happening, and they are also what hold trauma in place.)

Natural rest. Notice and allow.

Heart centered practices. Ho’oponopono. Tonglen. Metta. Towards myself, suffering parts of myself, and others.

Service and work, as I am able to. (There has been times when all I could do was survive, and other times when service and work has been possible and very helpful for my own process.)

Body-inclusive practices such as Breema, yoga, tai chi, and chi gong.

Nature. Good diet. Herbal medicine. Supportive friends. Gentle exercise.

Understanding of the process. Guidance from someone who has gone through it themselves.

More recently, I have found Vortex Healing to be helpful for me in this process and in general.

Why does the trauma surface in this way, and sometimes in such a dramatic fashion? To me, it seems that life is impatient in clearing us and making us better vessels for whatever awakening is here. Any trauma in our system will prevent a deepening and stable awakening, and an expression of the clarity and love that’s recognized in the awakening. It’s also a very humbling process, which means that identifications are stripped off and we become a little more aligned with reality.

Note: When I wrote “categories or facets of dark nights” it’s because these characteristics sometimes seem to appear one at a time (categories) and sometimes several at once (facets).

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Jack Kornfield: This very difficulty will strengthen you

 

You may not see it now, but
this very difficulty will strengthen you.
Your heart will grow wiser, your spirit stronger.
You already know this.
You can even begin to see the ways this is true.

— Jack Kornfield in You Will Survive, an excerpt from A Lamp in the Darkness: Illuminating the Path Through Difficult Times.

I realize this is taken out of context, and I haven’t read the book – yet. I assume he qualifies it by exploring how we can go through difficult things and grow from it.

Obviously, sometimes, difficult things happen and people (apparently) break without recovering very well. And other times, people go through difficult things and grow from it – as a person and in wisdom and love.

It depends partly on our previous history, and our social support. And even more so, it depends on how we relate to the situation and ourselves. If we are lucky enough to enter a path of love, we may indeed grow from it.