We are become Trauma: the destroyers of ourselves
By Rafi of the 8
Trauma is an image trapped in memory’s reel.
Almost every one of us carries a trauma or ten, tinkering within us in silence as we maintain a smiling facade in fear of being caught. We maintain this farce of confidence, of success, hoping not to regress, and somehow impress everyone else with our ability to be better than our demons. Yet, we break character — in our bed, in our bath, in a bus, in a car, at a party, at a date, in a meeting or at our own wedding.
Our traumas are excessive, and excess becomes an abscess, always. Our traumas are intense, and we are overwhelmed in moments that are meant to be joyous. Our traumas are relentless, and we succumb to their barrage on the unlikeliest of days. Our traumas are boisterous, and we are marooned, our identities vanishing without a trace.
Traumas hold immense power over our actions, and our perception of the world, of others, and of ourselves. Lying is deemed to be the root of all evil, but what begets it and controls it is the seed — trauma.
Enslaved to the turgid testing of time, we trap our traumas in a gauze, bleeding on the surface, but suppressed, fearing to rip open the bandage and behold the visceral, and viciously necrotic wounds that refuse to go away. We try to treat them with alcohol, burn them with cigarettes, numb them with narcotics, power through them with coffee, forget about them with money, heal them with therapy, and wash them with the holy.
Yet, they sink deeper and deeper into our identities, tearing through our tendons and latching onto our bones — pulsating, with an ebb and tide, pricking us inside, making us wince and twitch, and seethe in pain, with cramps in our chests at night, bursts of anxiety throughout the day, and a depressive ditch that swallows our sense of self.
Traumas incite fear, our experiences informing us to be wary of falling for them again; so, we shut ourselves off from others, and a hate festers right under our skin, poisoning us within. In response, our immune system attacks it with bursts of emotions, injecting us with empathy. But we are too far gone, so we amputate the parts that are healing, to sow within this state of sepsis the seeds of our new selves.
We are now fully settled into a fever dream, and our energies are virulent and contagious; we communicate with others now, grinding our teeth, an anger arresting us in unexpected moments, and a rage darkening us with a mood that catches no light, only reflecting a hollow echo that pings from one smile to another, transmitting around the world, carrying with it the germs of bygone terrors, unseen and unspoken, but felt in the vibrations that our body language and reflexes dispel.
Innocent, we grow as children, happy when we need to be, sad when sadness hits, crying as a reflex naturally therapeutic. But, our parents, our teachers, our relatives, they have taken giant leaps into the distant dystopia of adulthood, reshaped by a string of traumas that they now inflict upon us, half in conscious fear of not letting us go through what they have, half unconsciously, projecting their innate need to kill themselves by being abusive to us — the gullible, unassuming bundles of hope. We are full of purpose, while they are lost in the mundane, rudderless and rowing towards the shore, yet doomed to die at sea, drowning in the cacophony of voices that sing below the surface but turbulently toss us in different directions until we lose the true north in a fog of fear.
There is violence rife in our seemingly orderly systems, we build institutions of incredible might to control our chaotic unconscious, so that we can condition everyone into believing the lies we tell ourselves.
We take philosophies and twist them into ideologies, corrupting the cisterns of healing words meant to open us to ourselves — nude and with brave resilience, and ushering in them a trojan horse of toxicity that cloaked in deceit rends us naked to the gutter of our ugly resolutions.
We are caught in a constant contest that in its confluence with our stark observance of our nothingness creates for us a concoction that is considered medicinal but is dangerous. We up the grandeur and lower the humility, so that our ego can suppress our vulnerability, thereby safeguarding us from attacks.
But this precautionary act of defense quickly descends into offense, premeditating our survival by kicking others down and standing over them, proud in these moments of triumph, having defeated our demons in this fleeting respite. This victorious vindication is vindictive, uncalled for but cathartic, scarring others but repairing us…until we break again.
Like Icarus, we take to the skies, our eyes fixed at the escape on the horizon, but the heat of our past melts our wings, and we fall, far from the finish line, and farther from the start. In this crushing failure, we learn no lesson of letting go of ourselves, instead we rouse a rabid rabble of voices within our heads that seep doubt and mistrust. They alienate us from our loved ones, muting them, while raising the volume of voracious individualism, mistaking the Darwinian survival of the fittest for a rat race that plagues our collective consciousness.
We are caught in a cycle of abuse. Those we trust end up abusing us emotionally, mentally, physically, sexually and religiously, and sometimes it is absolute strangers who do the same.
At school we bully each other in myriad ways, not understanding the extent of our actions, imitating our parents and teachers. At school we are abused by our caretakers, who instruct in the way the world works, above all else — by putting each other down and rising up through anger, judgement, punishment, while teaching us to be submissive, subservient, meek, disciplined, chasing individualism while killing our individuality, dissuading from collaboration while encouraging competition.
We are forced to be strong, to not cry, to get up every time we fall, and get back into the throng, broken yet pretending to be whole. We do our best to hide our ugliest emotions, and shun rage, but we gravitate towards isms that justify our feelings of otherness, and validate our impulses of othering: we are primal and tribal in our functioning, evolving over several millennia to gain godlike self-awareness, but in pursuit of losing ourselves to our basest behaviours.
This dichotomy leads us to create or join movements and institutions that rely on the suppression of the other, not because their intentions are grounded in facts or truth, but because its comforting. When a single person is angry, the society gives them no heed, and the scales of criticism far outweigh the compassionate few.
But, when a person is part of a group that through its collective intent has fixated upon a single antagonist or a mirroring adversary, its rage, its violence, its apathy is just, and noble, and venerated, often with divine exultation. We tell ourselves that our club is the best, our region is the best, our party is the best, our country is the best, our religion is the best and all others are the enemy, the false messiah, the cursed.
Trauma thus begets trauma.
The experiences of the individual become the fuel of the communal, and the actions of the communal, dictate the life of the individual, and the life of the individual, thus shaped by an understanding that is toxic by default, becomes a catalyst for the traumas of others, who then disperse in search of their catharses and their closures, and find themselves comforted by those who think like them, not the others, and so it goes.
Our traumas mold our behaviours every day.
If we are sexually abused, we are wary of being vulnerable; our traumatic experience numbing us or making us terrified of touch and sexual intimacy, thereby making us fearful and frustrated, fragile and fickle, frantic and forlorn.
If we are religiously abused, we delve in the doom drumming pits of depression, losing the sense of self-worth, super-aware of our actions, finding pleasures sinful, repressing our desires yet wanting to devour all that is devilishly delightful, ever apologizing, seeking forgiveness, or rebelling against it.
Our entire perception of reality metamorphoses into a hellscape that seeks solace beyond death, and answers from our unconscious, instilling in us a false sense of belief that we were destined to go through our hardships, that we are perhaps the trigger, and in repentance there is release, and redemption.
Our spirituality gets crushed under bureaucracy that looks after the interests of the controlling over the wellness of the controlled, like most institutions go.
If we are emotionally abused, we snip away our feelings before they bloom, preventing others to be attracted to our vibrancy and stopping any cross pollination of emotions that might give birth to empathetic co-habitation. Rather, we resort to a cold cell, and throw the key into the sea, and demand others to dive into the turbulence and unlock us from this isolation. We hammer our distorted desperation with nails of insecurity, and in co-dependence decree that our palanquins be adorned with a bed of roses, though we are covered in thorns.
If we are mentally abused, we say no to introspection, and bind ourselves to distractions that pull us towards uncharted directions that distance us from our home in search of a safe space that has its foundation in sand. We do our best to avoid peering into our thoughts, lest we open the wormhole that takes us through time, cascading into memories both benign and vile, overwhelmed and drained, aching for the isles of fond moments that can no longer be claimed, inching closer and closer to the times we are flung into states of fight or flight as the tentacles of traumatic experiences trap us and suck out our progress.
We are often a combination of all these traumas, bombarding us from every corner. Every single time we feel that we are getting better, we are punched in the gut for our naivete, and reminded of the foolishness in our belief.
If we have abusive families, we look towards our schools and neighbourhoods for escape, but we are bullied and invalidated by our teachers, classmates and playmates. We wait to hit puberty and find sexual gratification but are made to feel insecure of our bodies and audit our appearances with icy scrutiny.
We wait to be adult and independent, but the ruthless materialism and mechanical churning of the financial web thrusts us into debt, into panic, riding a mule to catch up with the gazelles that stride on time’s gravelly racetrack. If we find some stability, we experience the death of a loved one, or a heartbreak that makes us breathing corpses.
Our sleep is plagued with nightmares, our dreams become ever distant, we are ever anxious, and feel guilty for seeking calm, as we churn out our perfect selves while hollowing our existence with meaningless drivel.
Our traumas pile up along the way, as we plead to the cosmos for a break so that we don’t break. But the cosmos does not burden us with expectations, only our world does, so we lose the hope of betterment and join the rat race.
We meet people who promise us no judgement, who ask us to come to them as we are, to reveal our ugliest thoughts and bare our bruised backs. We hesitate, afraid of being tricked and abandoned, and terrified of not being able to control the torrent once the floodgates are lifted. So, we distance ourselves from them while they become transparent to us, not meaning them harm but leaving them naked. We raise a wall for us by mining their open plains. We regret this, we want to surrender to their benevolence, we want to accept our empathy, but our fears persist — of mockery, of invalidation, of judgement, so we flee.
Thus we distort language, born from an eldritch need to express our innermost and unintelligible emotions, mutilating it into a treacherous web of lies, a burning balm of pretense that fails to suck the pain, yet in a sadistic masochism gives us a crutch to crawl to the next false security.
We live with trauma every day, every hour, every minute, every second, through thoughts that are a trainwreck of twisted tracks. We lie, we cheat, we steal, we fight, we exploit, we cause hurt, we cause pain, we abuse others, we rape, we murder, we control the fates of millions and billions through our self-serving ways; all because we fail to be honest with ourselves, all because we fail to accept that we are broken, all because we push our moment of reconciliation and reparation to the brink of comeuppance, until its too late, until we have raged for an entire age.
We refuse to let the guard down, we refuse to say no to stigmas, we refuse to take the first step, to be honest with others and honest with ourselves, afraid of the skeletons in our closet until we are ready to be reduced to bones on our deathbeds.
The entire history of humanity is shaped from a series of interconnected consequences of individuals burdened with trauma burdening others, doing everything in their power to be anything but nothing. From emperors to priests to politicians to dishonest professionals to parents, siblings and friends. It’s all around us. We either unleash our traumas by preaching through practice or by being silent.
But mutual empathy and the willingness to not do unto others that which we don’t want to be done unto us, with a dash of love and honesty, and a pinch of childhood innocence is the recipe to satiate our riling hunger and remedy to cure us from our traumas. Give with no expectation of return, take with gratitude, and embrace each other, and together we can remake the world in the image of a perfect day, still and cool, a paradise of prosperous peace on a planet in a universe that in its enormity humbles us into healing.