The trauma of living
After the recent, appalling event in Christchurch, New Zealand - the mass murder of
many worshipping Muslims - the long-lasting and far-reaching effects of trauma on
all those involved will, I’m sure, be widely understood and commented upon. We
accept that post-traumatic disorders can have highly distressing, often life-changing
effects on individuals and groups of people who have experienced or witnessed a
shocking event, usually linked to the unspeakable horrors and fears of war or violent
attack. We also accept that trauma caused by such events has many ways of
showing itself, some less obvious than others.
This makes me wonder if any of us ever considers that our very coming-into-
existence causes ‘trauma’ and that life itself, however mundane or uneventful we
may consider ours to be, builds upon that original, ‘forgotten’ trauma day by day.
The first shock it seems to me is birth; the act of being born, launched into a strange,
unfamiliar environment that is full of giants we cannot possibly understand and
whose control over us is total, absolute. Every decision, every movement, is dictated
by the unknown beings around us. No matter how gentle they are towards us, as tiny
creatures, we are helpless. How bewildering, how frightening - how terrifying - our
introduction to the world must have been.
I say ‘must have been’ because I don’t remember mine. I have no knowledge or
memory of it at all and am prepared to bet that you don’t remember your birth either!
For as long as it took each of us to speak, we had only the most primitive of instincts
or methods to make our needs known and met - all at the whim of the giants in
whose hands our lives – ie our survival – were held.
When we did learn to speak, the words we used were not ours, they were given to us
by the giants. Fear, anger, joy, sadness, humiliation, pain; the feelings we had were
labelled by others; hand-me-downs. We had no choice but to assimilate them into
our beings and make them an integral part of us - of who we are.
How many of us live from day-to-day, year-to-year holding onto our original trauma,
by all manner of means?
We think we can’t remember but we may feel that we can.