34: Trauma Stories

The only way to cope with other people’s disconnection (because it is so painful) is to become disconnected yourself. But then you become part of the problem. You make the world more dangerous and less conducive to the wellbeing of all life on earth. 

— Teal Swan

Hurt people hurt people is not permission, but rather a reminder.

This simple wisdom about responding to others that lash out is a lesson easily overlooked when I am floundering to disengage from my discomfort. 

Everyone, and I mean everyone, will disconnect from their thinking brain when the pain exceeds their ability to cope. The only difference is what overwhelms me won’t always overwhelm you. For this reason, we need each other to help us emotionally regulate. As Dr. Robyn Gobbels says, “Connection is a biological imperative.” We need each other to thrive. Loners are loners only in the stories they imagine. 

Perhaps this is why when someone we care about hurts, we hold their hand, hug them, and sit with them.

When I feel grief, pain, loneliness, anxiety, or sadness, I’m not seeking answers but rather connection. I want to know I’m not alone. I want to be heard. I’ve come to recognize writing allows me to connect not just with myself but with others.  

As I was listening to Therapist Uncensored’s recent discussion with University of Minnesota’s Dr. Alan Sroufe recently, I realized the trauma I carry is generational. I say this knowing that people will read this that will fall back into judgment and cliches. They will fall back to bravado about people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps or try to milk the bull of false positivity. 

How quickly trauma will rear up, taking a bite or nibble from the moments in my life. In the blink of an eye, I can find myself disconnected from my thinking brain as I struggle to maintain safety and connection.

Sroufe talks openly about how after decades of research, study, therapy, and understanding, he still cannot let his wife know he is angry with her. He cannot tell her regardless of how or why. He cannot express it to her in a way that is vulnerable or intimate. 

My impression is Sroufe relies on coping approaches that someone with different experiences and skills might greet with contempt or criticism. 

As a self-described old man, he makes a great point; he’s old enough not to care what others think. How Sroufe has adapted emotionally and neurologically works for his life doesn’t matter what others think about how he adapts. In his relationship with his wife, they have negotiated a path to the relationship that works for them.

I appreciate Sroufe’s perspective on trauma.

It’s similar to what I see when I look at the Buddha statues in my yard. As I move about and refocus, how I see the figures at the moment changes mood to mood, season to season. It is the same with trauma: trauma will always remain, but with intentional practice, I experience it changes moment to moment and season to season.

The same statue, different perspectives; the same trauma, different perspectives. Eventually, everything becomes background.