Friday, August 9, 2013

The Rush to Normal

I came across an article today that spoke to my atoms and molecules, so I have to share it:

The Trauma of Being Alive


I don't really have much to add to it, so I'll just pull out some of my favorite bits:  

Trauma is not just the result of major disasters. It does not happen to only some people. An undercurrent of trauma runs through ordinary life, shot through as it is with the poignancy of impermanence. I like to say that if we are not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, we are suffering from pre-traumatic stress disorder. There is no way to be alive without being conscious of the potential for disaster.




... In resisting trauma and in defending ourselves from feeling its full impact, we deprive ourselves of its truth. ... There is a rush to normal in many of us that closes us off, not only to the depth of our own suffering but also, as a consequence, to the suffering of others.

... “They’re shooting at our regiment now,” a 60-year-old friend said the other day as he recounted the various illnesses of his closest acquaintances. “We’re the ones coming over the hill.” He was right, but the traumatic underpinnings of life are not specific to any generation. The first day of school and the first day in an assisted-living facility are remarkably similar. Separation and loss touch everyone.

... The willingness to face traumas — be they large, small, primitive or fresh — is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it.







11 comments:

  1. But what is normal if we are constantly suffering from post- or pre-traumatic stress disorder? How do you rush toward something if you don't know what it's supposed to look like?

    Just my thoughts.

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    1. That's a good point, MM. I had a friend who lost her mom not too long ago, and she was really angry with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross for laying out that recipe for grief — because her own grief was not following that narrative. She felt like a failure for grieving improperly, and grew tired of everyone asking why she was still so sad. I think the author is recommending a more Zen approach to grief: accept it. Let it pass through you and past you at its own pace; fighting it only prolongs it.

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  2. Thomas Merton once wrote, “The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”

    I think we are all trying to find a balance between the sweet and the sour.

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  3. What a thought-provoking post. To me, the grace of living allows us to function, to smile, and to have hope in spite of the tragedies that have already kicked us in the gut, or are waiting to tackle us up ahead. We have no choice but to accept and endure the inevitable tragedies, but we don't have to let them control us.

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  4. Stephanie, I'm reading these passages and what comes to my mind is that you are a midwife. You are designed (I know that's a problematic word for an atheist but let's just let that stand for a sec) to help souls transition from one plane of existence to another. Not in an astral sense, but in a very practical sense. Or, gosh, who knows? Maybe I'm just dancing around the mystery. What I'm hoping to get across is that we each sound a note. And the more I've gotten to know the deeper bits of you in privileged moments, the more I'm beginning to make out the shape of your song. It's a tenacious bright spot in the face of all that wrecks the human heart. You, my friend, are gently, quietly, brilliantly *unflinching.* And your writing helps others on their path toward same.

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    1. Oh my gosh, Suze! You've got me biting my lip and dabbing at the corners of my eyes. :}

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  5. "The first day of school and the first day in an assisted-living facility are remarkably similar."

    Wow, that one got me.

    I'm not sure I agree with the premise that we live our lives pre-/post-trauma - too defeatist for my tastes. But I know there are many within modern psychology who would agree with it.

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    1. I can totally see why you'd take it that way, and even reading it in a different setting on a different day, I see it differently. But I think he means it in a more accepting than defeatist way. The two can be so close as to be indistinguishable sometimes. I've been a fan of Buddhism for a long time, though not disciplined enough to call myself "a Buddhist." One of the problems I've had with the philosophy comes from the wobbly line between acceptance and defeatism. Sometimes I want to fight back.

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    2. Yes. I completely understand that the intent is different, just as it is for the psychologists. According to Freud, the first trauma is birth, after all. Presumably death is traumatic, too. There you go.

      You're right, the wobbly line is definitely there. I'm not sure I know the answer, either.

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