The Becoming: Integrating Trauma
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”~Rumi.
I'm a burn survivor. It will be 40 years in a couple of weeks. I survived, when others did not. I survived, when the other survivor did not. Trauma is what happens to a body & mind that survives. Trauma changes us, literally changes our brains: a brain that went through a traumatic incident works differently than a brain that has not. And trauma changes our body in many ways. Whether there are visible scars or not, there are places on our body that hold memories/images/flashbacks/pieces/feelings of the event(s) that changed us.
We do not have choice about the trauma. And sometimes we don't have choice about how to integrate the trauma. Too often people think that "healing" from trauma is "getting over it", "getting back to normal". Neither of those things are actually possible. There is no "back to normal", there is only "the new normal"; which may differ drastically from the old normal, and may resemble the old normal in a lot of ways. When we struggle to become the person we were before the trauma, or our idea of a person who never experienced this trauma, we are doomed to fail. The only possible option is learning to integrate the trauma.
Trauma affects everything about the way we connect to others, the way we connect to ourselves. So it's no surprise that trauma affects our sexual, sensual, & erotic development. Even trauma that was not sexual in nature affects our sexuality, affects our connection to Spirit, affects our view of ourselves as whole or broken, affects our ability to relax our guard & be vulnerable, affects our ability to trust. My particular Trauma Twins are hypervigilance & catastrophizing. This means that not only am I aware of the worst possible fatal end to every activity & situation, but that I spend the entire time I'm in that situation either waiting for the worst to happen, or constantly scanning for signs that it's about to happen. Makes me loads of fun on camping trips (or hell, walking to the damn corner store).
In burn care, skin debridement is an important part of healing. In debridement, the dead tissue is removed to help the new healthy tissue form. There are many methods of debridement. The one used for me as a child was hydrotherapy in basically this giant metal bathtub. The idea is that the swirling water will take away the dead tissue, and that since dead tissue doesn't have nerve endings, it shouldn't hurt. And I think folx think that water is soothing & gentle.
Whirling, swirling, "raging" water is quite strong, and can tear away & yank away all sorts of things. So I had to sit in water that was literally & painfully tearing my flesh off; the borders between the dead skin without nerve endings & the new fragile skin with exposed nerve endings are not so clear cut. This was hell for me, perhaps more painful than anything else (except when they unscrewed the pins from my legs without pain meds). Back in the day, hospitals were stingy with pain meds, especially with children—don't want them to become addicted, doncha know? So I cried & screamed during this treatment, a treatment necessary for healing.
Integrating Trauma is rarely a painless process. It is rarely a linear process. You may get off kilter, you may experience pain so severe you want to shriek to the high heavens. Often it is a form of emotional debridement. The process of removing old dead energies so that you can heal. Scouring out the wounds so the light can get in better. It involves exposing your coping mechanisms, the subconscious reactions & actions you have learned as a means of protection, or as a means of remediating pain. The goal of integration is not necessarily to change those behaviors, but to have choice: to act from a place of awareness, rather than unconscious automation.
Integrating Trauma is the process of becoming. Becoming the new you.
Kintsukorri is a Japanese art form. It is the practice of repairing broken ceramics with a resin laced with gold or silver. The repaired piece is considered to be more beautiful because it has been broken & made whole again, and the repairing is visible. Now there are definitely some folx who've been through trauma & manifest it in really ugly, hurtful ways. But for some of us, we are more now (after integration) than we were then (before the trauma occurred). Our visible scars, our ability to act from a place of consciousness are signs of our resilience, the gold or silver resin holding our bodies, our souls together.
Our resilience makes us beautiful.