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  • Sherise Schlaht

TRANSFORMING TRAUMA

#thoughtfultuesday is brought to you by today’s shower reflection. I am not sure if others experience this same phenomenon, but I seem to meet my deepest moments of introspection and clarity when I am in the shower or bath. Timely enough, it also happens to be a cool rainy day. As I walked my fur child, the skies parted way to this enchanting misty drizzle. Each rain is celebrated and returns me to fond memories of my childhood, sitting on the porch watching the drops nourish the earth. These were the much-anticipated days in the life of my father, a farmer. Rain brought this sense of serene renewal, knowing it was feeding countless hours of labour and all other forms of life. There was never any doubt where to find the farmers on these days; their pickup trucks would line the street of the local hotel.

Although I have embraced most aspects of the urban lifestyle in my adulthood, I did recently install a rain gauge in my backyard because I’ll be damned if I can’t have a conversation about those six-tenths of rain. I must also say thank goodness for the weather app on my cell phone because it would be painful to subscribe to a weather channel and try to decipher which direction the clouds are moving, or the wind is blowing.

Anyways, I appreciate that you flattered me and allowed me to reminisce for a moment, but I suppose you didn’t fully have a choice because in our hemisphere of the world we are taught to read from top to bottom, left to right. Following a challenging previous week of working through some heavy stuff, I am pleased to announce to you that (for the time being) I have found the middle ground of remaining authentic to my process and sharing what has been arising with you. So, today we are going to dive into the nitty-gritty world of TRAUMA. Trauma has been a buzz word in the biosphere of counselling since I entered the field just shy of a decade ago. Until fairly recently, there was a felt sense of heaviness and uneasiness around the topic of trauma. In academia, it is emphasized that trauma requires specialized training and techniques and is not to be addressed by the under-qualified. If only trauma fit into this neat little box that could be stored on the top shelf until it had a certified listener present. Please take note that I am not invalidating the skill and expertise that a certified trauma counsellor may have, but life is typically not orderly. Similarly, trauma can have a life of its own and quite often it is the elephant in the room. How is this relevant to me on a personal level? It created this grandiose story about the scariness of trauma that led me to a long stage of becoming my traumatic experiences. To substantiate this point, it requires me taking you through my voyage with trauma.

Rewind about six years, when I began having night terrors surrounding a complicated relationship with a non-blood relative, following an unfortunate incident at a house party in university. What appeared most troubling to me was the fact that I had somehow managed to completely repress all of the knowledge and experiences of this prior complicated relationship; they were hidden in the depths of my unconscious. In hindsight, I believe that our being knows when it is time to release what has been held onto and stored. At this time, the release did not feel like a beautiful disaster; painful experiences were seeping through my pores more quickly than I could clog them. Even though my mind was wanting to continue living in a state of denial, my soul was completely unwilling to cooperate with its agenda. I was seeing a counsellor at this time (in fact there have been extremely limited amounts of time that I haven’t been in counselling since the age of sixteen), and I mentioned what was presenting. Vocalizing my experiences was a rather strange phenomenon, full of rather confusing emotions. This led to many, many moments of over-sharing with individuals I was not particularly close to. For some reason, I felt compelled to tell people that I have sexual trauma. It was almost like a case of Tourette’s, where I blurted this out to people who provided a listening ear. I am actually busting a gut reflecting on this over-sharing, imagining being someone on the receiving end of my Tourette’s. The strange thing about this over-sharing is that I had in no way determined what my relationship to these stories meant. In retrospection, I was likely looking to others to tell me how I “should” be reacting to my circumstances and on a deeper level was seeking their validation and reassurance. In reality, peoples’ responses, regardless of their nature, did very little to contribute to my stories. Eventually, via this over-sharing, I came to the conclusion that I was pretty messed up; tainted to be more precise. This is the point where I started to become my experiences. Identifying with these experiences led to a debilitating depression, lasting around eight months. Time and medication eventually pseudo-healed me and I decided to jump back on the horse of life.

This go-around, I was determined more than ever to prove to myself (and whoever was taking note) that I was a fully-functioning, highly achieving person. Rightly, I walked back into a full-time university internship, while a couple of part-time jobs. Nothing like zero to five hundred in a comeback to prove you are special. Surprisingly, I rode this cortisol high until the completion of university. One has to love the boundless energy of cortisol; I literally wouldn’t have made it without that shit. It is likely you can see the inevitable crash pending, but I was riding my high in oblivion. Just as I left the world of academia and entered the world of professionalism, my cortisol oblivion on the horse of life ran straight into a brick wall. This was the crash of 2018 that I have written about in previous posts, often referring to as the puddle self.

Only in this space have I reached the realization that tethering my identity to the stories of trauma or bypassing them does squat-all to my evolution. When I became my traumatic experiences, I continued to create and relive the situations over and over, despite the fact that they were moments of my past. Oddly enough, bypassing produced similar outcomes. Splitting off from these aspects didn’t erase them from my psyche; they were still playing out subconsciously. In both approaches, the vicious cyclical pattern of attracting life circumstances and connections aligned with my tainted view of self. Accordingly, chaos proceeded, leaving me winded and perplexed.

This account leads to the now. What I am more certain of is the fact that no one really knows anything; we are all floundering and fumbling through life. Do I still experience reactions relevant to trauma? Yes. Do I get sucked into over-identifying or attempting to by-pass what feels like trauma? Yes. The work in the now is to stay present with energy that parallels trauma. I acknowledge that is has nothing to do with the actual stories or experiences but has everything to do with an energetic presence. The gift amidst all of the pain is that my intuition is highly attuned to deceitful or trepidatious energy. If I remain connected, not only is there awareness of this energy, but I am also guided in what to do with this energy. In moving this energy, I have found that I am less likely to get stuck in the frozen response for extended periods of time. I practice the same strategies I share in my weekly blogs, whether this is practicing non-judgement, remaining in my own belly, or stepping into my voice rather than swallowing the pain.

My therapy work with others as clients has been cathartic for my process. I can say with confidence that everyone has trauma. This exists on a spectrum of varying degrees, but it isn’t necessary to categorize the severity of trauma. Two individuals exposed to the same event have varied interpretations; for one, the event may be benign and easily fades away, but another may be wounded, and their life course altered. The take-away from this novel is to not dwell on the experiences themselves, but to become curious about the manifestation of these experiences. I would like to quickly note that there exists a need for one to be emotionally validated for what was endured. This is a different experience than dwelling. What happens in your body? How does it impact your moment-to-moment experience? Where is your attention required? A state of curiosity lends itself to a shift in perspective. This stance helps one accept the moment, rather than reject it. All that can be addressed is the arising in the now, this is all we have. In the spirit of non-duality, I end with a sense that all is profound, yet ordinary. It is this commonality that connects us as human beings.


Go and kick some ass,


Sherise

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