When people live under prolonged fear of any life-threatening situation — COVID, war, violence, social oppression, bullying, etc. — they experience trauma. Although Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has traditionally been associated with war survivors, we now know that trauma is the emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may be associated with physical shock and sometimes leads to long-term neurosis.
Arguably, we could conclude from this definition that every human has personally experienced PTSD. Naysayers may shake their heads, but when my Father died in my early 20s, I was both emotionally and physically shocked, could not sleep, and was not encouraged to express my emotions. Shortly thereafter, I slipped into depression (neurosis). I’m betting that as you read this your own story of trauma rose from your memory banks. Actually, that is a good thing and means you are on a healing path.
Sadly, trauma triggers fear and fear shuts us down. Unresolved, we close our hearts and minds as we let fear rule our experiences in the world. Instead of opening to adventure and joy, we scrutinize people, places and events with suspicion, judgment and criticism. Gone is our childhood spontaneity and wonder replaced by skepticism and pessimism. Everything and everyone is seen through the eyes of the traumatized person we embodied. Instead of grieving and forgiving, we become fearful long-haulers (long-term neurosis).
Shaking off fear’s grip on our feelings, thoughts and behaviour means reconstructing who and how we want to be in the world. And as my Mother so graciously taught me, “You can be and do anything you want.” I wrote this poem below (see, Mad Woman Laughing) to illustrate some of the new beliefs and actions I took that enabled me to crush fear.
When we leave solid ground, there awaits adventure.
When we dissolve thoughts and feelings, there resides joyful peace.
When we enter the darkness, we see through to the light.
Only by closing our eyes to the familiar, do we surface the truth.
Only by opening our hearts to all, can we know love.
Only by jumping into the unknown, will we crush fear.
As students of life, our spirit is not bound by our mind,
not crushed by the weight of suffering,
but free to see what is as it is.
May trauma and fear give way to peace, love and joy. Namaste.